American Quilts

The history of the quilt is long. Traditions of early quilters have not been lost, and they have been taken all over the world. British women took their skills and traditions to the other side of the world, to America and to Australia, but it is the American quilter who is responsible for bringing this craft into the twenty first century worldwide.

The Hawaiian people record their history through their quilts, and show the world their spiritual and religious past and present. The French have used quilting as a medium for their artistic drive, and have produced some of the most beautiful quilts, with intricate and artistic stitching. Japanese clothing has traditionally included quilt work, and the wonderful silks of the kimono can be fabulously luxurious when appliquéd and quilted. South Africa, too, has strong love affair with quilting, and the colors and patterns reflect the climate, its colors and its wild life.

There are quilts across the world that have remained in the same family for generations, and there are quilts displayed in museums and exhibitions, in town halls, in hotels, in company offices and in restaurants.

There are antique quilts and collectors that purchase them, so that their stories and makers can live on.

Quilting can be simple or complex patchwork; it can be the most exquisite stitchery on simple or costly fabrics. You can quilt a small cushion cover, a bed cover, a jacket, a handbag, a small medium or huge wall hanging. You can use painted or dyed fabrics, and you can add motifs, appliqués or incorporate ribbons, pearls or diamonds.

There is almost any style, any size, any use, as long as it’s a quilt.

Quilts in America were often made to signify an engagement to be married. Creating quilts for the newlyweds’ home was always a joyful undertaking, and a chance for the girls to get together, for advice to be given, and the lucky girl to let the world know how happy she was.

Quilts for babies’ cribs are popular. If you don’t make one for your own baby, an aunt, grandmother, cousin or friend is likely to make one for you. The advantage of crib quilts is their size – easier to work with, not so time consuming – and an excuse to really go to town with design and skill for a newborn.

There are many very fortunate children who have quilts made for them by their grandmothers. Incorporating references to the child hood life and family, pets, friends, and places they have lived and visited. These are irreplaceable and beyond value.

Perhaps more than any other piece of household linen, the quilt can be as personal or impersonal, cheerful or sad, large or small, colorful, patterned or plain.

They can be decorated in any number of ways, and using almost any sort of fabric, the quilt is both an exceedingly practical and potentially stunningly beautiful piece. It is a combination of traditional or modern styles, personal choice, lovingly sewn and an indicator of our self, our place and our time.

Fashions apply in the world of quilting as with other textiles. We have seen the resurgence, in particular, of the traditional patterns of American patch work, and these are really now considered classic styles, and hopefully will continue forever.

The joy of quilting, however, is in its variety, and its potential for the artistic talent of the creator. The large and complex patchwork patterns are wonderful, and just as wonderful are the smaller quilts, which can say anything you want.

They can be about your family, your home, your village, or country. They can be about your joys or your despair; your love or your loss.

In California, for example, there is The Quilt Project, which is part of the Cervical Cancer program, and which has squares made in memory of women who have lost their lives to the cancer, or who have suffered cancer but have been fortunate enough to beat it.

There are also quilts put together to hold the memories of people who have died from Aids or Ovarian Cancer.

They are all beautiful pieces of work, and wonderful works of art. They are also very personal to the people who have lost loved ones, and commemorate the people who died or suffered.

The quilts are exhibited in health centers, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, and are used to raise awareness, to raise funding and to help promote more research.

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