Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why Quilts Matter, A Year of Blogs

my "Eureka Moment" quilt, c. 1850, Kentucky
In 2011, Shelly Zegart asked if I would be interested in writing guest blogs for the Why Quilts Matter web site. Of course, I said yes, and was happy to offer the very first guest blog on the site. It was called "Eureka Moment" and it told the story of my first quilt, meeting Shelly for the first time, and the moment of realization when I first understood why quilts matter so much in America.

Bible Story, 1979, by Lucy Mingo
My February guest blog coincided with Black History Month, and it was called "Meeting Lucy Mingo". It was the story of a quilt made by Lucy Mingo of Gee's Bend, Alabama, which had been falsely attributed to her daughter, Polly Raymond, intentionally. A series of unlikely events led me to acquire the quilt and learn its true story, and the journey led me to meet Lucy Mingo in person.

American Legion Auxiliary Quilt, 1931, Salem, Oregon
March was Women's History Month, and I wrote about "How Quilts Empower Women" by telling the story of an inscribed quilt from Salem, Oregon. This quilt, made by Post 9 of the American Legion Auxiliary, played a role in raising funds, and documented its members and supporters. Gold stars appear by the names of two of the fallen.

Friendship Quilt, 1937, Wichita, Kansas
April was all about Easter egg colors, and the title of my blog was "One Recklessly Optimistic Quilt". It was about a period in history when Americans faced many challenges, the Great Depression, and how the cheerfully colored quilts of the period may have lightened the mood. In the blog, I told the story of a signature quilt from Kansas, a very happy quilt indeed.

Album with Rooster, 1868, Hannah J. Swin, New Jersey
The May blog was called "A New Generation of Quilt Collectors" and told the story of a marvelous Album spread with a rooster center block. The quilt was made in 1868 by Hannah J. Swin of Bergen County, New Jersey, and when I saw the picture Julie Silber posted on Facebook, I inquired and bought the quilt on the spot. In today's world, collectors need to act quickly. Things can move at lightning speed on the internet.

Amish Crib Quilt, c. 1900, Ohio
In June, I wrote a blog called "Good Eye" and delved into the question presented by Shelly Zegart in Why Quilts Matter, "how do I develop a good eye for quilts?" It really pays to have a good eye when looking at quilts, especially when it's something as rare as an Amish crib quilt. In my case, having an eye for the unusual led me down the path to great collecting.

(detail) MacMillan Family Quilt, 1868, Monroe County, Kentucky
My July blog, "Purely American" was about the "New York Beauty" quilt pattern. This pattern and others like it, gave American quiltmaking a face of its own, and the combination of curved seams, radiating points or spikes, pieced sashing, and dense, decorative quilting was something new and different. If Americans created their own aesthetic in quilts, it began with this brand of innovation.

Diamonds, c. 1890, Eastern United States
"Quilts and Art History" was the topic for August, and it was an opportunity to talk about quilts in the context of American Art History. One of the ways we can ensure the continuation of the tradition of quiltmaking in America would be to include American Quilt History in our secondary and college curriculum. Iconic images such as the silk Diamonds quilt are every bit as memorable as the famous paintings and sculptures studied in Art History.

Alphabet Crib Quilt, c. 1970
September was "Back to School" time, and I wrote about the ways of learning about quilts and quilt history. With the advent of the internet, it's so much easier to learn about quilt history today than it was 30 or 40 years ago. Now, we can find a lot of information at our fingertips, but with so much information, it's important to always assess the quality of the information and the credibility of the sources.

"Wavy Bricks" c. 1970
"Quilts in the Information Age" was the topic for October, and the blog talks about some of my favorite online resources, such as the Facebook group called Quilts- Vintage and Antique. The group is a virtual quilt history think tank, and includes collectors, curators, dealers, historians, quiltmakers and enthusiasts. Sometimes, if you're very lucky and very quick, you can find wonderful quilts available from members of the group.

Crazy Quilt, c. 1900
November seemed like a good time to talk about "Wonderful Wools" - so that's just what I did. I told the story of buying my first wool quilts, what attracted me to them, and how wool quilts appear throughout quilt history. I also shared pictures of some of my favorite wool quilts collected over the last eleven years.

Applique Counterpane, c. 1820, Achsah Goodwin Wilkins, Maryland
The last blog of the year in December was about an "Important Discovery" - the Achsah Goodwin Wilkins Applique Counterpane. This monumental fancy spread, made with cut out chintz appliqued on to a Marseilles cloth ground, caused a sensation in quilt history circles as I tried to grasp the importance of what I'd unwittingly found.

It was a great year, full of great quilts, and I'm happy to say I will continue blogging for Why Quilts Matter in 2013. Look for my next guest blog this month!


  1. I love all your posts about quilts. So glad you share! Here's to a great year of quilts........and yes, they all matter!

  2. What a great year of quilts! Can't wait to see what 2013 will bring....

  3. I recently read in Quilter's Home January 2010 a feature on Mary Koval in which they pictured 3 panels of hand painted palampores from her collection. This gave me a visual of the way you explained how the irises in the Achsah Goodwin Wilkins applique counterpane were created from sections along the edge of the print. (It looks like when one would match wallpaper repeats.) Mary's palampores date from 1810. Have you seen this article? I think you would enjoy it.

  4. I am so thrilled to read your wonderful stories of all these beautiful and incredible quilts and then to go on and find still more wonderful things to look at on your blog. I had seen your posts on Facebook, but not here on your blog. I have bookmarked it now and will return to read even more. Oh even better, I see where I can subscribe by e-mail. You can't learn too many things about quilts. They are such an important part of our history.