My heroine in Pattern for Romance, from an upper-middling class family in England, learned to quilt as a leisurely activity. Upon her arrival in Boston, Massachusetts under dire circumstances she turns to her skill and finds employment as a quilter at a mantua-maker's (dress) shop. Her painstaking, meticulous stitches earn her only a pittance and for this reason quilters in the 18th century were often accused of theft, a crime my protagonist also gets accused of. But alas, it is no secret that the hero will come to her aid so she won't have to bear the brand of a T for theivery on her work-worn hand.
|Photo I took at CW.|
You may be surprised to learn that some of the earliest quilted objects in America were garments, not bed covers. Before there were piecework quilts such as Broderie perse/chintz applique and Mathematical/Lone star quilts made from imported fabrics (contraband during the trade embargoes with Britian) there were whole-cloth quilts. The whole cloth was quilted to add warmth and style, thus the whole-cloth quilt. Beautiful patterns were quilted into the fabric to create exquisite pieces worn by men, children, and women. The lovely open-robe style colonial gown purposefully displays the quilted outer petticoats worn by women to show off the beautiful creations. I border on obsession when it comes to my admiration of these garments, here you can see why.
QUILT - A coveríng for a bed, a petticoat for a woman made by stitching one cloth over another with some sort substance between.
~ The New And Complete Dictionary Of The English Language, 1775
|Open-robe gown and quilted petticoat. Heart: Wholecloth |
calimanco quilt by Esther Wheat, Conway, Massachusetts,
about 1790, Smithsonian Institution. Whole-cloth quilt
by Lucretia Smith, dated 1776, Bowers Museum,
Santa Ana, California.
|This calimanco and linsey woolsey quilted bed cover|
was taken as a prize in the Revolutionary War from a
British vessel. Click through to see detail.
The warm and beauty provided in the quilted cloth were also used for bed covers and a research trip to the New England Quilting Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts afforded me the opportunity to see first hand some of the beautiful white-work, whole-cloth bed quilts. Unfortunately I was not able to take photographs, but the images are impressed in my memory and I'm so glad there are extant samples of the exquisite 18th century quilts for us to appreciate today. You can imagine how delighted I was when I discovered these beauties during my trip to Old Fort Western in Maine where museum interpreters are learning how to quilt whole-cloth as they did in the colonial period.
Let's not forget the quilting bees/parties that were held to make much work lighter. The women would spend the day quilting away and invite the men to join them at the end of the day to celebrate with food, music, and dancing.
For more views of colonial quilts please visit my Quilts of Love Pinterest board.
What colonial occupation intrigues you? How do you finding pleasure in your labor? In your rest?
Happy Labor Day!
Massachusetts Quilts: Our Common Wealth
Hand quilting at a quilting museum video demontration.