Review of Stitched from the Soul - 3rd book in Black History Month Series

I am a big reader and a lover of all things quilts. Plus, there is nothing that lights up my brain more than something new to learn. I have been pursuing slave quilts and sewing ever since I finished the book The Invention of Wings. Did you catch that post? It is what eventually led to this review of Stitched from the Soul - Slave Quilts from the Anbebellum South.

bookGladys-Marie Fry set out to discover more about her Amanda, her great great grandmother, who was a seamstress, quilt maker and slave on a plantation in Arkansas. She had a limited oral tradition to give her information. Sadly but not unexpected.  she discovered no written records at all.

This picture is of her with one of the quilts. She looks like a person I could happily go out to lunch with. She is a professor, her specialty  is folklore. Slave Quilts re author

This book is an homage to her Great Great Grandmother and all the women who sewed in the same conditions. As she states in the preface, "Denied the opportunity to read or write, slave women quilted their diaries, creating permnent but unwritten records of events large and small, of pain and loss, of triumph and tragedy in their lives." Viewed in this way, I think many quilts are emotional diaries and I loved learning about these.

The book tries to not only show and tell about quilts by women slaves but also put them in context. It shows clothing items these women would have made and where they would have lived. I particularly liked the background information to add to my accumulated knowledge Slave Quilts re 1from other books I've read.

I think my own picture in my head of a female slave was originally based on the movie Gone with the Wind. Many modern movies have showed me what a fantasy that view was. This picture of "Mammy Sally" is one of the women slaves who did all the sewing.

Obviously this was  a special time and occasion and the picture reflects that. I did like seeing an actual person. Photographs are worth a thousand words.

There are sites which take exception to this book as Ms. Fry is not trained in textiles. I personally am very grateful that she tried to document the difficult to document, fragile quilts many of which disappeared in the using. Slave Quilts re 2

All of the photographs are pages of the book. I opened to pages that I particularly liked and snapped a picture. I then edited them.  If this piques your interest, you will want to get your hands on a book yourself.

The cabin on the right is typical of a slave cabin, she even had some images from some existing ones. Again, documenting slave life was and is very difficult as they were listed as chattel, prohibited from reading or writing and no Slave Quilts re 4power or position in their times.

Some of the quilts which the slave women made were claimed by the mistress of the house. This quilt was made for the use of the masters of the plantation and survived in excellent shape.

Quilts that the slaves made for themselves were from scraps, used clothing or quilts which had fallen apart.  Additionally, quilts were washed by being boiled and beaten. Not the best way to preserves textiles. Slave Quilts re 6

We are lucky any at all survived. Here is one slave quilt made for personal use and on her own time.

All the quilts, both for the masters and the slaves would be quilted on a quilt frame. Some slave seamstresses were able to buy their own freedom by selling what they made. An example of that was Mrs. Lincoln's Slave Quilts re 7seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley. I have a book about her on my night stand!

If you've read the invention of wings you will likely feel a little tug at your heart looking at this quilt frame. When not in use, they hung from the rafters.

Reading this book led me to consult Signs and Symbols, African Images in African American Quilts by Maude Southwell Wahlman. I used it as a reference and I really preferred Stitched from the Soul.signs and symbols 2 re

Isn't it terrific that as quilters there are so many types of quilts to make, sewing projects to tackle. Plus there are new things to learn, books to read and parts of history to understand.

How am I supposed to fit in naps and snack time?

Sew happy!

Want to see what else I ponder? Check out my Facebook page. Like the page, check the get notifications and join the conversation! If you want to keep reading my blog, you can subscribe. To do so, type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. You will get a verification email. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like last week's on Stitching Stars.

Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Meet The Blogger

    Kathy Mathews

    My passions are quilting and sewing. Add to that French, Spanish, books, swimming, travels, new restaurants, yoga and chocolate and you have me. All of these are best shared with family and friends. Except for chocolate, don't touch my chocolate. You can email me at

  • Recent posts

  • Monthly Archives

  • Categories

  • Follow on Bloglovin
  • Follow me on Pinterest

    Follow Me on Pinterest
  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement: