Essays

Essay resources include essays, virtual versions of physical exhibitions, and other presentations developed or adapted for online presentation on the Quilt Index. These materials have been developed by Quilt Index staff and invited contributors. Some resources provide a virtual presentation of exhibitions that occurred in physical form, thus providing a lasting and accessible record of them. Four initial Exhibition Essays were developed as test projects. Additional resources were developed as part of an IMLS funded national leadership project.

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A Journalist’s Guide to Getting the Most from the Quilt Index
Cox, Meg

Here at the Quilt Index, tradition meets technology head-on, allowing you to use your computer to see and study more than 52,000 quilts from four centuries. This archive is unique: nowhere else will a journalist or other researcher have access to this many quilts.
America's Earliest Quilts
Brackman, Barbara

The women of the American colonies and the early United States stitched their quilts in a variety of styles. This essay looks at style from the mid-eighteenth century to 1815 or so.
American Quilts Empowered Immigrant Women
Salser, Susan

Quiltmaking could be an empowering form of self-expression for immigrants to the United States at the turn of the 20th Century, as in this case study of Hungarian-born Chicago quilter, Mary Mihalovits Gasperik, written by her grand-daughter, researcher Susan Salser.
American Quilts of Patriotism and Political Commentary
Sikarskie, Amanda Grace

The quilts represented in this essay survey three centuries of American political life, spanning from quilts celebrating the birth of the Republic to quilts reacting to the events of September 11, 2001. The meanings and visual rhetoric of these quilts were shaped by wars, presidents and policies, new contacts with other cultures, innovations in design and technology, and changing social relations. Through all of these changes, women (and men) in America have given voice to their patriotism and...
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Amish and “English:” Quilts from the Illinois State Museum
Wass, Jan

This comparative exhibit of Amish and “English” quilts from the Illinois State Museum collection dispels the notion that Amish quilts were made in isolation from larger American trends. In Illinois, Amish and “English” quilters were using the same fabrics, techniques, colors, formats, and patterns, with only a few exceptions. The Amish didn’t use print fabrics in quilts made for their own use because of their religious beliefs, and they rarely used applique patterns or large amounts of...
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At Auction
Skeen, Anita

A Poem
At the Quilting Bee
Skeen, Anita

A Poem (for Steve)
Beyond Diamonds and Bars: The Cultural Production of Amish Quilts: Introduction
Smucker, Janneken

During the last half of the 20th century, Amish quilts underwent a cultural transformation, starting as objects given as gifts within Amish families but unknown to the outside world, becoming valuable works of art, and eventually commodities sold by Amish entrepreneurs to consumers. Although connoisseurs have been most interested in Amish-made quilts from the late-19th and early-20th centuries, quiltmaking in this community is far more than the now iconic graphic diamonds and bars.
Botany, Gardening and Nineteenth Century American Quilts
Cox Crews, Patricia

Patricia Cox Crews, Willa Cather Professor of Textiles at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Director of the International Quilt Study Center, reviews the influence of botany and gardening on quiltmaking.
Brighdes Well: Quilts, Paganism and Magick
Sikarskie, Amanda Grace

Amanda Grace Sikarskie describes Pagan Quiltmaking and the magical qualities these quilts have.
Characteristics of New Jersey Quilts
Cochran, Rachel; Erikson, Rita; Schaffer, Barbara

New Jersey Quilts consist of certain characteristics like abundant white space on the quilts. These characteristics are described within this essay.
Drunkard's Path Quilts, T Quilts, and the W. C. T. U.
Smith, Wilene

Wilene Smith explains the connection "Drunkard's Path" has to the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Smith also answers the question of why so many quilt blocks are based on the letter T.
Ernest Byron Haight
Cox Crews, Patricia

Nebraska’s most distinctive quiltmaker, Ernest Haight, belies the notion that quiltmaking is women’s work, and even more paradoxically, his involvement in the art resulted from his father’s example and encouragement, rather than his mother’s.
Feminism and Nationalism in the Construction of a Quilt Heritage in the United States in the 20th Century
Berlo, Janet Catherine

