America's Quilting History

Facts vs. Myths About America's Quilting Past

Colonial Quilting Bee?

As in all topics in history we need to do the best we can to discern between fact and fiction.

Myths about quilt history are a part of our culture and many have romantic appeal. We can enjoy the myths but need to remember they are tales sometimes passed through generations. As you explore this site on America's quilting history you will find the truth is often more fascinating than the myth.

MYTH #1
Quilting was a common task in a woman's life in Colonial America.

MYTH #2
Specially designed quilts were used as signals by the Underground Railroad.

MYTH #3
Quilting originated in early America and is purely an American craft.

MYTH #4
In the old days women did all their quilting at gatherings called quilting bees.

MYTH #5
Women of the past used scraps for quilting as a frugal measure.

MYTH #6
Piecing and quilting by hand has always been prized over using a sewing machine.

MYTH #7
Before electricity women typically quilted in the evening by the fireside.

MYTH #8
Mistakes in antique quilts were made on purpose to demonstrate humility.

MYTH #9
Pioneer women pieced and quilted on their long journey west.

MYTH #10
The presence of cotton seeds in the batting indicates an antique quilt.

Quilt historian, Virginia Gunn introduced her article, "From Myth to Maturity: the Evolution of Quilt Scholarship" in a way that says it so well that I am going to quote it here.

"Quilting myths are realities of quilt history. Romantic myths have been combined with historical facts as people interpreted America's Quilting past. They continue to be accepted as true even when proven to be inaccurate. Myths survive and thrive because they reflect people's dreams, ideals, and values. They provide images and stories that unite and inspire members of society. Signs of maturity in quilt study, as in other fields of research, involve a willingness to revise past scholarship in light of new knowledge, and an ability to recognize and appreciate myth, without letting them impede interpretations based on accurate and documented facts."

    Uncoverings 1992.