February 2004


by Michael Anderson


One of the most prevalent and beloved art and craft forms in our country has been quilt making. Surviving quilts that date back, even before the American Revolution, are lasting reminders that quilts are an important part of our heritage. Quilts are often utilitarian in nature, although sometimes decorative as well. Decorative quilts are most often used to cover a bed during the day and removed at night, unless the preacher came to spend the night. On the other hand, especially during the 19th century, utilitarian quilts were made as a primary source of bed covers when heating systems were a far cry from our modern day gas, oil, and electric systems, so several layers of bed coverings were required to keep warm at night. The word quilt is believed to have derived from the Latin word "culcita" which means stuffed sock, mattress or cushion. Today, the word quilt can mean several things. For example, a top and back are sometimes stitched together and this called a quilt. Sometimes two pieces of cloth and stuffing are tacked or tied together, and this too is called a quilt. In Worcester's School Dictionary, Boston, 1860, a quilt is defined as, quilted cover of a bed. To quilt is defined as, to stitch one cloth upon another. Prior to and during the Civil War, a quilt would be described as two pieces of cloth, a top and back piece, with a filling in between. Then, all three layers were stitched together. It was especially important that the three layers be stitched together so that the filling, or batting, would be less apt to bunch up with use. A unique feature of the quilt, that is often overlooked, is its ability to insulate. Because of its three-layer construction, it has the ability to keep cold air out, while warm air is trapped inside around your body. This is done by the layer of air entrapped in the filling and enclosed by two outer layers. The batting usually consisted of carded cotton or wool. Once the wool or cotton was carded, it was carefully spread out between the top and back layers of fabric. The layer of air, trapped in the middle, is what provides the insulating factor. (See photos 1-B, 1-D Quilt Patterns.) Numerous books have been written on quilt patterns. A quilting pattern is the design of the quilt where the pattern can be either pieced or appliquéd. Pieced quilts have sections of fabric that are cut into precise shapes and sewn back together to form a design. A patchwork quilt is a pieced quilt where one uses bits and pieces of used clothing, or scraps left over from making new clothing, to make the quilt. Examples of pieced quilt patterns, from the 19th century, would be: Nine-Patch, Churn Dash, Log Cabin, Bear Paw, Irish Chain, Underground Railroad, and so on. Appliqué quilts involve stitching designs that have been cut out of fabric onto a contrasting piece of fabric. Designs often used included flowers, animals, birds....Women during the Civil War would use their artistic talents to express their political views and emotions, or to reflect upon their lifestyle. Examples of patterns of appliqué quilts would include: Oak Leaf and Reel, Wreath of Hearts, Tulip, Rose, Peony, Basket With Floral, Cotton Boll, Lily, and so on Use of Quilts When the word quilt is mentioned, generally it is associated as a bed covering. It is true that feather beds were used, but the quilt was the primary means for keeping warm on cold nights. This was even truer with those living in rural areas, farms, and those settling new land. While its use as a bed covering was its most common use during the mid 19th century, there are numerous other purposes for which it was used. One good quilt was generally enough for one person on a cool summer evening. However, as winter set in, the number of quilts used would greatly increase. The number of quilts used would vary depending on, thickness and materials used, the temperature outside and structure type used as shelter, clothing being worn to bed, and the number of people sleeping together. The number of quilts being used could range all the way up to ten or twelve. Other uses of quilts include: Winter Wrap or Shawl- When cold weather clothing was lacking or inadequate, a quilt could be used to wrap up in to help withstand the outdoor winter cold. Windbreaks in Drafty Cabins - In the cold of winter, worn quilts were used to cover portions of a cabin where drafts blew through cracks in the walls, door and window frames, and lofts. Quilt Doors - Often, quilts were used as doors where space was limited and there was no room for a door that swings open. A quilt door, attached along the top, used no space to swing open, added color to the room, and was easily passed through. Trade or Barter- Quilts were a highly needed and sought after item. So they were good used for payment of debts and to trade or barter for other goods or labor. Gift - Fine quilts were used as wedding gifts or for a newborn baby. Pallets - When additional bedding was needed, quilts were used in the construction of pallets or small beds. A pallet was constructed by placing some quilts on the floor, followed by a tick filled with feathers, corn shucks, or straw. Then some more quilts were placed on top of the tick. Bedspread and Decoration - Fine quilts with artistic designs, beautiful fabric, and fine stitching were used as bedspreads and to decorate the home. Carpet or Floor Covering - Quilts were often used as floor coverings. They would help insulate the cold floors. Shoes would be removed before walking on the quilts. Old worn out quilts had another list of its own uses: Quilt Batting - Old worn out quilts were carefully washed and then reused as the padding or filling in a new quilt. Those too worn and tattered were torn into small rags and used as stuffing in a new quilt or comforter. (See photo 2-B) Covering Tobacco - Once the tobacco was dry the farmer would wait for a rainy, damp day when the tobacco is in case, a pliable condition. The leaves would then be pulled from the stalks, stacked, and tied. These stacks were then covered with quilts while waiting to be processed for market. Cellar Use - Quilts were used to cover fruits and vegetables while being stored in a cellar. Packing Furniture - The use of old quilts for packing furniture and other household items became so popular that utility padded and quilted material is now made for that purpose. Dog Bed- Old worn out quilts made a great bed for the pet dog. The list of uses for old quilts is endless. In John Rice Irwin's book entitled, A People And Their Quilts, he states, Old quilts seem never to die a sudden death. An old pair of shoes might be tossed into a trashcan, but I don't remember seeing an old quilt disposed of in such a manner. They just keep being relegated to a lower use, until they are no more. Other Types of Bed Coverings Even though this article is focused on quilts, it is important to mention other types of bed coverings and discuss changes in word meanings today. Additional types of bed coverings, used during the Civil War, would include: blankets, coverlets, and comforters. Today, the word blanket is a general term used to refer to many types of bed coverings. In Worcester's School Dictionary, 1860, a blanket is defined as woolen cloth for a bed. Woolen, means made of wool. Wool blankets issued to soldiers in both the North and the South, would be included in this grouping. A coverlet is a more loosely woven bed cover, often where the warp and the weft are of two different types of fiber. Wool with linen and cotton with wool were the two common combinations. It was common for coverlets to have fringe around the edges. Today, coverlets are often referred to as throw. A comforter today is often referred to as a quilt. During the Civil War, comforters generally had three layers like a quilt. They differed in that they often lacked any design, were made of the cheapest of materials, and were tied instead of quilted. Comforters were a less expensive and far less time consuming method of producing a bed cover. The downfall to a comforter was that the batting or filler was more apt to bunch up and they had a shorter life span then a quilt or a blanket.


