Monday, June 13, 2011

Helping Hands

Ladies' Aid Album - Week 24
One of the projects I am currently working on is the Civil War Commemorative Album quilt I'm doing with an online group.   I've been learning so much.  Our block this week honored the first Sanitary Commission, an organization that grew from the work of an association of New York women influenced by Florence Nightingale's efforts.  It is astounding to realize that as recently as 150 years ago, governments didn't take responsibility for the care of those wounded in war. So, women volunteered as officers and nurses.  They collected supplies for the hospitalized and sewed blankets and clothing.  They formed commissions that were the forerunners of the Red Cross. Barbara Brackman cleverly alludes to this in the block design.   

Can you see the clamp holding my block? These sewing birds were like a third hand and assisted the seamstress in holding the fabric taut with one hand so the other could stitch. Some were more elaborate than others and also held pincushions, emery balls or thimble and spool holders. Bird clamps date back to the early 18th century. At about the time of the Civil War, they were considered luxury items and young men presented them as gifts to their intended in the months before their wedding. 

One of the largest collections of sewing birds in North America is at the Monmouth Museum in New Jersey.  I think a field trip may be in order this summer.

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