The Sugar Camp Quilt
By Jennifer Chiaverini
Published by Simon & Schuster 2005
Website Elm Creek Quilts Series
One thing I have never mentioned is that I grew up with Quilting. I don't do any quilting myself. Heavens no, my sewing is very bad. My mother has been Quilting for as long as I can remember. I can remember seeing her with piles of small squares and triangles of fabric stuffed in a Quilting bag. Even now she still makes Quilts for her teenage granddaughters.
I'm sure one of these days she will make a Quilt for my son - if she has not done so already. The only trouble is that it would cost a fortune to send it from New Zealand to Canada. And so while I dont take part in any Quilting groups, I am interested in reading about them. Every now and then I hear stories of samplers from 150 years earlier, being discovered and women interested in finding out who made the sampler and what happened to her.
Quilting is one of those hobbies that women can do anywhere, and even do in groups apparently. I was at the library yesterday and I came across a book called THE SUGAR CAMP QUILT, so I had a quick glance through it. This particular book is the 7th in a series of 10 novels about a Quilting group in Creek's Crossing, Pennsylvania. Most of the books do take place in the Present time, but there are 2 books written in the past. The Sugar Camp Quilt is one of those.
Dorothea Granger is 19 years old and the temporary school teacher at Creek's Crossing. She is also an excellent Quilter. She lives with her parents on her Uncle Jacob's farm, where they grow oats, wheat and maple trees. Every thaw (when the snow starts melting) the family must catch the maple sap running from the trees to make sugar. Sap runs dont last very long (maybe 2-3 weeks in Pennsylvania) although up here in Ontario the sap run can be from 4 to 8 weeks long, depending on the weather.
Uncle Jacob is a grumpy man. After his wife & 2 young sons died of scarlet fever, he vowed to never marry again. When his sisters family (Dorothea's mother) lost their farm to a flood, he allowed them to move in with him, but then promptly put them to work on the farm.
But Jacob kept one secret from his sister & brother-in-law. Every evening he disappeared and went for a walk. One day he demanded that Dorothea make a quilt for him. A special quilt, "one like my mother used to make". The pattern was like no other Dorothea had ever seen, and even Lorena (Dorothea's mother) had never seen such a pattern amongst her mother's quilts.
When the Quilt is finally finished, Dorothea expects the quilt to be on his bed. But instead she finds Jacob using it to clean the dirt off his boots. "This Quilt can be cleaned in the wash," says Jacob. But Dorothea is horrified and very upset.
Shortly after, Jacob dies of apoplexy (possibly a heart attack) while crossing the stream one evening. His wagon is found in the Elm Creek, and the horse is missing. One of the neighbours comes to see the Grangers to pay his respects. He says he has something important to tell them.
"Questions? What Questions?" Dorothea asked. "Why could he not be seen?"
"He didn't want any of you folks to know". he directed his gaze at Dorothea. "Except you. He was very proud of you. He thought maybe you could be told. The older he [Jacob] got, the more he wished he could ask for your help. But he knew it was too dangerous."
Robert's voice was slow and direct. "Too dangerous for what?"
The room was silent.
"My brother-" Lorena paused and started again. "my brother was no abolitionist."
Thats right. This book is partly about how the Sugar Camp was a station on the Underground Railroad to Canada for runaway slaves before the Civil War broke out. The Quilt is the map to the next station. Chapter one takes place in 1849.
I started reading this book at 9pm last night. I could not put it down, and ended up staying up until 12 midnight just because I just HAD to know what happened next.
For those of you who do quilt, I know you will love this series. I really want to read more books in this series.