By: Kristen M. Langellier
Although the recent renaissance in quiltmaking is widely acknowledged, few empirical studies systematically document this culture. In summer 1989 I conducted a survey of the ten-year old Pine Tree Quilters Guild of Maine, collecting data on individual quilting histories, current quilting practices, participation in quilting groups, and demographics of the quilters. Survey results (468 respondents) reveal a complex profile of the “Maine quilter” and of how and why she quilts. Whereas Maine quilters are largely a traditional quilt culture – “ordinary women” making traditional quilts for their beauty, family use, and emotional qualities within the long history of quiltmaking – the data also reveal significant variations in the Maine quilting culture. For example, “quilt artists” redefine quiltmaking as art, including public competitions for prizes, rather than a domestic craft. Some other quilters view quiltmaking as “work” and selling quilts as a source of income. Women working outside the home note constraints on their time to quilt at home and in groups. “Casual quilters” pursue the sociality and friendship of quilting groups as much as their quilting expertise. Thus, the survey of the Maine guild reveals both a traditional culture and a transitional culture where new meanings for quiltmaking and for women are being worked out.