The Civil War Love Letters Quilt

A Year-Long Cooperative Quilting Endeavor

A year ago, I happened across a book called the “Civil War Love Letter Quilt.”  The book features 121 letters, each written during the civil war, by someone who fought in the war.  Associated with every letter is a 6-inch quilt block, and together, those 121 blocks make a queen sized quilt.

My sister and her husband were recently married, and they are civil war reenactors: hoop skirts, wool pants, camping in canvas tent, the whole deal.

When I discovered that book, I had just become interested in quilting, and my mom is also a quilter.  What could be a more perfect wedding gift for my Civil War reenacting sister and her husband than a quilt derived from the Civil War Love Letter book created by her sister and her mother?  I can’t think of a thing.

So last July, when I was visiting my parents, my mom and I ordered two copies of the book and worked out a plan.

We would alternate blocks: she completed the odd numbered blocks, and I completed the even numbers.  We made a schedule so that we could be sure the blocks were completed in time to put the quilt together, and have it quilted and bound before the wedding June 9th.

We began with a few fabrics from Lola’s Posies by Lila Tueller.  We split the fabrics between the two of us and then each added additional coordinating prints and solids as needed.

When I finished my sixty 6-inch blocks, I added the corner stone pieces and sashing and mailed all my blocks to my mother, and she took it from there.

My mom sewed all the blocks together and added the borders on the outside.

She also put the back together, adding in some 9-inch scrap blocks.  I had made several blocks that were just random patchwork from the scraps and Mom had a few that had ended up too small and she had redone those, and added some border to the mistakes so they would match the size of mine.

My mom also asked her cousin to make a dedication block which was also added to the back of the quilt.

The quilting was done by Pat Willis, who is local to my mom out of Menominee, IL.

My mom bound the quilt and we presented it to my sister and her new husband at their wedding reception.  

I’m thrilled with how it turned out, which is a good thing, because after spending an entire year working on a project it would really stink if it turned out terribly!  Ulysses S. Grant likes it, too.

I really had a great time working on this with my mom; I think it made the project a lot more fun for me because we had one another to keep us motivated.  We would have conversations on Skype and share the blocks we had recently completed, and we would check in to make sure we were staying on task to finish on schedule.

Christine and Patrick were thrilled with the gift, and I’m so happy Mom and I were able to give them something they can appreciate for a long time to come.

[The photos of this quilt were taken in Grant Park, Galena IL.  Galena is my home town and the home of Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant from 1860 until he was elected president in 1868.   The buildings of this historic town, as well as the Soldier’s Memorial and Civil War cannons in Grant Park provided the perfect backdrop for photographing this particular quilt.]

12 replies
  1. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    That is absolutely amazing! I love it and the way you and your Mom worked on it together. That is a priceless gift. I also love all your photos. Wonderful work!

  2. Alison
    Alison says:

    I love this so much! My boyfriend is a life-long Civil War history buff and is currently working at Antietam as a park ranger with the National Park Service. I did the Barbara Brackman Civil War quilt-along and am hoping to get it finished for him in September for our anniversary/the 150th anniversary of the battle of Antietam. It’s such a fun thing to make something of such meaning for someone! 🙂

  3. Monica
    Monica says:

    I was so excited when your mom showed it to me. You guys did an amazing job on it and it is beautiful. I remember the handmade wedding gifts the most (although I remember that you, Brian and Tania got me the hammock, lemonade glass set and book of poems.) Good work!!

  4. Jo
    Jo says:

    Wow…so beautiful and what could be more perfect for a pair of re-enactors. I’m just starting a QAL with Rosemary Youngs new book, CIvil War Anniversary Quilt. She has 3 quilts and i’m working on all three. I totally love your quilt and the sentiments behind it. Woohoo to you and your mom!

  5. Libby
    Libby says:

    Beautiful quilt. Lovely story and photos. You two should be very proud of your gift to your sister and her new husband and also your gift to each other for making it and your time together. Memories are priceless.

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