Free At Last !

You made it! It took courage, luck, help, and incredible stamina. Here in Canada, you can finally breathe free. Not only won’t the government return you to slavery in the United States, but you can vote and even own land. No wonder thousands have already run away to settle here. You still face challenges though....finding a home, making a living, adjusting to a new place. But you face them in freedom.

You’ve spent weeks trudging a gruelling passage of almost 300 miles. Possibly, before you left the United States you caught a glimpse of Frederick Douglass, a passionate lecturer who also published the ‘North Star’, an abolitionist newspaper. I’m sure it was good to have met with Susan B. Anthony who gave you your warm clothing to combat the harsh Canadian winters.

Is it true that the plantation seamstress you knew as a friend created a sampler quilt containing all of the different quilt blocks that helped you escape? Is it true that you needed to memorize the sampler quilt for the code that was contained within? Was it so that as you travelled towards freedom, you recognised each of the block patterns that led you towards the next stage of your journey? Oh what stories you will have to tell for future generations.

You were guided on the final leg of your journey by one of the oldest patchwork patterns known. The ‘North Star’ quilt block pattern was your guiding light. The North Star is found in the handle of the Little Dipper, and it is the stars in the Big Dipper that point directly to that star. Your song, ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd’ and sung in the quiet of the night, referred to the Big Dipper.

So now, all my dear passengers, your story is finished, your journey completed and this conductor on the Underground Railroad is very pleased to know you are safe. As mentioned before, the ‘quilt code’ was always questioned as to its actual use and authenticity, but we must always remember, ‘Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story’.

So, once again, each participant must find a block pattern with the name ‘North Star’. 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:

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