Janet Catherine Berlo describes feminism and nationalism in the designing and constructing of Quilt Heritage in 20th-Century United States. Berlo hopes to make a better understanding of the multi-layered history that surrounds quilts.
Frugal and Fashionable: Quiltmaking During the Great Depression
Brackman, Barbara

Although there is some truth to the frugal stereotypes of "Depression Quilts", the current research being conducted across America by quilt projects indicates that our view of Depression quilts is far too narrow. Even the name is wrong, as there is much evidence that the fashion for making scrappy, pastel quilts dates to about the mid-1920s and the style persisted until about the 1950s.
Historic Hawaiian Quilts: Early Quilts & Quilters
Woodard, Laurie

Laurie Woodard introduces and describes how Hawaiian applique quilts depict the lush flora of the islands and why they are so popular.
I Love New York Beauties: A Brief History of an Iconic Quilt Pattern
Jenison, Leslie

Leslie Jenison describes the quilt New York Beauty from the quilt pattern by Mountain Mist, a division of Stearns & Foster.
In the Shadow of the Quilt: Political Messaging in Quilts
Stalp, Marybeth

Quilts have been used to visualize political messages and express feelings. In this essay, Marybeth Stalp discusses the negative messages that certain quilts have portrayed.
Mary Barton: Iowa Quilt Collector
Roberts, Elise Schebler

Elise Schebler Roberts describes the quilting life of Mary Barton, an Iowa Quilt Collector. Roberts describes Barton as being enthusiastic, preserving, detailed and ahead of her time.
Mary Schafer: Quilter, Quilt Collector, and Quilt Historian
Worrall, Mary

During the period between the quilting revivals of the 1940s and the 1970s, Mary Schafer of Flushing, Michigan emerged as an important quiltmaker, historian, and collector in American quilt studies.

Mary Schafer: Quilter, Quilt Collector, and Quilt Historian TEST
Worrall, Mary

Essay
During the period between the quilting revivals of the 1940s and the 1970s, Mary Schafer of Flushing, Michigan emerged as an important quiltmaker, historian, and collector in American quilt studies. Mary was born on April 27, 1910 in Austria-Hungary. In 1911, her father, Josef Vida, immigrated to Brazil and then the United States where he settled in Kansas City, Kansas. In 1915 he brought his family to join him but within a year, his wife, Mary’s m...
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Men and Quilts in the USA
Cunningham, Joe

Joe Cunningham is part of the stereotypical women's domain of quilting. Here, he discusses the difference between women quilting and men quilting.
Miss Ima Hogg and Her Quilts
Adams, Katherine J.

Miss Ima Hogg spent fifty years collecting various decorative arts, including quilts. Her collections are spread between three Texas houses: Bayou Bend, Winedale, and The Varner-Hogg Plantation and are listed in the AAQ Quilt Index.
Nancy Cabot and Her ‘Exotic’ Quilt Patterns
Hanson, Marin

Marin Hanson discusses a few of Nancy Cabot's patterns.
North Carolina Quilts
Sullivan, Kathlyn Fender

Quiltmaking in North Carolina began as a pastime for privileged women and then later to the poor out of necessity. Today, quilts are back to being a social pastime due to the increasing number of women joining the work force.
Notan: Japanese Principle of Dark and Light
Milne, Amy

Amy Milne discusses the dark and the light of Notan, a Japanese Principle, in the use of quilts.
Piecing Together the Past: The Quilts of Florence Peto
Sorrell, Mary Evelynn

Quiltmania Magazine article discussing the work of Florence Peto as quilt scholar and maker, as well as the quilt collections of the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.
Quilt Alliance Contest Winners
Milne, Amy

