By: Fawn Valentine
Scotch-Irish quiltmakers in rural West Virginia developed a unique interpretation of pieced-block quilt construction. Their quilts embody an aesthetic reflecting Scotch-Irish social history – the perennial condition of living on the periphery of mainstream society both geographically and philosophically. Cultural values espousing individual autonomy and self-reliance within a strong kinship structure are related to Scotch-Irish quiltmaking techniques. Prominent features of these quilts include: (1) blocks pieced in a repeating pattern but varied by changing figure/ground relationships and, at times, obscured by the use of same-value colors and adjacent print fabrics, (2) lack of contrasting borders, and (3) unified allover quilting pattern, typically the fans design, rows of concentric arcs. This research is based on data about quilts made before 1940 collected by the West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search, the author’s experiences while participating in the Quilt Search documentation project, and readings in Scotch-Irish history.