"From 1840 to 1875, friendship quilts were made in staggering numbers by a broad cross section of American women, and it was in the 1840's and 1850's that the style reached it's zenith." 2
These quilts were put together in varied ways. Sometimes the entire quilt was made by one person while with others each friend make a block to be combined into a quilt. In some cases each person signed their quilt blocks but at times all of the signatures were inked by one person with excellent handwriting.
Friendship quilts are a way of connecting with friends and family. In the case of pioneer women these signed quilts were especially precious as they brought sweet memories of dear ones they might never see again.
One of the most popular patterns used for friendship quilts was the Chimney Sweep. When this pattern was used for a friendship quilt it was sometimes called the Autograph Patch or Block. This block pattern first appeared in the 1840s and has had many more names. Read more about this pattern at the bottom of this page. I am sharing the stories of two pioneer quilts made with this pattern.
A Young Girl Carries Memories West in a Quilt
Lucy Blowers was just 16 when her father decided the family would move west from New York to Michigan. Lucy was devastated that she would have to leave her home and friends to go so far away. While her father sold his land and the family prepared for the move Lucy started a very special quilt that would help her remember those she had to leave behind.
Lucy decided on a Chimney Sweep style block pattern for her quilt. Each block was made with a different fabric and a signature of a loved one inked on each block. The blocks were sewn on point leaving triangles around the edge. Lucy finished the quilt with appliqued leaves in most of these triangles. Though with less blocks, the representation shown here gives you an idea of how her quilt looked.
Lucy's quilt was finished in 1849 when the family packed their wagon and began their westward journey. Her quilt would bring memories of happier times through the hardships to come. 3
A Quilt for a Brave Traveling Minister
Imagine a minister so devoted to his flock that he was willing to row a boat on two rivers then hike for miles in order to serve his small communities of faithful followers. The Reverend J.H.B Royal, a Circuit Rider, did just this in western Oregon during the mid 1800s.
In appreciation the women along his Cowlitz Circuit made a Chimney Sweep friendship quilt for Reverend Royal and his wife. It was not uncommon for the women of a congregation to make a quilt for their minister but the people in the small communities Royal served must have been particularly grateful that he was willing to travel such a difficult circuit. 4
The quilt was made with a few fabrics of different shades but similar in color as shown in the illustration. One can only wonder if the different fabrics perhaps represented different families or even congregations.
The free pattern for the pieced version of this quilt can be found at Chimney Sweep Friendship Quilt Pattern.
© 2007 Judy Anne Breneman (For your personal use only. Please write to me for permission before you copy this for others.)
Questions? Contact Judy Anneprint a printer friendly version of this page
1 p139, "For Purpose and Pleasure: Quilting Together in Nineteenth-Century America", by Sandi Fox
2 p19 3 pp50-51, "Remember Me: Women and Their Friendship Quilts", by Linda Otto Lipsett
4 p82, "The Oregon Trail", by Mary Bywater Cross
The earliest example of this pattern that I could find (dated 1841) is shown and described about half way down the page of Dating quilts - A Brief Overview. It is finished with an interesting border and has applique in the spacer blocks.
Barbara Brackman listed the following names for Chimney Sweep variations in her newsletter reminding us that one pattern can have many names:
Paths to Peace
Log Cabin and Album
from "Barbara Brackman, The Quilt Detective: Clues in Pattern, 2007, digital newsletter."