Freebies & Features

American Quilting, 19th Century Style!

With all of the buzz about our various quilt museum collaborations and the collections we've created with them, we wanted to give you a glimpse into the history of quilting in the late 19th Century. What world events shaped the art of quilting at the time? Which techniques were most popular? We asked the experts at these museums, and they were happy to share their information with you:

Important world events

  • The Philadelphia Expo of 1876 and Japanese design influences were thought to have precipitated the crazy quilt craze!
  • As a result of the Industrial Revolution, fabrics of every description were now readily available and the United States was on the brink of becoming a world manufacturing powerhouse, as well as an agricultural giant.
  • Simultaneously, huge growth of the railroads allowed easy transport of fabrics all across the country.
  • Women were demanding the right to vote, as well as education rights.
  • The growth of the Aesthetic Movement promoted the combination of form with function. Oscar Wilde, home decor guru, toured US in 1882-1883, lecturing on the value of aesthetics. The movement peaked between 1875 and 1885.

Fabric and Quilting Styles

  • Darker, more somber colors came into play, reflecting the importance of mourning etiquette. Madders, cool browns and chocolates, purples, double pinks, Lancaster blues led the way.
  • Another popular combination was red, soft brown and pink with a faded look; this was especially prominent in the crazy patch quilt.
  • Reds changed from Turkey red to the brighter synthetic alizarin.
  • Centennial prints very popular starting 1876. A Colonial Revival style celebrated the 100th anniversary of the nation. Lots of political and flag motifs.
  • Shirting prints became more popular, as did cheater cloth. Prints were produced in thinner cloth of a "cheesy" quality, i.e., a lower thread count.
  • Souvenir hankies and flags were printed in strips and worn as apparel, used as table runners, cut and made into pillows or quilts.
  • Crazy Quilts and Log Cabins became the styles of the day, pieced with the foundation method, and tied rather than quilted. Meanwhile applique quilts began to fade from the scene.
  • Wool battings were available and very popular in the Rocky Mountain region, but remained second to cotton batting.