A History of Quilting in America

March 12, 2019 6:20 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

There is a long history of quilting in the United States, one that dates back to long before European settlers first arrived on land in North America. However, as English and Dutch settlers arrived, the art form changed significantly, and began to flourish in a way that shaped early colonial life. Read on for more information from the experts at our quilting fabric shop in St. Louis, MO!

Quilting out of need

During the early periods of the colonial era, women spent much of their time spinning, weaving and sewing clothes their family members would wear, which meant they didn’t have a whole lot of time for the artistic expression that came in the form of quilting. There were commercial blankets and woven coverlets that were popular for household use. But if times became tough, colonial women would have to get creative with the use of materials they had around the house to keep their families warm. Thus, quilting became an art form that was born out of necessity rather than a desire for artistry.

Early settlers would discard very little—clothing items or blankets could not just be thrown out when they became worn, because there wasn’t much money to go around to purchase new ones. For this reason, they’d be patched or combined with other blankets or clothing items, or used as filler between other blankets to add warmth. Thus, the early quilts in the American colonies were not heirloom items that were designed for a specific artistic purpose, but rather practical and functional items patched together over time.

As more fabrics began to be manufactured in America and those fabrics became more affordable, women were no longer required to make their own yarns and fabrics, and families could purchase more of their clothes and blankets at stores. At this point, women began to gravitate toward the more artistic types of quilting.

The art took off in the 100 years between 1750 and 1850—thousands of quilts were patched, and many still exist today as heirloom pieces or in museums. Many of these quilts became extremely elaborate, and would take years to make. There were also different styles of quilting that began to be developed, ranging from whole-cloth to laid-on and patchwork quilts. There was also the Medallion quilt, which was developed in a style that had been brought over from Europe by the colonists. This style featured a primary motif surrounded by multiple borders, and would allow quilters to use patchwork, embroidery or applique by themselves or in combination with each other while creating these types of quilts.

As the processes of quilting became more artistic, not all quilts were being used for purely functional purposes—many were used for decorative wall hangings, or to tell the stories of families or regions. Of course, women still made quilts to use as bedspreads—these were typically made much more quickly with less of a focus on beauty and aesthetics.

For more information about how quilting has evolved over the centuries, contact Fenton Sew & Vac or pay us a visit to check out our selection of quilting fabric in St. Louis, MO.

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