American Quilting: The 19th Century

Hand-quilted bed coverings have been around since the middle ages, but what we now think of as "quilting" didn’t hit America until the middle of the 19th century. During the Industrial Revolution, its steam-powered looms combined with new dye processes, to bring brightly-colored and printed cottons into average homes. American women quickly discovered the unique, creative outlet that quilting brought them-- in the few minutes they could spare from their chores each day. They got patterns from friends, from the occasional printed magazine or newspaper, and from their imaginations. They bought new fabric when they could afford it; and when they couldn’t, they recycled outgrown clothing and worn bedclothes. Designs have ranged from postage-stamp sized blocks of "Around the World," to the simple, stark and stunning designs of the Amish. Quilts have allowed countless American homemakers to become artists, while simultaneously warming and caring for the families which were their primary concerns.