Quilting in America
Past, Present, Future
Quilting in America is more than a simple catch-phrase for many Americans, rather it's a part of a personal history and heritage. Many of us grew up hearing stories of ancestors who built farms and towns across the vast emptiness of the American plains.
During the Depression, nearly everyone developed ways to make the most of what they had. Enterprising women used every little scrap of fabric -- flour sacks, worn trousers, old suits, tobacco sacks, and more -- to clothe and warm their families. My mother told of wearing flour-sack dresses and snuggling under the weight of patchwork quilts, hand-made by her grandmother, Big Mama. As a child my bed, as well as all the other beds in the house, were always covered with Big Mama's patchwork quilts. Made from scraps of her fabrics and worn clothing, it was a comforting connection to an extended family and heritage we rarely got to visit.
There is something special about snuggling under a warm quilt on a cold night. Though light in weight, the quilt soon traps the body's heat in the air cells created by the quilting -- the unique combination of layering and stitching. Soon the quilt becomes a cozy, enveloping shield that no icy blast can penetrate. Quilts are so much more than just warm bedcovers -- they are love, care, memories, hope, and creativity expressed through the patterns, materials, and hands of their makers.
While quilting is an ancient art practiced in many cultures, quilting in America is relatively new. During Colonial times (late 1700s - early 1800s) quilting was rare because women typically made clothes for their families using spinning, weaving and sewing activities. Few colonial women had enough free time for quilting. Toward the mid-1800s the mass production of textiles made fabric affordable to most families. Quilting become widespread and quilters began experimenting with combining fabrics into blocks, then merging the blocks together. As the pioneers moved west and settled new territories, the availability of manufactured goods was limited. Ingenuity and resourcefulness allowed them to use and reuse materials to make bed-coverings to warm the chilly nights.
When I was 10 years old, we stayed with my grandmother and Big Mama for several weeks. While my brother and sisters played outside, I sat on the floor at Big Mama's feet, carefully cutting squares from scraps, then clumsily sewing them together. She patiently explained simple color theory, how to place scraps together in a pleasing way by careful placement of light and dark fabrics, and demonstrated the small even stitches required to piece the scraps. She was working on the traditional Double Wedding Ring pattern for a quilt for a grand-daughter who was planning to be married. How magical it was that the small pieces of fabric could form beautiful multi-color interlocking rings! Years later, I received a gorgeous Double Wedding Ring quilt from her in celebration of my wedding -- a precious connection to Big Mama, our family, and a rich tradition.
During the 1970s and 1980s interest in our heritage grew. As people explored their past, quilting in America was revived and has blossomed into a creative artform that challenges quilters to explore new ways to express themselves with fabric, texture, color, and pattern.
What about you? Is part of your heritage expressed in the careful stitches of an heirloom quilt? Was it a gift or an old one passed from one generation to another? Visit the Heirloom Quilts page to see pictures and stories from other owners, and most importantly, please share a picture and story of your own precious heirloom quilt.
Because the entries are important, each picture and story will be placed on its own web page. Visitors may leave comments (be nice!) about the pictures and stories for everyone to read.
- History of Quilts
- The history of quilts in America has evolved from basic bedcovers to become an important part of America’s cultural heritage.
- Charity Quilting
- Charity quilting -- quilters provide Warm fuzzies for those in need
- Heirloom Quilts
- Precious connections to our past -- heirloom quilts
- Amish Quilts
- Not so plain; Amish quilts are filled with unexpected color and excitement
- Vintage Quilts
- Old quilts (pre 1970) are inspirational treasures for anyone interested in vintage quilts and quilt history.
- African American Quilts
- Creativity and improvisation, common characteristics of many old African American quilts, provide insight into a rich heritage and history.
- AIDS Quilt
- Messages of remembrance, awareness and hope are quilted together in the AIDS Quilt.
- Awareness Quilts
- Quilts made to build awareness and/or raise funds for various causes -- Awareness Quilts
- Quilt Blocks
- Putting together a quilt piece by piece -- quilt blocks
- Quilt Designers
- Quilt designers : masters at their craft, enthusiastic teachers, creative innovators
- Quilt Books and Resources
- Quilt books, supplies, and resources
- Bibliography of resources used for www.Quilting-in-America.com
- Quilt Glossary
- Quilt glossary of terms, definitions, and jargon
- Financial Backup Plan
- Having a financial backup plan provides a means of avoiding financial collapse in the event of an emergency.
- Contact Us
- Contact us -- comments, questions, suggestions
- About Us
- Quilting in America . . . About Us
- Site Map
- An alternative to browsing, this site map will help you find your way around www.quilting-in-america.com.
- Advertising Information and Disclosures
- Advertising information and disclosures concerning compensation from advertisers and affiliate programs.