Quilting facts, folklore and fabrication
Quilts have been made for centuries and the stories and traditions behind them are numerous.
Quiltmaker and historian Vickie Wendel visited the Wadena City Library to talk about the history of quilts in Minnesota Monday morning at the Wadena City Library.
Wendel is the program manager for the Anoka County Historical Society.
She talked about the traditions, facts and myths surrounding quilting in her presentation.
What do people really know about the history and traditions of quilt making? So many stories have been handed down but they don't always hold up under a close look at history, Wendell said.
Wool was the most popular fabric used until the industrial revolution when cotton became used more often.
Quilting became a way to use up scraps of fabric and was a way to be frugal.
“Many women didn’t buy fabric just for quilting,” she said.
One of the myths is that women worked late into the night and quilted by candlelight in olden days.
“Can you imagine threading a needle by candlelight?” she asked.
People worked mostly during daylight hours, she said.
Quilts had more of a purpose than simply keeping people warm.
Wendel said in the 1860s women were asked to make quilts for patients during the war so each soldier would have a clean blanket. They kept the quilts after they were discharged.
“More than 250,000 quilts went to soldiers in the north,” she said. “They were strictly a utility quilt.”
Many quilts have stories and Wendel told quilters in the audience that it’s a good idea to sign their quilts and include notes and history so people don’t wonder later.
Autograph quilts were popular and were used like a memory book, Wendel said. Instead of photos, people collected autographs and notes from friends and family.
Certain quilt designs have names but many quilts are unique. The standardized names came in the early 1900s, Wendel said.
Crazy quilts (quilts made from random scraps) became much more popular in the late 1800s. People began displaying them like art instead of putting them on beds where no one would see them, she explained.
Different cultures have different traditions and ways of creating quilts that reflect different histories.
Wendel brought quilt samples for people to look at, including an autograph quilt that was found at a garage sale. No information was available about the quilt but it includes several interesting names and locations listed on different quilt squares.
The Wendel presentation was a Legacy program funded in part or in whole with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008, which dedicated funding to preserve Minnesota's arts and cultural heritage.