Welcome to New Subscribers

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. This is the best place to find out about upcoming new classes and events held at the Cadet Training Centre. You will also get information about local quilt exhibitions, shows and groups to inspire you. If you know of something that you would like to have included in the next newsletter please email me the details for consideration.

I hope that you find something to interest you in my newsletters, but even if there isn't anything on this occasion and you want to ensure that you keep receiving them please do open to read rather than looking at it in preview, and every couple of emails click on a link to read more about a class, or event, as this logs you as interested.

Class Focus

To give students more choice you can now join this class at any point throughout the year.

Machine Service Day – Thurs 14th April 2023

It's important to arrive to class with a sewing machine that is in good working order. If you're machine is getting on in years you will need to make sure that it has been serviced regularly to avoid any problems that may spoil your sewing experience in class.

In a world where everything is going up, I’m pleased to report that getting your machine serviced is still good value. Tom has held his prices from last year so give your machine a much-needed wash and brush up ready to tackle the year ahead!!

There will be space available for people wishing to wait for their machines or pop to the local shops (approx 1.5 - 2 hours). Otherwise, when booking, you can arrange to deliver your machine in the morning and be given an afternoon collection time.

Booking is essential as there are limited places available on the day so please book soon to avoid disappointment.

Contact me on 07881 948834 to reserve your place.

Underground Railroad Quilt Code

Secret messages in the form of quilt patterns aided slaves escaping the bonds of captivity in the Southern states before and during the American Civil War.

Slaves could not read or write; it was illegal to teach a slave to do so. Codes, therefore, were part and parcel of the slaves’ existence and their route to freedom, which eventually became known as the Underground Railroad. Some forms of dance, spirituals, code words and phrases, and memorized symbols all allowed the slaves to communicate with each other on a level their white owners could not interpret. Codes were created by both whites aiding the slaves, and by Blacks aiding the slaves. The Blacks included other slaves, former slaves or free men and women. In slavery, secrecy was one way the blacks could protect themselves from the whites; even the youngest child was taught to effectively keep a secret from anyone outside of the family.

Most quilt patterns had their roots in the African traditions the slaves brought with them to North America when they were captured and forced to leave their homeland. The Africans’ method of recording their history and stories was by committing it to memory and passing it on orally to following generations. Quilt patterns were passed down the same way. It is interesting to note that, in Africa, the making of textiles was done by males; it was not until the slaves’ arrival in North America that this task fell to the females.

The quilt patterns, used in a certain order, relayed messages to slaves preparing to escape. Each pattern represented a different meaning. Some of the most common were “Monkey Wrench”, “Star”, “Crossroads”, and “Wagon Wheel”. Quilts slung over a fence or windowsill, seemingly to air, passed on the necessary information to knowing slaves. As quilts hung out to air was a common sight on a plantation, neither the plantation owner nor the overseer would notice anything suspicious. It was all part of a day’s work for the slaves.

Characteristic of African culture is the communication of secrets through the use of common, everyday objects; the objects are seen so often they are no longer noticeable. This applied to the quilts and their patterns, stitching and knotting. It has been suggested that the stitching and the knotting on slave quilts contained secret information, too, as map routes and the distances between safe houses. Using the quilts, spirituals and code words, the slaves could effectively communicate nonverbally with each other and aid each other to escape.

There is still controversy among historians and scholars over the quilt code theory, and whether or not escaping slaves actually used codes concealed within quilt patterns to follow the escape routes of the Underground Railroad. As oral histories leave no written record, there is no written proof that the codes in the quilt patterns actually existed. What remains are the stories passed down through the generations from the slaves themselves, and, following the code of secrecy, many of the stories were never told.

Quilt Codes

Setting up a Sewing Room

by Jackie Oliver

This was my sewing room a year ago.

Once the garage had been converted (door into the house, big windows in place of the garage door), my first thought was about what storage I needed! But after a chat with Joy, I realised that the sensible place to begin was my working space, and storage solutions could follow later.

For years I’ve wanted a Horn cabinet, and spent hours online poring over the various cabinets and what each type offered. However…these cabinets are expensive! Also, their major feature is that they fold away into a compact space, and actually I didn’t need this.

So the next step was to look at sewing tables. There seemed to be 3 choices- a basic table, a table with a lower platform for the machine, and those with a custom made insert to fit an individual machine model.

At the Festival of Quilts last summer, I tried out the SewEzi table, and was impressed- it felt sturdy, and was the right height. Last month I took the plunge and ordered the SewEzi Grande table with insert (£450), and also the accompanying extension table (£190) which provides an L-shaped working space.

I knew I wanted a chair with wheels to whizz about the room easily and originally the plan was to have a Kirby sewing chair which was used at Cotton Patch classes a few years ago. This is still listed on the Cotton Patch website, but apparently is not available. I’ve bought a Horn Hobby chair from Frank Nutt, which is everything I wanted - adjustable back and seat, comfortable and supportive. Alas, it cost £289, but worth it.

I also had to consider lighting. The sewing tables are positioned under a big window and there is also a side window, so I settled for 2 overhead lights with daylight bulbs, plus a standalone adjustable lamp with magnifier for spotlighting. (Purelite magnifying lamp, around £70.)

I dithered about carpeting versus hard flooring. Carpet would have been warmer - but all those bits of thread and fabric! I ended up choosing laminate hard flooring, and will probably get a rug as well.

So that’s the development of my sewing room so far. The next stage is organising all my sewing stuff, from books and magazines to fabric and threads.

Watch this space…

Message from the editor:

Jackie this looks amazing and I’m sure everyone reading this will now be jealous! I can’t wait to see the next instalment.