By: Marsha MacDowell
Embedded in every quilt are many, many stories. Quilts contain stories about the quiltmaker; stories about why, when, and how the quilt was made and used; stories about where the fabric and patterns were acquired; the list of stories goes on. Some stories are known only through other sources such as household or diary accounts, state quilt inventory records, manufacturing records of the production of fabrics or patterns, and newspapers. In the last twenty years, the use of another source of quilt stories – oral histories – has greatly expanded our knowledge about quilts, their makers, and their production and use. In this lecture I will examine not only ways in which oral accounts are critical to our understanding of quilting but also the challenges of oral accounts sometimes pose in building a body of quilt scholarship.