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How did quilting affect Texas women?

By Kam Wagert
Friends of the History Center for Aransas County

The early settlers to Texas could not afford to discard their clothing when it wore out. Necessity required they carefully use their resources and so this worn out clothing became quilts. When these quilts became threadbare, they were patched, combined with other quilts, or used as fillers between other quilts. Their sole purpose was to keep people warm. Only in later years was fabric manufactured in America, and became more affordable, freeing women from having to make their own yarns and fabrics.

During the early 1800s, and lasting until about 1850, the whole cloth and medallion quilts were popular. The medallion quilt had a central motif surrounded by multiple borders. The applique quilt had a top made of whole cloth, with smaller pieces of contrasting fabrics cut into shapes that were sewn down.

Members of rural communities frequently got together in quilting bees. These were social events that allowed the completion of several quilts in one day. At these bees, the women would share family news, exchange recipes, give child-rearing tips - all in support of one other. Novice quilters were welcome to join with the more accomplished, and a meal was usually served.

By the late 1800s, quilt patterns began to appear in print. Ladies’ magazines and even the Sears catalog displayed the latest patterns. A woman in a small rural town like Fulton could make a quilt exactly like one a woman in Houston was making. Quilts were made for special occasions like weddings and births.

In the 1900s, different fabrics and a myriad of colors were often found in quilts. There were quilt exhibitions at county fairs where it was considered quite an honor to capture first place with one’s quilt.

Today, quilting has made a comeback, with quilting clubs and guilds springing up all over. Come to the History Center at 801 E. Cedar and see the beautiful quilts on display, as presented by the Piecemakers by the Bay Quilt Guild. There are programs 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday through March 19. The History Center is open 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Sundays.

How did quilting affect Texas women?
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