Quilting in America started out of necessity, then, as living conditions grew less harsh and materials became more readily available, grew into an art form. It remains a popular form of recreation today, as quilters use their skills to create masterpieces or praise their heritage.
Early European settlers in America used quilts as bed coverings and as hangings over doors and windows to keep cold air out. When a blanket grew thin from use, it was patched, sewed to other blankets, or used as filler for a quilt. Early quilts, then, were usually either plain/whole cloth quilts (three pieces of solid materials quilted together in a type of cloth sandwich), or basic patchwork quilts.
A third type of quilts, called applique quilts, began to grow in popularity as prosperity and the availability of more materials allowed quilters to put more time and money into their quilts. Applique quilts, when contrasted to the traditional “utility” patchwork quilt, were considered the “best” or “show” quilt. As the 1800s progressed, mothers and grandmothers began making heirloom applique quilts for their children or grandchildren, a tradition for quilters that lasts to this day.
The Victorian Crazy Quilt began to grow in popularity among the upper classes in the mid-1800s. By the turn of the century quilts with asymmetrical fabric pieces in abstract arrangements were common among quilters in all classes, as fabrics such as flannels, denims, and cottons were incorporated.
When America entered into the Great Depression, many families had to turn once again to quilting for necessity. Following the economic recovery, fewer people were interested in making items by hand they could now afford to buy, and during the 1950s and 1960s little general interest in quilting existed. Quilting experienced a boost in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s as the anti-materialism movement of the late 1960s led to a desire among young people to cultivate hand skills. The American Bicentennial celebration in 1976 also contributed to the rising interest in quilting, and many women turned to quilting as a way to express patriotism and memorialize the past.
Quiltmaking in the 21st century remains a popular leisure activity, and many active quilters call Lynchburg their home.