Part Nine of the PP forum Block of the Month - Underground Railroad
“A Trusted Friend ... ”
‘Shoo-fly pie and apple pan dowdy, Makes your eyes light up and your stomach say howdy.’
Maybe not too grammatically correct, but certainly accurate. Shoo-fly pie is a sticky, rich pie made with molasses, eggs, cream and butter. Legend has it that the pie was named Shoo-fly because the pie was so rich that the flies showed up during the mixing process. They didn’t even wait for it to be baked. Of course, the song refers to the dessert, but if you say Shoo-fly to a quilter, she or he will immediately think of the quilt block by the same name.
The shoofly quilt pattern is allegedly significant in the history of the Underground Railroad. It is sometimes believed that the design identified an individual, a well trusted person, who would assist escaping slaves with food, shelter or guidance as they made their way north.
His, or even her, responsibilities were many, but the most important would have been that of aiding and harbouring the runaways. Caves otherwise known as cathedrals or even churches would have been two of many places where the slaves would have been left in the hopes they would be safe and undetected.
Graveyards were used as a frequent hiding place. If these graveyards were close to a river or located on the outskirts of a town, hiding behind the gravestones would have been an option, thus waiting for their next signal. So it was with the aid of ‘that trusted person’ that our passengers would be able to continue their journey to freedom.
So, once again, each participant must find a block pattern with the name ‘Shoo-Fly’. 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: email@example.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