Since this post is on my blog on July 4th, the Independence Day holiday for my US readers, I thought I’d do a dive into a little quilt history to find some interesting nuggets on quilting and patriotism. I’ll also show some of my quilts that have a patriotic theme as well. For non-US readers, I’d love to see some quilt history from your country as well.
Throughout history, women have expressed themselves through quilting as an art form. From telling a family story to expressing a political view, quilts were the canvas. They are still that way today in many ways. Many of us have made T-shirt quilts. That’s telling a story! Collecting T-shirts from a child’s activities through their school years or from an adult’s vacation trip and putting them in a quilt is a recording of their history and a snapshot of the family history.
Here’s my version of a family history quilt. For both of my kids, I made picture quilts for their graduations from high school.
There are photos in the star blocks of all 4 years of high school. Hopefully in the years to come, they will look at those photos in the quilts and will be able to tell stories to their kids about their school experiences.
Here’s one of the most famous story quilts from history. I wrote a bit about it in my book, Blooming Patchwork:
This quilt was made by former slave, Harriet Powers and can be found at the Smithsonian’s Nation Museum of American History.
Have you made some quilts that tell a story? I bet you have!
Patriotism in Quilts
From the beginning of the country woman have expressed their patriotism and their political views through quilting, mostly because that was their only outlet. On viewing quilts in quilt history books, you will find everything from appliquéd eagles and flags to fabrics actually printed with patriotic symbols. You’ll find block names like “Whig Rose” and “Yankee Puzzle” to name a few.
A lot of patriotic quilts can be found in the Civil War era. Quilts were often made and raffled to raise funds for soldiers. Quilts were even made to raise funds for gun boats. Read Barbara Brackman’s blog post from 2014 with some interesting history about these quilts.
Quilts were also part of causes like the women’s suffrage movement. This movement for the women’s rights grew out of the abolitionist movement, which was often headed by women. Did you know Susan B. Anthony, a leader in the suffrage movement, was a skilled quilter even as a young girl? She often used quilting bee quilters as her audience for speeches on the movement. Here’s a link to a suffrage quilt, although not one of Susan B. Anthony’s. If you want to look at a lot of historical quilts and find out more information about them, the Quilt Index is a fantastic website to keep bookmarked on your computer!
So, here is a patriotic quilt of mine that is actually my first quilt pattern I designed. It was inspired as a memorial for 9/11.
You can’t see it too well from the photo, but I have written the words to America the Beautiful in the white portion of the stripes. I liked the stars & stripes motifs so much that I made 2 other patterns:
I then designed a quilt pattern (below) for quilters to use for Quilts of Valor quilts.
I have a new pattern coming out soon. It’s at the quilter’s now and I hope to have it out by mid- summer. I call it Liberty Square:
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little quilt history interlude. It’s fun to delve into the history of quilts and see how they played a roll in some of the big events in this country’s history. Leave me a comment below and I will enter you into a drawing for my quilt pattern for Liberty Star Shine.
If you want to share photos of some of your patriotic quilts or family quilts, feel free to post them in the comments on this post on my Snuggles Quilts Facebook page. The post will be pinned to the top of my page beginning on Monday mid-morning. The drawing for the pattern will be on Monday, July 11th. Good luck! ** We have a winner! Congrats, Shirley!**
Thanks for a very interesting History lesson through quilts! Hope you enjoyed your 4th!
Donna S says
Patriotic quilts are beautiful in many ways. I’m working on one for my grandson who just returned from overseas. God bless those who helped & continue to help keep us safe!
Debbie Miller says
I have made 2 patriotic quilts for myself and Quilt of Valor quilts for all the veterans in my family. I used fabrics to reflect their branch of service.