7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Ye Olden Days: Early American Quilts

In Colonial times, quilts were more utilitarian than decorative for the common family. The wealthy were able to obtain elaborate fabrics and the colonial lady could stitch beautiful bedcovers, whereas the lower classes made quilts from the scrap-bag.

The earliest Colonial quilts were made of Indian chintz and palampores. Colonial era chintz was an expensive fabric and threatened the mills of France and England as the upper classes were buying this gorgeous fabric over the plainer linens and cottons of Europe. Thus chintz was banned by Parliament in 1720. However the ban was lifted in 1759 once the mills had acquired the necessary skills to make chintz, ending much of the import from India.

One pattern still popular today is toil de jouy, which originated in France and was a popular design in Colonial America. Most likely you have seen it as wallpaper and fabric. A relative of mine once papered her bedroom in blue toil and it was beautiful. I find it 'a joy' that toil de jouy is still popular after more than 200 years.

Palampores were cotton or linen panels that were hand-painted or dyed. Only the wealthiest of Americans could afford this fabric and you would find it in plantation and estate houses throughout the Thirteen. The designs were colorful and elaborate, made up of ivy, flowers, horses and peacocks. Each design was one of a kind. One thing of interest is how the quilts were made at the end to slip between the bedposts.

Some Colonial quilts were made of whole cloth. Fine stitches were made in ivy and floral patterns.

In time, the Colonial housewife used quilts that were utilitarian, to keep her family warm and comforted.
Slave women made quilts from scraps and you can find some in museums that tell a story of family and culture. Block designs have been handed down through the generations.

Here is a quilt I made in between writing hi
storical novels. I've made several, but this is one of my favorites. I change the wall hangings in my foyer with the seasons. I have a leaf quilt for autumn, a snowman quilt for Christmas, and this floral basket quilt for spring and summer.

In closing, if you were living in Colonial times, what kind of quilt would you have made? Would it have been practical, or decorative?


  1. think is great! I am currently at work on my first quilt (still at the cutting squares stage, lol) its such an interesting process. Im trying to have patience ;) it was probably one of the few artistic outlets women had back in the day. I have some lovely family quilts, and you can tell my relatives were having fun when they came up with the whimsical patchwork designs.

  2. The history of cotton fabric is fascinating! I had no idea chintz had been outlawed by Parliament.

    I have a piece of toile fabric on the end of my desk. It's lavender and hides all the cords and the set of plastic drawers I use for storage.

    My quilt would be pretty and practical. The pretty would come from elaborate quilting patterns.

  3. I love quilting, I am currently working on a patchwork quilt. I have to say that my quilt would be practical so that I could use at all times.

  4. I would like mine to be both pretty and practical - it would need to be warm enough but also durable so that it would hold up well over many washings. I have a number of beautiful quilts that my mother made and I cherish every one of them.

  5. I love the simple 9-patch quilts. I've made several, they are all scrappy and fun! But my all time favorite is the double wedding ring. I've only made one, but I love it. I machine piece my quilts and then hand quilt them. It takes a lot of time, usually about a year start to finish, but I love the results and I don't have a huge family to keep warm. :)

  6. The double wedding ring is my favorite pattern too. But I'm not brave enough yet to try and make one!

  7. Quilts are always enjoyable to look at. I've dabbled in quilting along with a zillion other things, (so maybe that's why nothing gets done :) I do small projects, like pillows instead. I love the country/prim look, and my patterns fall into that category.
    I have a friend who is really into quilting; she's in a county-wide group that shows in the region and nationally. Once a yr. they have a show for quilters at one of our colleges in the sports arena (size of a football field!) You can't believe the variations! ---just shows how women in those days were so self-reliant; and perhaps the way things are going financially in this country, we'll have to return to those skills. Thanks for this great post, Rita!

  8. My Kitchen is in Blue Toile and I LOVE IT!!! It has to be my favorite pattern. Thank you for the history behind it!!

  9. I did not answer the question! If I were to live in colonial times I would have wanted to make a decorative quilt. I might be inspired to make one now!!!

  10. Your quilt is lovely, Rita. This is a fascinating post. I love all of the designs and learning about quilting history in colonial times. I love the whole cloth quilts as much as the piecework ones.


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