Quilting Gallery Blog

Rebuilding New Orleans, Block-by-Block

Books have been written, songs have sung, stories have been told about the city of New Orleans.

How to describe one of the oldest American cities: Do you start by telling of its rich cultural heritage? Founded by the French, given in treaty to Spain, sold to the United States, plantations worked by people of color? Or do you speak of its music: sultry blues, magical jazz, upbeat zydeco, strains of Caribbean rhythms mixing in? Perhaps you speak of its magnificent architecture. Maybe you speak about the exquisite cuisine peculiar to that city. The cuisine that makes my mouth water just mentioning it, and makes my taste buds dream of delights to come, resides in that city.

All of those things are New Orleans, plus much more. The people of New Orleans laugh easily, work hard, and dream the same dreams of all Americans. The dreams came crashing down when Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury upon the city. We have all seen the pictures of the devastation left in her wake. It was heart wrenching to see what the failures of the Army Corps of Engineers and Mother Nature had wrought. Homes and businesses, schools and hospitals, all destroyed or damaged badly. Far away in Missouri, I cried as I saw what had happened to the city of beauty I had known growing up in southern Louisiana.

The people of the city are determined to rebuild and reclaim their lives. They are tough and resilient. They are bravely trying to clean up the mess. In the days immediately following the storm there was help, there still is help, but not enough. There are some famous and well-known people who are helping but they can’t do it by themselves. Presidents visit the city and promise aid but when they go back to Washington no one comes after them to follow through.

It seems as though we, the richest country in the world, care more about helping people in foreign lands than we do in helping the people of one of our own cities. Not being rich, not even what people call comfortable, I have fretted over what I could do to help. Desperation makes you search inside yourself for answers to problems that seem insurmountable. I can’t sing or dance, I’m not any good at making lots of money. The only skill I possess is my ability to make quilts.

Quilting is my idea on helping rebuild New Orleans board by board. Years ago I bought the book "Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!!" that was written by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes. I became enamored of a block with the name "swamp angel." Maybe I liked the block because its name made me remember the Louisiana of my childhood.


I want to invite all quilters to help rebuild the city of New Orleans. My proposal is that groups, guilds, and individuals make quilts using the swamp angel block. The quilts do not have to be large. The colors of Mardi Gras are gold, green, and purple so it would be fun to use those colors, but any color would do. The quilts could then be auctioned and the money raised could be donated to help rebuild homes in the city.

No, quilts alone won’t rebuild the city but it would help. Quilters are the most generous and creative people I know. I would like us to stand up for the America we believe in and help an American city heal itself. Please contact me: Arlijohn’s Quilting Thoughts or Arlinda’s Art. Thank you.

The following are directions for a 12 ½" swamp angel block:

1 – 4 ½" square medium value
1 – 5 7/8" square light value, cut on the diagonal twice to make 4 quarter square triangles
1 – 5 7/8" square light or medium value, cut on the diagonal twice to make 4 quarter square triangles
2 – 5 7/8" squares dark value, cut on the diagonal twice to make 8 quarter square triangles
2 – 5" squares light value, cut on the diagonal once to make 4 half square triangles
2 – 5" squares medium value, cut on the diagonal once to make 4 half square triangles

Sew a light and medium half square triangle long sides together to make one 4 ½" square, do this 4 times. These squares go on your out side corners, light value facing out.

Looking at photo of block sew quarter square triangles together to make 4 (4 ½") squares. Using photo as guide lay out blocks and sew to make one swamp angel block.

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This post was published on March 18th, 2010. Post topics: Charity Quilting, Free Projects.

5 Responses to “Rebuilding New Orleans, Block-by-Block”

  1. Nancy Bird says:

    Please, don’t forget St Bernard Parish! New Orleans had damage, but the whole city was not destroyed. St Bernard Parish was completely destroyed, save for ONE HOUSE! I know, because I lived there. New Orleans gets the press, and it would seem the only area that was damaged. NOT TRUE! Please, if you are going to do this, include St Bernard is this!

  2. arlinda says:

    Nancy, I agree and I’m sorry I didn’t mention St. Bernard Parish. Hope all is well with you.

  3. You are just Sweet As Could Be!
    What a beautiful honor!
    We have hung your quilt onto today’s Ladder and hope others join in the partay!
    We have lots of readers down in St Bernard, Nancy Bird, don’t you worry!
    There are people all over the world who climb that Ladder every day, looking for New Orleans.

    I just love this.
    Thanks yous.

  4. Jess says:

    Thanks for sharing this. If I had the skill, I’d work on this project. But unfortunately I don’t. :(

  5. Laura Drumm says:

    Has anyone thought of doing a Katrina/Rita Quilt comprised of blocks memorializing people and homes, etc? Something like the Aids Quilt? Any thoughts?

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