“Cot to Coffin” Quilts: A Display of Pride and Passion

IMG_1627I wrote quite a lot, early this year, about a quilt I was making as part of a challenge held by our quilt guild. As you will see, this quilt challenge clearly moved many people.

The time and creativity and energy and passion that went into making these quilts was evident and inspiring. These quilts were made to honor our ancestors, our region, our home, our people.

The quilts were made in response to a challenge set by our local guild to create a “Cot to Coffin” quilt, as a way of commemorating the men who fought in the Battle of Plattsburgh, in the War of 1812.

The Battle of Plattsburgh took place in September of 1814 and was considered a turning point of the war. Local volunteers have been anticipating this bicentennial for a long time!

To refresh your memories, the quilts were supposed to be made to measure 70 inches by 30 inches, with the idea that they could’ve been carried to battle with the foot soldiers. The quilts were a size that could be used as a blanket or, if the soldier should die, could be pressed into use as a burial shroud.

We were asked to use fabrics, patterns, and techniques of the types available to women in early 1800s America.

During the week of the Battle of Plattsburgh bicentennial, forty-two quilts were displayed in the City Hall. The quilts were made by women and men, experienced quilters and absolute novices!

This quilt, made by a retired art teacher and the first quilt he has ever made, translates the portrait of naval leader Thomas Macdonough to fabric.

This quilt, made by a very experienced quilter, commemorates Crab Island, in Lake Champlain, the site of a field hospital during the battle and mass burial ground of both American and British casualties of the war. The quilter embroidered everything by hand, including the names of the men buried on Crab Island around the border.

IMG_1643 IMG_1644Other quilts used patchwork designs that were popular at the time and reproduction fabrics to recreate the look of quilts that could’ve gone to battle with husbands and brothers and sons.

One quilt, instead of honoring the soldiers of the battle, honored the volunteers who have, for years, honored the soldiers of the battle. This quilt contains the signatures of the Battle of Plattsburgh volunteers who pulled out all stops to make the bicentennial a huge event!

IMG_1649I especially loved this quilt, made by a cousin I don’t even know! It incorporates a stylized family tree design, honoring 200 years of the Wright family, the family of my maternal grandfather.


My great-grandparents!

IMG_1655 I almost forgot to take a picture of my own quilt, which focused on a song written by Catherine Macomb, the wife of one of the leaders of the battle! I heard very kind feedback from people who viewed the quilt. The quilt was also pictured in the local newspaper, in a story about Catherine Macomb’s song!

IMG_1658This was a new quilt-making experience for me, tying my work to a larger theme and purpose. I was, frankly, completely surprised at how much I was moved by the whole endeavor. It is so obvious, from viewing the quilts on display, that others were as inspired by the challenge as I was!

For more on this challenge and my quilt, visit these earlier posts:

A Quilt for All Reasons

1812 “Cot to Coffin” Quilt–The Plan

1812 Quilt–A Letter to Catherine Macomb

1812 “Cot to Coffin” Quilt–Progress Report

O, Frabjous Day . . .

26 thoughts on ““Cot to Coffin” Quilts: A Display of Pride and Passion

  1. Oh, what a wonderful and amazing (plus passionate) collection of quilts. They are all so stunning! I’m thrilled to see your finished quilt. I loved getting glimpses of it in progress, but it’s really incredibly handsome and historical in its own right. The details are so impressive! You have many talents Kerry. I enjoy seeing how you connect history to your artwork. It’s so very impressive and something to be very proud of.

    And your great-grand parents – that’s so neat! I would call that icing on the cake, to find another connection to the past.

    • I did love making this particular quilt–the whole project just really got to me. It was funny–at the display, you could look at the quilts and almost know whether the quilter made the quilt in response to some sort of inner motivation or because they were pressured a bit by the guild to do it. They were all pretty but some of them sang!

  2. Job well done, Kerry. The quilts all look marvelous. What a surprise it must have been to see your great grandparents names on a quilt made by a cousin you didn’t even knew you had!!!!!

    • Thanks, Susan! Yes, it was so neat to see my cousin’s quilt! I had been to a family reunion a month or so before and met other cousins, etc., I hadn’t seen in years, but this particular women wasn’t there. Now I’m going to look for her at the guild meeting!

  3. What an absolutely wonderful idea to commemorate the Battle of Plattsburgh this way. And than see how everyone interpreted that idea. Finding your cousin and seeing your own family tree!!! I love your quilt, so pretty with vine and the embroidery of the poem.Love the colors too.
    And I am particurlay drawn to the ‘naive one’ with all pine trees and the soldier walking away whilst his family is seeing him of from the homestead. So simply and beautifully telling a poignant story. I would never get enough of looking at that quilt!

    have a great weekend, Johanna

    • I think the people who came to see these quilts were very moved–they seemed to really take their time and look at each one, because so many of them told a story. I got my quilt back yesterday–need to find a place to hang it in my house!

  4. You obviously have a heart of gold. I am so honored to have been connected to your blog when you were first starting it. I am not maintaining The Sewing Grove blog, but I am still passionate about sewing and how it connects us to our community, history, art and family.

    • I’m so glad you’re still here! I think you were one of the very first followers I had (maybe the first who I wasn’t related to!) and that gave me encouragement that others might want to read what I wrote! Thank you!

  5. Seeing this quilt you made was one of my first experiences following your blog Kerry – quite frankly I was dumb-struck and over-awed by your quilting abilities at that time. On second visit that feeling remains! The collection must have been quite wonderful to walk through. And the serendipity of finding a relative working in the same field must have caused your heart to race just a little….. The quilting gene must have been gifted via the maternal side huh?

    • Thank you for all those lovely comments, Pauline–this quilt was special for me! Regarding the quilting gene on the maternal side–I was recently given a hand-pieced quilt top that was made by my maternal grandmother’s aunt! So, that will be the next quilting project!

  6. What a lovely way of bringing a community together, celebrating history, and celebrating each other’s achievements. Your own piece is magnificent: but so are some of the others too. Wonderful!

    • Thanks, Margaret! It was fascinating to see how different people responded to the basic prompt for this challenge–all beautiful, all meaningful in very different ways.

  7. This is a wonderful concept, and it’s fun to see the finished quilts. The theme sent me to a little brainstorm. I thought another idea for a guild using a specific size and theme would be to do autobiographical quilts. They could be done in any style, and could end up meaningful only to the maker. But it would be interesting to see how we interpret ourselves and our own lives in fabric.

    Thanks for sharing these.

    • You’re right–the exhibit was very moving. Many of the quilts were made by people who had a family connection to the War of 1812 so they were honoring, not just the event, but a an ancestor.

  8. Pingback: Our Quilt Guild Show! | Love Those "Hands at Home"

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