The History of Quilting Patterns
When the English and Dutch first arrived in the New World, blankets and bed covers were sewn and woven by the women with no artistry, and when resources were scarce and blankets were wearing out, they had to resort to desperate measures to keep everyone warm during those chilly winter nights. From there, the colonial women began to patch, combine, and use fillers for the blankets. Quilting was born out of necessity so that they could function as bed covers, as well as door and window hangings, and it was “only in the later years, when fabrics were being manufactured in America and were more affordable” that gave them the artistic freedom to work with different textiles and create their own patterns.
Quilts from the European settlement period took years of intricate sewing, and the elaborate detail would later make them a channel into American history. Despite the lack of magazines and mail order patterns in the 18th and 19th centuries, women were still able to share their patterns through sewn blocks (or pattern books in cloth) within their communities, thus becoming an outlet for creativity for women across the country.
Because it is a natural fiber with excellent durability as described by the fabric guide on Adam & Eve, cotton was the most—and still is—the most commonly used fabric for quilting, however a variety of other fabrics, such as voile and linen, have also been used to execute some of the vintage or antique patterns.
Also called the Gone to Chicago, Off to San Francisco, Road to California, Stepping Stones, Trail of the Covered Wagon, and Underground Road, this bold, diagonal, heavy design was inspired by the Bible, much like other patterns that also adopted biblical names. One of the first references to this pattern was made in Marie Webster’s first known quilting book, published in 1915, where she illustrated it as one of those striking quilt designs. Contrasting fabrics (light vs. dark) were typically used for these quilts.
Truly a cherished style of quilt is the Honeycomb, better known as Grandmother’s Flower Garden. Although it was popularly manufactured when quilts were flourishing, the pattern is rarely used as often as other designs today. First occurrences of the hexagonal style were in 18th century England and then made its way over to America, but only saw the pattern blossom during the 1920s Great Depression.
The origins of the double wedding ring design dates as far back as the fourth century, the time when metal rings were often the embellishments of Roman cups. Later in the 15th and 16th centuries, people began making gimmal rings that could be interlocked, used in engagement ceremonies. Rumors speculate that the wedding ring pattern reached America through Germanic colonization in Pennsylvania in the late 17th century, and has since been conceived as the most romantic quilting design.
Visit WomenFolk.com for more information on the history of quilts and their patterns.
Author Bio: Gertrude Biggins
Gertrude learned how to sew quilts when she was a little girl from watching her Cherokee grandmother who ran a quilting business. Other than making quilts, Gertrude also loves DIY projects and vintage shopping.