The quilts showcased here represent the Quilt Alliance's quilt contest started in 2006. Each year the Alliance presents a small quilt contest with an open-ended theme. The goal of the contest is to reach out to today' s quiltmakers with a challenge that engages them with our mission, document their response and raise funds via an auction of the quilts (all entrants donate their quilts to the Quilt Alliance).
Quilt Patterns from Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Richardson, Justine

Margaret Atwood's 1997 novel, Alias Grace, frames each section of the novel with carefully selected and hand-drawn quilt patterns. This essay links examples of the patterns from the Quilt Index to the narrative structure of the book.
Quiltmaking Traditions in Nebraska: An Overview
Cox Crews, Patricia

In her essay, Patricia Cox Crews describes quiltmaking in Nebraska by first looking at Nebraska itself and then into quiltmaking from 1870-1940. She then introduces to the reader the Nebraska Quilt Project.
Ralli Quilts
Stoddard, Patricia Ormsby

Ralli quilts are full of color, patterns and energy. They are made of cotton scraps and are used to cover cots. Rallis help those not in the ralli making culture understand that community and culture.
Redwork: A Textile Tradition in America
Worrall, Mary

Redwork, a style of "art needlework," first became popular in the United States in the late part of the nineteenth century. Drawing on the Michigan State University Museum collections, in particular, the Deborah Harding Redwork Collection, this exhibition explores the reasons why this style of needlework has been popular and the range of objects that have been made in this style.
Researching Signature Quilts
Sikarskie, Amanda; MacDowell, Marsha; Hornback, Nancy; Alexander, Karen

This essay describes the Signature Quilt Project and ways this project can be used for research.
Rhode Island’s Early Quilts
Welters, Linda

The Rhode Island Quilt Documentation Project brought to light a substantial number of eighteenth and early nineteenth century quilts that represent how quilts and quilting developed in the Ocean State. Rhode Island’s many streams and rivers were well suited to the industrial revolution in textiles, and mills specializing in spinning, weaving, bleaching, dyeing, and printing sprang up along waterways across the state.
Sears Quilt Contest Project, Waldvogel Archival Collection
Waldvogel, Merikay

Merikay Waldovogel writes about the Sears National Quilt Contest. Sears Roebuck & Co. with headquarters in Chicago was a financial backer of the 1933 World’s Fair, known as The Century of Progress Exposition. To drum up interest in the Fair nationwide, Sears announced a national quilt contest in January 1933 with prizes totaling $7500. Over 24,000 quilts were entered by the contest deadline in May 1933. It still holds the record for the most contest entries. Not only was it a huge success, it ...
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Separated at Birth: Two Quilts from West Virginia
Volckening, Bill

The mis-identification of one quilt lead it away from its true origin. Through the work of quilt scholar's this quilt was reunited with its past.
Since Kentucky: Surveying State Quilts
Zegart, Shelly

In 1981 The Kentucky Quilt Project was formed to survey the state's quilts. It was the first of the state quilt documentation projects. Since 1981 groups in most states, as well as Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia have undertaken quilt surveys informed by the methods and directions of The Kentucky Quilt Project, thereby spawning the largest grassroots movement in the decorative arts in the last half of the 20th century.
Texas Quilting: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Heritage
Texas Heritage Quilt Society search days take place across the state to gather information on quilts and their makers. Texas quilts of today place markers on important moments in women's life, like quilts have done in the many year's before the 1980 revival in Texas.
The Quilt: 25 April 1993
Skeen, Anita

A Poem
The Quilting Queens: Responding to Katrina
Roach, Susan

Susan Roach writes about The Quilting Queens response to Hurricane Katrina after they volunteered for the Northwest Louisiana Hurricane Relief Center in 2005.
Wedding Ring? or Single Wedding Ring?
Smith, Wilene

Wilene Smith describes when the Wedding Ring became the Single Wedding Ring back in 1930 and eventually the Double Wedding Ring. Smith then describes another hypothesis regarding the Double Wedding Ring being a midwest fad of the 1920s.