Woman Is A Quilt Essay, Research Paper
Woman Is A Quilt
For millennia women through out the world have spent their ’spare time’ making quilts. A quilt is a bed covering or garment, that consists of three layers of fabric; A top, the batting, and the backing/lining. In Raymond Bial’s With Needle and Thread He states, “the first known depiction of quilting is from 3400 B.C. and features an Egyptian pharaoh wearing a quilted garment”. (Bial 18). It is believed decorative quilting came to Europe from Asia during the Crusades (A.D. 1100-1300), because the textile arts were more developed in China and India then in the West.
“Until the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s, women raised sheep for wool and grew flax and cotton”. (Bial 18). From these sources were made thread and fabric for sewing clothing, bed linen and quilts. Because they had to make their own fabric; it was a precious commodity, therefor sewing was an essential skill.
Women of America put their quilts to good use as warmth and wrapping for treasured items in wagons, and traveled west on the Oregon Trail. “Despite society’s restraints and many other hardships of pioneer life, the women managed to craft beautiful quilts”. (Bial 20). Settler women gathered for ‘quilting bees’, where they would sit around a large quilt frame and talk while stitching; for many this was the only social interaction available.
From the American Civil War to present day, women have used quilts as vehicles for remembrance, statements for change, and artistic expression. Wives made quilts to give to soldiers or raffled them for charities. Political statements have often been depicted, such as, the Slave Chains pattern sewn by Union women in protest of slavery. To support abolition, “The Women’s Christian Temperance Union used a pattern called the Drunkards Path in their quilts”. (Bial 28). Some African-Americans made Story quilts in remembrance of their history and heritage. “The AIDS Memorial Quilt has helped stir public awareness and concern for those who are ill and who have died from the disease”. (Bial 44). This poignant Album quilt is a sixteen-ton patchwork of three-by-six-foot blocks covering fourteen acres; it’s a very large example of political statement quilting.
Quilts are family heirlooms that are a tangible part of human history. Patterns are bequeathed to succeeding generations, and new designs are added as time marches on. It’s popularity stems from usefulness as well as its beauty.
I don’t remember a time when sewing was not part of my life. I remember watching my grandma sitting on a couch, cooing to me in my crib as she quilted. Learning how to sew was like learning how to walk, inevitable. I love the feel of an unfinished quilt in my lap as I hand stitch it. I love designing new and beautiful pieces of useful art, then making them real. I give most of them away to family and friends, each one contains love in every stitch.
Bial, Raymond. With Needle and Thread. Boston New
York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.