By: Pamela Weeks
Potholder quilts, made by joining a number of individually finished blocks, exemplify a technique practiced in New England during the mid-nineteenth century. The purchase of a single quilt of this construction in 1999 led the author to search for additional examples and to adopt the term “potholder” to facilitate identification. An examination of eighty-one potholder quilts made before 1950 suggests that the technique emerged as a local variation within a larger national tradition of inscribed quilts. Many extant examples are signed and dated, documenting their functions as friendship, presentation, and fundraising quilts. This article summarizes currently known examples of the technique and their distribution, providing a foundation for further research.