When my love for sewing was reignited and I began to make quilts a couple of years ago, I never thought that I would be learning about US history. It was enough to cope with terms such as jelly rolls, layer cakes, charm packs, in-the-ditch, HSTs (half-square-triangles) and long-arm quilting and I never spared a thought about the history behind quilts.
Here in the UK, I don’t have a great sense of history regarding the making of quilts other than several homes had them; Heirlooms painstakingly hand-made by grandmas to pass away the time rather than fulfil any practical need. Of course, I make this observation from a position of ignorance in that I have never researched the history of the quilt in the UK. It hasn’t been a topic of interest. I like sewing and love making something which is pretty, practical and 100% unique and I piggy-back on the current revived interest in all things home-made.
This all changed a few weeks ago when I joined an on-line quilting group (see previous posts) where most of the members live in the US. Immediately I spotted that the fabrics they tend to use (in general) are different from those available in the UK and in particular, Civil War quilts, reproduction fabrics, colours and patterns are prevalent. I wasn’t sure whether I liked the more muted shades and simple patterns at first but over the weeks they have grown on me. I have therefore started to order fabric which reflects this period and have made some items using these. The mini-quilt shown below is from a pattern in Kathy Tracy’s new book “Small and Scrappy. ” Reading about the history behind these quilts has made me appreciate the hardships faced by many US families during and after the American Civil War and especially the migration of the masses from East to West. It is a fascinating subject and makes history come alive to me.
One of my new “Smallquilttalk” friends pointed me in the direction of Barbara Brackman who writes a great blog not only about the history of quilting in the UK but incorporates national and local history and events with illustrations in her posts. Its a great source of information if you, like me, want to know more.
Quilting has a lot to answer for!