National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Patchwork Quilt Patchwork Quilt
Rendered by Sylvia De Zon (artist), c. 1939
watercolor and graphite on paper
overall: 58.5 x 51 cm (23 1/16 x 20 1/16 in.) Original IAD Object: 103" square
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Textiles from the Index of American Design
Object 13 of 17

American families needed warm bedding for the cold winters, so, in addition to woven coverlets, they made quilts. A quilt consists of two layers of material with wadding between; the layers are held together by stitches, often in a variety of patterns. The triple thickness of quilts provided bedcovers of the necessary warmth. Their elaborate designs made quilts a focal point in the decoration of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American homes. Patchwork, or pieced, quilts are distinctively American and provide another example of the thrift of American housewives. Although commercially produced printed cottons were available from the late nineteenth century onward, these fabrics were regarded as precious; every scrap was used, and pieces of fabric from worn-out clothing were carefully saved. From her scrap bag, the housewife took bits of fabric and cut them into geometric shapes. The geometric units were then pieced, or sewn, together in a pleasing design. The resulting panel was used for the quilt top. This quilt top consists of small hexagons painstakingly pieced together to form an overall mosaiclike design. In this type of pieced quilt, made about 1810, heavy paper was used under the patches in order to create well-defined shapes. The edges of the fabric were folded under the paper hexagons and basted in place. The hexagons were then pieced together to form the quilt top; careful attention was given to the placement of the colors in order to achieve an orderly and lively design.

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