Kris Driessen here and Patricia Cummings here.
What I was able to discover about the history of the North Star/Sawtooth Star pattern is --- not too much! It is old. The oldest example I found is a quilt from around 1800 recorded on The Quilt Index. The unknown quilter used indigo dyed wool in constructing the blocks.
This quilt, also from The Quilt Index, was made in the 1850 - 1875 time frame by a quilter known only as Ellen. She hand pieced and stitched it from cotton fabric on her family farm near Versailles, Kentucky.
And the last quilt I have to show you brings us back to the Civil War. This quilt, shown in a 2001 exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, can be seen and read about in detail on the Historic New England website. It was sold at the 1836 Boston Anti-Slavery Fair - be sure to visit the website and read the poem that was embroidered in the center. More about the anti-slavery fairs can be found on Barbara Brackman's Civil War quilts blog. In fact, if you like quilting history, you'll probably love her site and her book Facts and Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts and Slavery.
The thing about cherished stories is just that - they're cherished. I'll probably always think of the Underground Railroad when I see this pattern, just as I won't totally discard my visions of Betsy Ross selflessly toiling away on our flag or a young George Washington bravely doing the right thing. Escaped slaves traveled at night and we do know they followed the North Star. I may just hang onto my vision of a North Star quilt in some way marking their next station.
Who knows .....
Happy Creating! Deborah