Part Ten of the PP forum Block of the Month - Underground Railroad
A New Identity
Along their journey, the clothing of the fugitive slaves became tattered and torn, drawing attention to themselves.
The story goes that they had, once again, been informed to watch for yet another pattern in a quilt hanging on a clothes line somewhere along their journey. The quilt block pattern was called ‘Bow Tie’.
According to the legend, when they saw a "Bow Tie" quilt hung to air out, it meant that they were to stay put, in hiding, and fresh clothing would be brought to them, enabling them to blend into society better.It would be the ‘Shoofly’ who would eventually meet them and give them newer clothes so that they could avoid detection.
The Bow Tie quilt was said to have been fastened to the line outside a safe house many hundreds of miles from where they would have escaped from and quite a ways along in their partially completed journey to freedom. But this quilt pattern was apparently considered a teaching process for the fugitives.It was a directive on how to dress in a formal manner which would assist in their goal for freedom.Walking amongst city folk, they would blend in and could walk through towns and cities undetected. Being turned over to the authorities would have meant being returned to their original slave quarters.
Bow Tie blocks are made up of triangular quadrants. Each quarter of the block was said to have indicated morning, midday, evening and night. When placed on its side, the Bow Tie pattern becomes ‘an hourglass’ which is still a symbol of time well managed, and to some Africans the hourglass implies that you are among friends.
So, once again, each participant must find a block pattern with the name ‘Bow Tie’. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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