Block by Block: American Quilts in the Industrial Age

Block by Block: American Quilts in the Industrial Age

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In the 1820s and 1830s, American quilts were increasingly made from pieced blocks—generally squares made up of smaller squares or triangles. American quiltmakers introduced the practice of alternating pieced blocks with un-pieced blocks made of a solid color or a single print, and set these elements straight (perpendicular to the edges of the quilt) or “on-point” (at 45° angles). Blocks were then attached to each other, or to strips of fabric called “sashing.” Unlike earlier quilts, which often featured multiple borders, block-style quilts generally had single borders or none at all. By the mid-1800s, the repetition and grid-like arrangement of similar blocks became the predominant format for American-made quilts.

As industrial manufacturing processes revolutionized everyday life, the American textile industry boomed. By the mid-1830s, factories in New England employed thousands of women and produced cloth in a great variety of colors. Cotton print fabric, now inexpensive and widely available, became the plentiful raw material of American patchwork, enabling quiltmakers to focus on color, geometry, and the interaction between them. Expanded educational opportunities for women—both formal and informal—contributed to their knowledge of mathematics, and to the development of block-style designs.

Block by Block is drawn from scholar Janice Frisch’s research for American Quilts in the Industrial Age, 1760-1870. Frisch suggests that the rise of block-style quilts mirrored the shift to the standardized, interchangeable parts that characterized industrial processes. The new, comprehensive catalog of the IQSCM Collection, edited by Patricia Crews and Carolyn Ducey, highlights the skillful needlework and dazzling designs of America’s material culture. The book will be available in February 2018.

Featured Media

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Further Reading

Further Reading
Further Reading

American Quilts in the Industrial Age, 1760-1870, highlights the dazzling designs and intricate needlework of America's treasured material culture. From whole cloth to pieced quilts to elaborate appliqué examples, all reflecting various design movements such as neoclassicism and Eastern exoticism the contributing authors address the development of quiltmaking in America from its inception in the 1700s to the period of the U.S. civil War. With full-color photographs of nearly six hundred quilts, American Quilts in the Industrial Age, 1760-1870 offers new insights into American society.

Now available for purchase in the Museum Shop.

Sponsors

Sponsors
Sponsors

Nebraska Arts Council and Nebraska Cultural Endowment
Friends of International Quilt Study Center & Museum

Event Date
Friday, August 4, 2017 to Thursday, November 30, 2017