“A Secondary Code”.....

Our November block, the ‘Wagon Wheel’ quilt was a signal to the slave to pack the items needed to travel by wagon or that could be used while travelling.

I can only imagine the number of safe houses, conductors and quilters that may have existed back then and of course not all of the women making the signal quilts would have the same patterns in mind. So this next block actually parallels the previous pattern and explanation. It would have been used and shown for the same reason as the Wagon Wheel block, only it’s a more intricate pattern and to the slaves also had a slightly different meaning.

Decembers block pattern is called the “Carpenters Wheel”.

Made with diamonds and triangles of different fabric patterns the ‘Carpenters Wheel’ would have particular significance to slaves skilled in the craft of carpentry. With the points of the darker fabrics strategically placed, it gave a sign of direction to safety and in most cases to the west - northwest. It told slaves to “run with faith”.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Comin’ for to carry me home.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Comin’ for to carry me home.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Comin’ for to carry me home.
If you get a dere befo I do,
Tell all my friends I’m comin too.
 
Plantation owners thought they were singing about Heaven and joining Jesus when they died, but this song held just as many hidden messages as the quilt itself.
 

Enslaved black preacher Nat Turner led an uprising in Virginia in 1831

Slaves were very spiritual and conveyed a huge reliance on religion. They would prepare for their journey to freedom and believe that the Master Carpenter, Jesus, would set them free in one of two ways. They would either die and go to Heaven and be forever free from slavery or make their journey and be free because of His blessing on them. We’ll never know if there was another Carpenter's Wheel quilt at the end of their journey to remind them who had brought them to freedom and to continue to trust the Carpenter.

So, once again, each participant must find a block pattern with the name ‘Carpenters Wheel’. 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