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How Quilts Reflect History and Tell a Story

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience. She holds degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Here is a lovely, colorful quilt showing fish, apples, birds, watering cans, and more.

Here is a lovely, colorful quilt showing fish, apples, birds, watering cans, and more.

Quilting Is History

Did you know that history can be found in a quilt?


Don’t be.

Quilting has been around for almost two thousand years. Although you won’t find a two-thousand-year-old quilt at the local antique store, archaeologists have found that quilting was done in Asia and the Middle East centuries ago. It is a part of our history.

Through this artwork, one can trace the development of societies and technology. As new developments arose, the quilts changed. Quilts are beautiful reflections of the times in which they were made.

This is an intricate floral quilt.

This is an intricate floral quilt.

The Early Years of Quilting

Earlier quilting was not what we think of today. Animal furs were used as bed covers instead of handmade quilts. Women began to see how they could be created for beauty as well as function. Wall hangings might have portions done in quilting to enhance them. Formal clothing could be found with quilted breast pieces or even cloaks. Quilting was warm and attractive when done right.

Quilting could be found in many areas of the nobility's homes. There were the wall hangings that helped to keep the drafty castle warm, the ornate bodices the women had, and the coats the men wore that signified their rank and prosperity.

This Artform Started Small

The small variety of fabrics limited the ability to produce large pieces. Fabrics were not mass-produced until the 1800s. Before then, fabric was scarce and used for functionality for the widespread masses and some decorative pieces for the wealthy. This is not to say that quilted bed coverings were never made in some cultures. In fact, some European cultures would layer fabrics to help protect them from the cold, and they quilted designs on the finished product.

The decorative pieces were smaller and used extremely fine fabric. The upper class used quilting on their winter clothing to give them a more elegant look.

This quilt tells a story of the people shown on it.

This quilt tells a story of the people shown on it.

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How Quilts Speak to Our History

The designs and the quantity of the quilted pieces say quite a bit about history. If you ever get the chance to view and touch an actual piece of medieval cloth, don’t pass it up. The textures were different. The colors were different. Each period gave quilting a whole new dimension.

Each era had its own designs. You can follow styles and patterns that can be found in architecture and fashion. Every era displayed it in the quilts as well. As cultures discovered new fabric, their quilting reflected that.

When silk was introduced to Europe, it began to appear in quilted pieces. As new colors were developed and coloring methods improved, they appeared in the quilted items. History is reflected in each finished piece. You can trace the development of cloth and the science of new colors developed.

The Industrial Revolution Increased the Popularity of Quilting

In the 1800s, quilting exploded in homes, especially in America. Once new methods of producing fabrics developed during the Industrial Revolution, a variety of fabrics and pattern choices became available. It was more affordable now for middle- and lower-class families.

Quilting became more common, and the number and variety of bed coverings and other pieces increased. The true birth of a beautiful hobby occurred. It was not just for nobility anymore. The world had completely changed.

Quilts Also Reflect a Personal History

Quilting can also be much more personal in its history. If you are still blessed with the opportunity to speak to grandparents and great-grandparents who created some of your family quilts, ask them about the fabric used. You’ll find Great Aunt Lucy’s christening gown, Uncle Bob’s jeans, someone’s favorite shirt, and someone else’s party dress. The history of one’s family can be found in the quilt that graces the guest bed.

Some people put names on their quilts or other personal information. You can see the history of an entire generation within a single quilt.

Check Out Some Quilts

History is everywhere. Look around and begin asking family members where it all came from. You might be surprised at what is in your home. Go to the local museum. You might find some antique pieces that speak a volume of history to you.


annie on June 12, 2018:

This is a very old form of art to capture our history. These artworks are now hard to find. People used to captive their stories and culture through these. These are so nice to see. I personally love it. Thanks for sharing information’s.

Clipping Path India from United Kingdom on January 01, 2017:

Such kind of artwork using the history is really awesome. People find it interesting as well as get curious to more about their own history!