PART TWO will cover the need and evidence of quilts used by soldiers in the Civil War, and women's auxiliary groups that rallied in the North and the South to provide quilts and other items to the aid of the soldiers.

Back To Basics

The 2004 campaign season promises to be one filled with some tried and true as well as new and exciting events. Having first rate, serviceable goods and looking sharp and well accoutered are the hallmark of a good soldier. To that end we offer the following for the month of February:

Forage and McDowell caps

The first thing noticed on the soldier is his headgear. NJ Sekela has painstakingly recreated the LJ&I Phillips contract cap in both types that were prevalent throughout the war. Crosshatch embossed leather sweatband with contractor stamp; 100% correct chin strap buckles (exclusive to us) and an overall look and fit that cannot be matched make this a must have for your impression.

Orders are being taken now for the CS and US version of the McDowell cap. This cap features a pasteboard bound visor and is a unique and collectable cap. Exclusive 100% correct chin strap buckle; quilted crown lining and overall attention to detail is what you would expect. Both the above caps are perfect for the private soldier and the Officer alike! All sizes available, just ask!

Pleated Linen Shirts and Cravats

Nothing finishes off the Officer or citizen impression like a quality pleated linen shirt and spring steel coil cravat. The linen shirts sport hand sewn pleats with tab for fastening to the top button of your trousers to keep the pleats straight and also come with Paris makers stamp. The cravats come in many different patterns as well as black satin and are a direct copy of an original in NJ Sekela collection.

