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Quilts have been an artistic expression of women for well over the past two hundred years. Way back in the nineteenth century, American quilts were not looked upon as a tasteful bedcovering. It has not been until the last 30 years that quilts have been recognized for their remarkable craftsmanship and wonderful appeal. Quilts today are being well sought after, and collected not only for their beauty, but for the value they bring as a collectible. Art critics are recently recognizing the quilt as a unique and valuable legacy of American folk art.
It was a long time coming, but the artistic ability of generations of American women is at last gaining recognition. Quilts are no longer kept stored away in a hope chest, They are being displayed in many fashions in homes across the world. Not to mention on the walls of some very well known Museums. The Whitney Museum in 1971 in New York launched a major exhibition titled "The Pieced Quilt". Quilts have come to represent a design tradition which has been around since colonial times.
Where did the art of quilting come from? It derived from Europe over two hundred years ago. The art of quilting caught on here in the United States, when many families from many different countries were migrating to America. It was the early settlers that brought the art to our shores.
In the Colonial period there was a decline in quilts being made. Homes were small, materials were hard to come by, and used for more important items such as clothing rather than bedcovers. It was at this time that the quilt was made of discarded worn out items such as children's cloths, flour sacks etc. The more affluent families bought imported quilts, that were fashioned from much finer fabric.
In the 1770s the Revolutionary period showed an upsweep in economy, due to the introduction of small scale manufacturing. Textile manufacturing became one of the most important new industries. This gave way to more, and better fabrics. At this time in history quilting became more popular, and many American women made quilts, and sold them to supplement the family income.
During the last part of the eighteenth century there was more leisure time for the female, along with a greater emphasis on domesticity. The quilts became much more creative, and elaborate, due to the finer fabrics that had become available from another parts of the world. Thus the sewing circle was born...
Today we call them Quilting Bees. Despite the years that have past, and the many changes over the past two hundred year, the tried and true quilting traditions used by our Mothers and Grandmothers remained much unchanged. The women of the Twenty First century continue to quilt, and to add their own little artistic nuances to the wonderful art of quilting.