By: Laurel Horton
Selected quilts from three generations of a South Carolina family illustrate the shifting functions and status of quiltmaking from the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth century. As printed fabrics became less expensive and more available, the quilts made from them diminished in value. A high-status wedding quilt made in the 1850s was made from uncut yardage of imported chintz. Carefully designed pieced quilts made in the1880s featured a variety of printed cottons from New England mills. By the early 1900s, local textile mills produced inexpensive woven cottons, and the utilitarian quilts made from them were constructed more quickly with less attention to color and pattern. Other studies have described these trends in quiltmaking generally; however, the present study examines the more subtle impact of these larger influences on the quiltmaking activities of women in a single family.