“Underground Railroad” sampler quilt made for raffle.

For their annual fundraising raffle, the Homestead Quilt Guild this year pieced a ‘sampler’ quilt “so we could learn different techniques,” said Sharon Nuttall.

The Underground Railroad is the sampler the guild decided on. According to legend, the patterns in quilts were used to guide slaves along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada.

A mnemonic device listing the quilt patterns was used to unravel the code: The Monkey Wrench turns the Wagon Wheel toward Canada. With help from Jesus, the Carpenter, follow the Bears’ Trail through the woods. Fill your Baskets with enough food and supplies to get you in to the Crossroads. Once you get to the Crossroads, dig a Log Cabin in the ground. Shoofly told us to dress up in cotton and satin Bow Ties. Follow the Flying Geese and Birds in the Air, stay on the Drunkard’s Path. Take the Sailboat across the Great Lakes to the North Star above Canada.

“Whoever gets this gets a very special quilt,” said Dar Hofer. “I say that every year, but this one’s got a lot of history in it.”

Sharon says that the quilt is made from reproductions of Civil War era fabrics. “The quilts would have been made of all the same blocks, not a sampler,” said Sharon. A block of each pattern is laid out in the quilt, and a block that explains the legend completes the quilt top. “The Crazy B’s made the legend block.”

The quilt was on display in the Homestead Quilt Guild’s booth during the Sully County Fair where it earned Best of Show laurels. Sharon relates that she overheard a boy viewing the quilt naming the blocks, and says she asked him if he was reading the legend block. “He told me, ‘We had this in school.’”

Money for purchasing the fabric used in the quilt was donated to the guild in memory of founding member Helen Roddewig. “It’s a sort of a remembrance quilt, too, and a thank you to the family of Helen Roddewig,” said Sharon.

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