Also keep in mind the false front Bib for those occasions when a prayer meeting or Officer meeting or mess comes up unexpectedly. A gentleman was supposed to be presentable with fresh linen and well groomed, these bibs make that transformation possible and, like all our goods, are documented to originals.

Fatigue Blouses

The month of February brings in 3 Federal fatigue blouses for your inspection. The tried and true JT Martin contract lined coat will once again be offered at a new and attractive price for pre orders during the opening stages of the run. This coat features the custom dyed flannel to achieve the "greenish cast" so prevalent in originals and is truly the hallmark of the hobby.

All sizes available for order and will be in stock as well.

Fresh from the page of "For Fatigue Purposes: by Patrick Brown comes the Nathan Gale contract coat. The Gale coat was contracted by the Schulykill Arsenal and carries its unique stamp. the original coat viewed by Mr. Brown had field add on waist pockets and a hook and eye closure at the throat. We have done the field alterations for you making this coat unique yet 100% correct. The run will be for the month of January, pre orders are being shipped and stock will be available. The pockets make this a wonderful coat for the NCO who needs the extra storage! Once again, all sizes available!

The New York Depot unlined coat, a $200 retail coat is now available for $135! This coat is based on original viewed by NJ Sekela who took extensive notes on it and has recreated it here for those hot summer campaigns. All seams flat felled, hand done buttonholes, custom wool flannel, inner pocket, totally faithful to the orignal....my mistake is your gain, this coat will not remain in stock long at this quality and price...it simply cannot be had for this unheard of price!

Orders still being taken for the Penitentiary jacket which will be made in time for Spring events, a perfect jacket for AOT and Trans Mississippi.

Enlisted Dress Coat

I have heard some proclaim that 2004 is the year of the dress coat what with all the event regs that have it as an optimum part of the impression.

In light of that February will also begin a run of enlisted dress coat by NJ Sekela, often described as the "Gold Standard" of the hobby.

Standard grade and Premium grade will both be available to order and stock will be carried on the standard grade. Once again, all sizes will be readily available and special pre order pricing, as with all runs for February. Take advantage of special pricing while it lasts.

Federal Variant Issue Shirts

Utilizing custom dyed flannel, this variant issue shirt is the perfect remedy to the itchy domet flannel. Three button placket with a lined breast pocket. All sizes available.

Complete Uniform Sets

Watch the site for special deals on complete uniform sets which will include lined or unlined coat; issue variant shirt and foot trousers of kersey blue! Special pricing will make this an ideal way for new recruits to get suited up quickly, once and for all!


Never before have these quality sets of accouterments been at a more advantageous price! Take advantage now and watch for corresponding CS accouterment set, coming soon!


Early war (painted cotton); NY Depot or Storms contract (painted linen). The best and most accurate bags in the hobby and one that will last during your entire term of enlistment. All bags are based upon originals in the NJ Sekela collection.

World War II

There is a new page added onto the site for those of you who also reenact WWII. Presently it contains German goods but will expand to include more German as well as G.I. goods as well. Click here to check it out!


Signed up yet? This fantastic resource is for our customers only; it contains the combined knowledge of the top manufacturers in our hobby today! Click here to sign up!

New updates on or about the 15th of each month so sign up today!

When I started this business over 3 years ago it was with the mindset that living historians needed to a place where they could get exceptional goods fast and efficiently, however, we are so much more than that!

Simply because an item is not listed or is out of stock does not necessarily mean that we do not make it or you have to wait an inordinate amount of time for it. I welcome your phone calls (1-800-431-1862) and emails (joe@skilletlicker.com) for any item that you might be interested in.

Some of the goods that have been made recently which have not appeared on the site are:

    • Jr. Officer trousers of kersey
    • Staff officers trouser
    • McDowell federal private purchase caps
    • Military style private purchase vests of kersey
    • Cavalry trimmed mounted service jackets
    • States Rights frocks
    • Pleated frocks
    • Balmoral shoes
    • and a host of other items...

Give me a call to discuss your needs!

| Home | Blouses and Trousers | Accoutrements | Headgear | Officers' Gear | Fabrics and Notions |
Civilian | Quilts & Covers |
Publications | Under $50 | Terms of Sale