“I quilt for a contented heart.”* No truer words have been spoken. Whether I’m feeling angry, nervous, or excited, I can go to my sewing space and feel at peace. I am by no means a professional quilter; I just love to create handmade things for friends and family, and quilts are practical as well as beautiful.
The art of quilting is older than written history, and quilts are a big part of Kentucky’s heritage. The term comes from the Latin culcita, or “stuffed sack,” but the quilt as we know it today dates to the 16th century. Beginning as a strictly utilitarian article, quilts were rarely artistic. They were strictly for keeping people warm. Artistic quilting arose when Americans began manufacturing textiles and women no longer had to spin and weave their own fabrics. Through the years, quilting has gone from a necessity to a hobby, and it is seeing a rise in popularity. Today, millions of Americans are involved in quilting.
The Filson has several books in our library about quilting. Mary Washington Clarke wrote Kentucky Quilts and Their Makers, a wonderful book on the history of Kentucky quilts and the women behind them. You can see the wonderful community that surrounds quilting. I was particularly interested in The Civil War Diary Quilt: 121 stories and the quilt blocks they inspired by Rosemary Youngs. The book features diary entries from 10 women including Cora Owens Hume, a Southern sympathizer who lived in Louisville during the war. We have a page of her diary on display in our Civil War exhibit, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
If you would like more information about any of the quilting books in our library, please contact The Filson or browse our online catalog. Meanwhile, I'll be sewing and thinking about how the tradition of quilting continues to play a role in the writing of history.
* From Kentucky Quilts and Their Makers by Mary Washington Clarke