16 Mar 2017
March 16, 2017

The Legacy of Quilting

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March is National Quilting Month in the USA and on Saturday, March 18th, quilters everywhere will also celebrate Worldwide Quilting Day. The legacy of quilting has had an amazing, heartfelt, hands-on impact in our nation and the history is rich. Come with me on a little journey!

Image from Civil War Quilts blog

Quilting Connects Us to the Past

We often think of quilting as an art that originated in America, but it actually pre-dates us. The art of quilting was practiced in Egypt around the 35th century, where it was most likely used for clothing. Other rare examples have been dated to the 14th century. So quilting actually has it’s roots firmly planted in ancient times! The concept of quilting was practiced in China, Europe and many other cultures before it became popular in the United States in the late 19th century.

Although, the romantic image of our colonial ancestors gathering together to quilt is marvelous, fabric was not readily available for home sewers at that time. Around 1840, textile production increased, fabrics became available for purchase by home sewers and the love of quilting in the USA began. And, it goes on. If you’re not a quilter, you probably know a quilter or have benefitted in some way from the loving stitches of a quilter!

Quilting Legacy Makers

In 1837, Harriet Powers, an African American woman, was born a slave in Georgia. Harriet was a woman of creativity and determination and she left a beautiful legacy of quilting that continues to impact us today. I was particularly struck by this amazing fifteen block applique quilt that was embroidered and finished with great care in the late 1800’s. This was not just a random design – Harriet included a description of each pictorial block when the quilt was sold. Take a few minutes to read her descriptions and consider the value of her life’s expression in fabric. Click here to learn about Harriet’s quilt.

Image from Today.com

You may have seen the recent story of Margaret Hubl, a Nebraska quilter who created quilts for each grandchild as they graduated from high school. As her granddaughter stated, “She wanted us to have something to wrap up and keep warm in when we went away to school.” Margaret passed away last July and her family decided to display the important legacy of quilting she left at her memorial. The pews were draped in Margaret’s lovingly stitched quilts. The memorial became a powerful demonstration of “the love that Grandma made for each of us.” Margaret’s quilts warmed her family in body, mind, heart and spirit in a way that will live on for years. Click here to read more of Margaret’s story.

Quilting Connects Us to the Future

The members of the Modern Quilt Guild love to design and stitch outside the edges of traditional quilting. Free Spirit Fabrics had the privilege of offering an Award of Excellence at the 2017 QuiltCon, the MQG’s yearly conference. The winner, Maritza Soto, of Cambridge MA loves the concept of Modern Traditionalism. Her quilt, Go North, was created as “a quilt that was rooted in tradition and technique but employed a modern, flexible approach that allows for multiple versions of the same motif depending on use of color and gradations.” A legacy of quilting takes many shapes, grows, changes and considers all forms of the art and the influences of the artist. Maritza’s quilt is a gorgeous example! Click here to visit the Modern Quilt Guild web site and learn more.

Image from National Quilt Museum collection

The Legacy of Quilting on the Web
Click the titles to explore.

  • Quilt History List 
  • Although additions are no longer made, you’ll find wonderful information on cleaning, restoration, dating and conservation on the site.
  • Womenfolk 
  • Judy Anne Brenneman, quilter and retired Home Ec teacher, authored and compiled many articles of quilt history for this site.
  • Historic American Quilts and Coverlets
  • A wealth of information and beautiful pictures divided into historic and quilt style categories.
  • Civil War Quilts
  • Quilter Barbara Brackman maintains this fabulous site with stories, authentic patterns and quilt images.
  • The National Quilt Museum
  • Located in Paducah, KY, this destination belongs on your Quilting Bucket List. There’s an app available for your mobile device, too!

Un Barrio de Oakland by Ernestina Tril. Image from National Quilt Museum

Planning Your Own Legacy of Quilting

And, what is a celebration of National Quilting Month without quilts?! Coats and Clark’s Make It Coats site includes a treasure trove of beautiful free projects that will exercise your quilting muscles. Click here to find your next make. If you didn’t follow the stunning Milky Way Quilt Along, you can still enjoy the free patterns, too. Click here to learn more.

This is a great month to think about your own quilting legacy! Quilting is a gift that we can and should pass on. Our quilts serve as tangible expressions of the value of handmade. And, one day, your quilts could make all the difference in the lives of those you love.

About the Author


Annette Millard began sewing at the age of three, made her first dress at ten and is always happiest with needle, fabric and thread in her hands. Annette feels very privileged to have spent most of her work life in the sewing industry and loves teaching, making her own handmade wardrobe and writing about sewing. She spent over ten years as the newsletter and web site content writer for the Pacific Northwest's largest locally-owned family of fabric stores and is now thrilled to have the opportunity to share her passion for sewing with the Sewing Secrets community. Follow Annette and more of her sewing adventures on her own blog, www.sewfullife.com.

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