By: Diana Bell-Kite
Gathering satin acetate florist ribbons from the gravesides of deceased loved ones and stitching them into quilts was widespread among working-class Southerners—black and white—from the mid-1940s through the early 1970s. Scholars have noted this unique form of commemorative quilting in passing, but have yet to examine the tradition’s regionalism, its limited lifespan, and its relationship to wider trends in mid-twentieth century American society. Analyzing twenty-eight such quilts from eight states, along with professional florist literature, public documents, and oral interviews, exposes a distinctive regional culture in the midst of rapid transformation. This contextual study of funeral ribbon quilting reveals how changing memorial practices, growing consumerism, deep-seated frugality, and rapid technological innovation converged in the twentieth-century South.