Stitched in Time: 1850-1950 Quilts

June 8, 2024 - January 5, 2025

Deeply rooted in American history, textiles have evolved from utilitarian necessities into an intricate art form. Originating from the need for warmth, textiles such as coverlets and quilts were initially practical items woven or pieced together. As American society transformed, so did textiles. From the early days of Colonial America to the tumultuous years of the Civil War and beyond, quilts became symbolic representations of social and political narratives. Women, relegated to domestic roles, found in textiles not only a creative outlet but also a means of socializing and community building. Quilting bees, gatherings where women came together to quilt and socialize, became a cornerstone of social life, offering companionship and support amidst changing times.

The evolution of textiles is closely intertwined with technological advancements and historical events. Innovations like the cotton gin and sewing machine revolutionized the textile industry, while conflicts such as the Civil War shaped quilting practices and designs. Textiles transformed from practical pieces to a means of expressing personal convictions, commemorating important events, and forming community bonds. Serving as more than just blankets, textiles became historical artifacts, documenting moments in American history and reflecting the experiences of their makers.

Despite fluctuations in popularity over time, homemade textiles have endured as a cherished tradition. Today, quilts continue to be crafted with a blend of tradition and innovation, reflecting the diverse identities and experiences of their creators. As quilting remains a vibrant and evolving art form, it serves as a testament to the resilience and creativity of women throughout history, who transformed a humble craft into a powerful means of expression and community building.

Featured Image: Log Cabin Quilt, ca. 1885, Chapman Museum 1980.42.1


This exhibition is made possible by funds provided by the Waldo T. Ross & Ruth S. Ross Charitable Trust, the Leo Cox Beach Philanthropic Foundation, and the Touba Family Foundation.