The American quilt is alive and well and living all over the country. Although this art flowered in the mid 19th century, it almost met its demise after the Civil War. With the coming of the Industrial Age, handwork and needlework began to decline. Some women seemed almost ashamed of it. Machines, they thought, could do the work better and cheaper. It didn't take long however, to discover that machines could do neither. Manufactured objects were and are, the direct opposites of unique treasures produced by hand. Handwork is priceless because it is a personal expression of creativity. The resurrection and restoration of needlework to its rightful place is a very healthy sign.
Our pressures today are as relentless as those of two hundred years ago, perhaps even more so, for they are varied and widespread. Our own struggle for survival against deception, inflation, crime, and false gods of money and power, need a pressure valve. Handwork restores balance and revives the spirit. Your handwork is a personal statement about you.
The work patchwork is confusing, misused and misunderstood. Patchwork, literally means to apply a patch of one fabric on a ground of another. However, in contemporary usage, it includes pieced work, patching with paper liners, crazy patch, as well as variations of both traditional and modern applique.
The American quilt is one of the few indigenous arts of this country. America can be compared to the youngest child of a large family, saddled with hand-me-downs. Old world cultures were brought to our shores, just as were many different languages, social customs and religious practices. From these beginnings, coupled with hardships endured by our pioneer ancestors, the American quilt emerged, bearing little resemblance to its European counterpart.
In the early years of our country, all energy was directed toward survival. Thus, the first bed coverings were drab, dark and strictly utilitarian. In time, life became a little easier. America began to raise its own raw materials for wool and cotton fabrics and soon learned to make its own dyes. Beauty became evident in the designs, color and form of this creative needlework, the only leisure-time outlet permitted the American woman. The creation of a beautiful quilt expressed her patience and dedication. Many of the stunning quilts of this historic period were never meant to be used. They were to be admired, displayed and handed down to the children and in turn to their children.
By the middle of the 19th century, quilt making had come of age. Local exhibits and fairs had a dynamic impact on the increased stature of the quilt. Women competed with each other to create outstanding examples. Piecing resulted in stunning graphic and geometric designs; the curved seam was conquered, applique work abounded elaborate, elegant and inticate. Quilting itself was exquisite, with much of it an unbelievable example of time, patience and care. Many of these breathtaking quilts are preserved in museums and private collections.Out of this activity grew and integral part of the social history of our country. These times also produced a challenge which has been handed down to the modern woman.