I can come up with clothing designs. I can draft patterns. I can sew at the couture level. I can embroider. I can bead. I can even applique. What I can’t do, or can’t do yet, is quilt. For someone as experienced in the sewing arts as I am in you would think quilting would be an easy thing to master, and yet something has held me back from trying. For that reason, when I was asked to review Southern Quilts: Celebrating Traditions, History, and Designs by Mary W. Kerr I jumped at the opportunity to explore ‘all things quilting’…
Let me begin by saying Southern Quilts is a visually arresting book. Most of the pictured quilts are at least 150 years old but if you did not know their date of origin might assume the covers to have been made yesterday. If a picture conveys the maker’s pride in her craft imagine how much more beautiful the quilts shown in this book would be when viewed in person. I doubt these women ever thought their quilts would become coveted pieces of art and yet quilts that have survived since the 1850’s are prized in private and museum collections throughout the world.
In Southern Quilts Ms. Kerr writes in an easy style that never feels too pedantic. Reading this book is a bit like sharing afternoon tea on a sunny veranda while swapping crafting tales with a treasured friend. Her knowledge of quilts in general, and 1840-1940 southern quilting in particular, makes for fascinating reading. Each chapter in the book is devoted to one of fourteen southern quilt patterns, providing details on pattern origination and meaning, seamstress skill level, fabric choices, stitch choices, maker background, and even the quilt’s own unique story up until present time.
Until I read Southern Quilts I never knew:
- The Golden Age of Quilt Making spanned the 1840’s through the turn of the 20th century
- Quilt patterns can be traced to regions, nationalities, and even individual point of origin
- All quilt patterns have names and some of the coolest-named southern patterns include: Alabama Signature, Petals, Pine Burr, Cotton Boil, Crown of Thorns (or Rocky Mountain), Farmer’s Fancy, Rattlesnake, Carolina Lily, and Whig’s Defeat
I wholeheartedly endorse Southern Quilts and recommend it for anyone with an interest in quilting. The book would make a great addition to any quilter’s library, as well as serve as a source of endless inspiration for artists of all types (and not just quilters).
P.S. A good book will always leave me curious to learn more, so after I finished Southern Quilts I spent some time looking at quilt collections from the following:
- International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s East Campus, home to the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art Hielbrunn Timeline of Art History Works of Art Collections
- The Smithsonian National Museum of History Quilt Collection
- The Art Institute of Chicago Quilt Collection