Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Message is in the Quilts!

Did you know that Shelburne Museum has over 400 quilts in its collection?  Most of these quilts were made in America during the 1800 and 1900s.

For many quilters of this time, quilting was one of the few ways to creatively show one's thoughts, feelings, and ideas about the people or happenings in his or her life. One of the most popular methods of quilting back then was to combine small, basic shapes--like squares, triangles, circles, diamonds, hexagons and octagons into neat designs that fit into squares.  These squares are sewn together to become one large piece known as a Pieced Quilt. 

Some pieced quilts show objects from everyday life.  Can you guess what these designs are?

Baby Blocks


Back in the 1800 and 1900s, quilters chose to illustrate these objects in their pieced quilts as a way to record parts of their daily life.

Other pieced quilt designs stand for a quilter's values or beliefs.

Can you see the messages within these designs?

Old Maid's Puzzle = Family

Corn and Beans = Life on the Farm

Other quilters created designs to document important people or events that happened during their lifetime:

Shoo Fly:  If you owned a Shoo Fly quilt back in the 1800s, this means you were willing to help runaway slaves as they traveled north towards their freedom.

Old Tippecanoe:  Women made quilts with this design to support William Henry Harrison, who was elected as president of the United States in the mid-1800s.

Dolly Madison's Star:  This star is in memory of Dolly Madison, wife of America's 4th president, James Madison.  During Madison's presidency, the original White House caught fire, but Dolly bravely fought the flames to save the country's most valuable document --the Declaration of Independence!

Are you ready to make your own design?   Using paper, cut out your favorite shapes (squares, triangles, circles, diamonds, hexagons, and octagons).  Use your cutouts to create your very own quilt design.  Will you make look it like an everyday object?  What special message does your patchwork say to you?  If you need some inspiration from historic quilters, please check out Shelburne Museum's online quilt gallery on its website!

Email me at educationinterns@shelburnemuseum.org  and send me a picture and a description of your pieced quilt for a chance to appear on my blog!

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