Oh, Shenandoah!

Oh, Shenandoah!

Whig’s Defeat quilts were typically made in the South, as was the case for my inspiration quilt. The quilt’s owners, Jeffrey and Beverley Evans, attribute this circa 1855 crib quilt to Mary M. Trimble, who lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. This pattern became popular in the 1830s, when Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States, and remained so until 1865. Jackson hailed from the South and was supported by those who wanted to protect their interests in slavery and states’ rights.
Whigs, on the other hand, opposed those views.

My reasons for choosing this quilt to study were: (1) The rounded corners of the center of the block were different than the straight edges I had seen on other Whig’s Defeat quilts; and (2) I liked the outer border treatment, as well as the combination of piecing and appliqué.

In 2013 my dear friend Lorie Stubbs and I flew to Virginia to see the original quilt. We observed that the six “fingers” were pieced into the quilt, not appliquéd on, as I had anticipated. Why would the quiltmaker do it this way? It seemed like a more difficult approach. We thought it reflected that the quiltmaker was inexperienced and/or didn’t know how to or like to appliqué. We passed it off as a fluke.

A few months later, while visiting Gaye Ingram in Louisiana, Lorie and I saw her collection of Whig’s Defeat quilts. Sure enough, on the ones made in the mid-1800s, the “fingers” were pieced in, not appliquéd on, just like in my inspiration quilt. We were very surprised! Gaye confirmed that piecing in the “fingers” was the typical technique used at that time. I, however, chose to appliqué the “fingers” onto my quilt.

In looking at numerous Whig’s Defeat quilts, I noted differences in the way the arcs were constructed. While the number of diamonds in each arc varied from five to seven, others, like my inspiration quilt, had a half-diamond on the end of each arc. I included the half-diamonds in my quilt. However, rather than hand piecing the arcs, I constructed mine using foundation paper piecing. I used silk thread to machine quilt my quilt.