Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book from the past

On the floor of my quilt storage room (aka spare bedroom in which nobody could sleep without hours and hours and hours of putting the quilts elsewhere) I found a book that I had previously put in a discard pile. It was so clearly something I would never use, but I did think it might find a home somewhere.

It's "Erica Wilson's Quilts of America," from 1979, documenting the Great Quilt Contest from the bicentennial.  The U.S. Historical Society and the Museum of American Folk Art sponsored a contest to find "one most outstanding quilt" from each of the 50 states.  The winners are all pictured in the book, and what a trip down memory lane it is, especially for those of us who started to get interested in quilts in those olden days.

The book is very much of its time -- it starts with the obligatory essay on the history of quilts in America, explaining the difference between piecing, applique and quilting, and trotting out all the old faithfuls like Harriet Powers' Bible quilt, crazy quilts, white whole-cloth quilts, austere Amish patterns, album/autograph quilts, yoyos, Grandmother's flower gardens, log cabins and anything else you can probably name.  And it ends with directions and patterns so you can do your own Hawaiian applique or cathedral windows, ruched edges, Seminole piecing and many other novelty quilt techniques.  No rotary cutters yet, and you're advised to cut your templates from folded paper.

But the best part is in the middle, with the 51 winning quilts (including DC).  They remind me of how what we would call contemporary or art quilting was still very much in the future.  Many of the winners were pure traditional patterns, and to my eye perfectly acceptable but not very distinguished examples of same.  I tried to find images on the internet somewhere, but apparently these quilts were too early to be documented online.  Apologies for the inadequacies of my photos from the book.

I'll write more about the book tomorrow.


  1. That second quilt (with the colorful arcs) is just stunning!

  2. kind of a cross between Dresden Plate (the striped arcs) and Double Wedding Ring (the arrangement of interlocking circles)