Antique Quilts – Boasting an exceptionally long history, quilts are among the more well known and recognizable styles of weaving in the world. Traditionally, quilts consist of three separate layers – a woven cloth top, a layer of what is referred to as “wadding” or “batting” in between, and a woven back, all of which are joined together by the process of “quilting.” Quilts are distinct and are immediately recognizable from other types of weaving or blankets, as they are generally characterized by a sort of patchwork appearance, the result of a collection of different materials and cloths being utilized on the front side of the piece.
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Because quilts are generally utilitarian compositions, designed to be used as a blanket or perhaps as a throw, they will often feature designs that emphasize soft and comfortable ideas – floral patterns, depictions of animals, and simple patches of soft color are frequently featured on quilts.
While the primary association that most people have with quilts is that of a warm and special blanket, perhaps woven by a family member, there are a wide range of these pieces, some of which defy this seemingly commonsense association. This is because some antique quilts are woven in a particular manner, or by a particular designer, or perhaps simply in a particular aesthetic idiom; these variables go a long way in assessing whether a certain antique quilt is simply an aging piece of handiwork, or an excellent example of an innovative and exciting style. Yo-yo quilts are an excellent example of this phenomenon, as they represent a specific and sophisticated approach to quilt making.
Celebrating Antique Quilts and the Art of Quilting!
Antique American Quilts and Art – Art and Americana come together perfectly in quilts. If we forget about football and baseball, quilting could be America’s past-time. Not too long ago, quilting rose to fame once again thanks to a landmark 1971 exhibit held at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Over 40 years later, “Abstract Design in American Quilts” lives on as one of the greatest collections of quilts ever assembled, and it’s kept growing.
Today, the collection of quilts originally acquired by art aficionado Jonathan Holstein and his partner Gail van der Hoof is owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
It includes the original 60 “high art” quilts that appeared at the Whitney way back when, plus 100 Amish quilts from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and parts of the Midwest, as well as an additional 240 patchwork and applique quilts gathered in Pennsylvania between the late 1960s and 2003 when the collection was donated.
This humble anthology has remained wildly popular, generating interest in American folk art and introducing new people to the craft. In fact the quilting Renaissance is stronger than ever within the United States and in faraway places like Japan. One exhibition paved the way for many others, including the abstract quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, that have toured the country.
Traditional quilts are equally beguiling with their functional and highly decorative form and charming names, like Pickle Dish, Arkansas Crossroads, Ohio Star, Grandma’s Garden, Mariner’s Compass and New York Beauty.
Quilts are also a way to make a social statement and send a message. The famous AIDS quilt that began in 1987 and was laid out on the Washington Mall years later now measures over 1.3 million square feet, and it continues to grow. Even renowned twentieth century pop artist Andy Warhol collected quilts, including a gorgeous 1875 quilt created for America’s first centennial.
Whatever your personal aesthetics might be, now is the perfect time to discover or re-discover the art of this beloved handcraft. Quilting is a unique art form, and there exists a wide range of styles, with quilts having been woven for an incredibly wide array of reasons – sometimes to commemorate a birth, sometimes to commemorate a death, and still other times just for the sake of art.
Explore the artistic world of quilts today and discover something beautiful!
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View our current collection of antique quilts below: