By: Francesca Fiori
The word quilt originates from the Latin word "culcita," which refers to a stuffed sack. However, the English derivative comes from the French word "cuilte." Quilting is defined as a cover made from two layers of fabric with soft materials, such as down or wool between stitched patterns. Although the precise origins of quilting are unknown, historians assert that various forms of quilting and appliqué were used as clothing and furnishing pieces in diverse regions of the world since ancient times. The earliest known quilt was made for an Egyptian Pharaoh of the First Dynasty around 3400 B.C. Some believe quilting was brought to the Americas when Europeans settled the New World. Others claim it was introduced when the first settlers came off the Mayflower, and began with the Virginia settlers. However, the first official reference to quilting in America was near the end of the 17th century, shown in a household inventory listing from a Salem, Massachusetts sea captain. The earliest surviving American quilt is the Saltonstall quilt dated back to 1704. American quilting flourished during the period of 1825 and 1875, when original colonists brought quilting from the old world and settlers forged west and into the Great Plains. In the old west, quilts were sometimes used as currency to pay bills. During the 1920s, the art of quilting experienced a great revival and continued throughout the Great Depression. Quilting was used by women as a therapeutic outlet to help them deal with the Depression’s effects.
The quilting industry of today continues to grow in popularity. The Quilting in America survey revealed those who spend more than $600 per year on quilting increased by 13 percent, and that quilting households increased by 14 percent to 16.38 million from 2006 to 2010. Additionally, since 2006, general quilting-related sales have increased by 9 percent and 2010 statistics show that quilting enthusiasts spend approximately $3.6 million each year. There are vast amounts of quilting shows, organizations and associations for hobbyists and professionals. Quilting has become a skilled craft characterized by unique and beautiful artistry, as opposed to a cloth made for use as a protection from the elements. Quilters of today use a variety of different colors and fabrics and use their talents to benefit charitable organizations, such as those with Aids, Cancer, Parkinson’s Disease or as hospice projects. Quilting is an important icon of our cultural heritage and as a craft, deeply rooted in the heart of America. The craft has become an art form that reflects the hopes, dreams and lives of women since America’s early days and continues to inspire modern American creativity today.
Quilting History and Museums
Learning to Quilt
Museums and Charity Quilts
Quilting Associations and Society’s
Quilting for Kids