Our eighteenth A&S Research Paper comes to us from Mistress Sarah Davies of the Barony of Bergental, who introduces us to the surprising world of historical quilting, where we discover some familiar friends and some quite unfamiliar new ones! (Prospective future contributors, please check out our original Call for Papers.)
Early Quilting and Patchwork: A Short Introduction
Silk quilt by Mistress Sarah Davies. Photo by Master Henry McQueen.
The word “quilt” summons a host of images:
- Thrifty pioneer housewives cutting up worn clothing to piece elaborate patchworks for their families.
- Album quilts raffled off for a worthy cause.
- Wholecloth petticoats worn by colonial dames who danced with George Washington, then carefully preserved in a museum.
- Brightly colored feed sack quilts during the Depression.
- Community quilts telling the story of a town from its founding to the Bicentennial.
- Inexpensive versions of patchwork quilts sold in department stores for families wanting that “country look” in the bedroom.
- Cherished art quilts hanging in museums or going for high prices at auction.
The popular image of the quilt is of the quilt is modern, calico, and as all-American as an apple pie. If the word “medieval” ever comes up, it’s because someone made a Game of Thrones quilt with appliqued dire wolves in the border.
The problem with this familiar stereotype is thatit doesn’t begin to reflect reality. Patchwork and applique may be most associated the United States, but quilts themselves are anything but modern. Quilted carpets were prized on the steppes of Central Asia, quilted garments padded Crusader mail and protected Elizabethan fencers, quilted coverlets graced Tudor bed chambers, and quilted heraldic tapestries hung in Hungarian throne rooms. The evidence is scattered and sometimes hard to recognize, but quilting and patchwork were hardly alien to medieval Europe. Continue reading