Compass or Quilt ?

Harriet Tubman herself, often and quite emphatically, urged runaway slaves to follow the signs to Canada and it is sometimes said that many of these escaped slaves had help from sympathetic quilters on their journey.

One quilt pattern that may have hung over a clothesline or may have been folded just so on a windowsill was that of the ‘Flying Geese’. This pattern was apparently displayed more in the Spring time identifying a path north matching that of the migration of the Canada geese. The real migrating geese could be used as a guide to find water, food or even a place to rest stopping at important watering holes and feeding ponds. With their loud honking noises, it was easy to follow the birds flight pattern.

Quilt makers had extensive flexibility in their patterns. There may have been up to 75 underground railroad sites exiting the south coming up through the States, it is possible that many quilts with this design would have displayed dozens of different coloured patterns

 
It has been said that the Flying Geese pattern was also used as a compass when several blocks of the same pattern were used together. This theory states that four blocks each containing a set of Flying Geese would be sewn together with Geese pointing in different directions. But it was the one set with a different more distinct pattern that was the key. That was the direction finder, that was the signal to go in the direction in which the Geese were pointing or ‘flying’. With such detail in the pattern, a quilt was no longer just a quilt....it had become a ‘compass’.
 
So, once again, each participant must find a block pattern with the name ‘Flying Geese’. The size of your finished block is completely up to you. If you have any trouble drafting a block to your required size, email Katy with your original block diagram, and the finished size that you want, and she will redraft it for you. When you have finished your block, post a picture on the forum for everyone to enjoy or email a photo to: katy.purvis@myhobbystore.com
 
Underground Railroad Sampler quilts grew from the belief that quilts made with specific block patterns were used as signals to communicate a message to the African American people escaping from slavery in the US by travelling in secret to Canada. In recent years quilt historians and academics have debated over whether quilts really did feature as a widespread method of communication, and you can read about this in Xenia Cord's article, The Underground Railroad