The Orem Library has a large collection of quilting books that tell the history of quilting. Keep reading to learn more about the stories that can be told through stitches and then check out a few of our favorite historical quilting books.

Quilting History

Quilting Books | Stories in Stitches

There are lots of ways to record a story, including with quilts. Quilting, or sewing two pieces of fabric together with a filling inside, has been around for about 5500 years. The earliest known  quilted garment was depicted on a carved ivory figurine of pharaoh and dates back to 3400 BCE. A  quilted floor covering dating back to 100-200 AD was discovered in Mongolia in 1924. Quilted bedding first made its appearance in Europe as a souvenir brought by the Crusaders from the Middle East in the twelfth century. The quilt to the left records the story of Tristan and Isolde.

Quilt making in the United States was common in the late seventeenth century. However, because cotton had to be grown, dyed, spun, and woven into fabric at home, only the wealthy had time to pursue this hobby. Items like the Baltimore quilt shown here were decorative more than useful. They showcased the skill of the maker and often  included items important to the owner.

The Industrial Revolution meant that textiles were manufactured on a larger scale. By 1840, commercial fabrics were accessible to almost every family. Isaac Singer made his new sewing machine available on the installment plan in 1856, so by 1870 most families had one in their home. Sewing for families led to more scraps, which led to utilitarian quilt making. Quilters created blocks that represented everyday items, places, and events. Since the Civil War, quilts have been made for fundraising, commemorative events, gifts for soldiers and friends, home use, and décor.

During the Great Depression, many people used feed sacks for children’s clothing, so the manufacturers used colorful designs on the sacks. These eventually ended up in quilts. Oftentimes families can look at quilts and see scraps from great-grandma’s dresses, great-grandpa’s shirts, and clothing made for special occasions. These family quilts can tell stories of family history and are a tangible connection to loved ones who have gone before.

Historical Quilting Books at The Orem Public Library

America’s Printed Fabrics 1770-1890

By Barbara Brackman
Adult Nonfiction

This book includes eight reproduction quilt projects, historic notes & photographs, and instructions on how to date your quilts.

The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort 1750-1950

By Roderick Kiracofe
Adult Nonfiction

For more than two hundred years, American women have been recording their hopes and dreams, their fears and frustrations in the exacting stitches and exuberant designs of their quilts. The American Quilt shows how these virtuoso textiles, long appreciated for their bold graphic appeal and naive charm, are also a fascinating reflection of cultural and social attitudes, painting an indelible portrait of our nation’s history and the remarkable women who lived it. 

Gathered in Time: Utah Quilts and Their Makers, Settlement to 1950

By Kae Covington
Adult Nonfiction

Gathered in Time collects images of quilts made by Utah quilters to tell their stories. While it is the names of men that are most often recorded in history, the women were there all along. The quilts they produced reveal much about the times in which they lived. In the words of one quilt maker, “Each quilt, step by step, speaks for its maker—her voice is clearly there, between the fabric and lines of stitches.”

Written by Lori S.

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