Quilts. A Bit of History

The definition for quilt, from The American Heritage Dictionary: a bed coverlet or blanket made of two layers of fabric with a layer of cotton, wool, feathers or down in between, all stitched firmly together, usually in a criss cross design. Quilts and quilting is so much more than that. Dating back to pioneer times they were made out of necessity. Nothing was ever wasted. When a pair of trousers or jacket wore out and there was still some fabric left that was not too thin, it was used in a comforter. A comforter was normally made of woolen material. By the time they were pieced and the backing put on they were extremely heavy and of a dark color. They were also tied with yarn or string instead of quilted. The only heat in the homes at that time was fireplaces or wood stoves, the fire would go out during the night, and homes would get extremely cold in the winter. There would be four or five comforters put on each bed to keep warm. Turning over in bed could be a real challenge.

Cotton quilts were made for warmth also but they were more decorative. A Double Wedding Ring pattern was made for wedding presents using many soft colors. Many were made from scrap of left over fabric from the clothes that the family wore. Again, nothing was wasted and if a shirt or blouse or dress still had some decent material left after being worn for a long time those pieces would go into an every day quilt – nothing fancy but practical. Old used flannel sheets would be used as the batting. Quilting was done during the winter when it was cold. They had more time, as there was no garden to take care of or canning to be done. The women of the neighborhood would get together on long cold winter days and quilt. A group of women could start quilting early and finish a quilt by late afternoon. In these modern times quilt making and quilting have become a craft or hobby.

There are many, many books and patterns to make beautiful quilts. It is now big business. Quilts are no longer made out of necessity but because women love to work with the beautiful fabrics that are available. You can go into a fabric shop and see thousands of bolts of fabrics to choose from. You see advertisements that proclaim, “18,000 bolts of fabric” 25% off. When you go into a shop full of women there are as many types of women as there are fabrics. One thing they all have in common is their love of working with fabrics. You can tell those that love it the most. They will stand patiently to be waited on and hold the bolt of fabric and stroke the material. If you are a quilter you know they already can see in their mind what that beautiful quilt is going to look like whether it be for a Wedding, Christmas or Graduation gift. Or for that new grand child soon to be born. Quilters are like sisters and good friends and good neighbors. They are there for each other when in need or to celebrate.

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