Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Review: The Civil War Diary Quilt

Cover image: The Civil War Diary Quilt by Rosemay Youngs

The Civil War Diary Quilt by Rosemary Youngs follows a similar idea to Barbara Brackman's Civil War Sampler; both books explore women's history of the American Civil War period through quilting.  In both cases, stories from the time are paired with modern quilt blocks which the reader can sew, ultimately making a quilt.

The Civil War Diary Quilt contains 121 quilt squares, each of which is presented opposite an original diary entry from one of ten women.  Each diary author has a one-page biography and a page of pictures at the start of her section. Also included is an applique doll label/block (with a non-diary story, the subject being a 3-year-old), 9 different quilt project using various blocks, and a short gallery showing the full 11 x 11 quilt made up four different ways.

The strength of this book lies in its pretty patchwork designs.  The diary entries are all primary sources, so the history is spot on.  Compared to Brackman's book, you do get more quotations from each woman featured, which I think helps their voices come through more clearly.

On the flip side, the designs are all modern, so this book doesn't function well as a source for historic quilting information.  The limited commentary on the individual diary entries also puts it into a sort of awkward middle ground: if I'm looking for a period diary for my own reading, I'd opt for a 'whole' published diary, rather than a dozen selected entries.  On the other hand, if I was trying to introduce someone to primary sources without intimidating them, I'd probably try one of Brackman's titles, as they incorporate the diary excerpts into a straightforward narrative.

The block instructions here are a bit terse; there are instructions at the beginning for copying out each block and sewing it together, but the individual blocks are presented on their own, diagram only, without specific instructions for cutting and piecing.  Seam allowances need to be added. For a knowledgeable quilter, this does get the information across succinctly, without wasting time and space repeating what one already knows (and leave more space for blocks).  The beginning quilter could possibly make use of this book, but would likely benefit from something with more explicit explanations.

Stars: 3 Stars
Accuracy: Period diary entries are fully cited; quilt blocks are modern.
Difficulty: Intermediate.  Instructions are clear, but concise (a little sparse for the beginner).
Strongest Impression: Many lovely designs, but unfortunately  little of the quilting material is useful for historic recreation.  The diary entries are interesting, of course.  It fills the same niche as Barbara Brackman's Civil War Sampler, but I prefer Ms. Brackman's instructions and templates.

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