QUILTING MYTHS by MARY DAVIS

I would like to shine a light on five quilting myths most of us have believed to be true at one time or another.

QUILTING MYTH #1 ~ A common task for women during Colonial America times was quilting.

In Colonial times, quilting wasn’t a task of necessity or frugality. It was a pastime of the wealthy. The cottons and silks used in quilting at the time were expensive imported fabrics. Those who could afford the fine textiles quilted, but the ordinary person in early America was hard pressed to keep their family in clothes with days spent spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, and various other chores for survival. No time for something as frivolous as quilting.

Around 1840 with the industrial revolution, the widespread production of affordable textiles made fabric plentiful and available for more women. As textiles were being mass-produced, some fabrics went from $5 a yard to 5-cents a yard.


                                                                        Quilt from Elko Museum

QUILTING MYTH #2 ~The Underground Railroad used special quilt designs & patterns as signals.

This myth has great romantic appeal. I love the idea of slaves escaping from the South knowing where to find safe refuge by a quilt hung on a clothesline or a special block pattern in a window. But research on the Underground Railroad has found no evidence of such a practice.

QUILTING MYTH #3 ~ Scraps used for quilting was a frugal measure.

This myth implies that most if not all quilts were a product of needing to be frugal. Most women of the past bought fabrics specifically for making a quilt, much as we do today. True, they also used scraps from worn-out clothing or the leftovers from making garments, but they most used new fabric purchased for the quilt. Women didn’t use the worn-out portion of cloth because they would already be—well, worn out. The quilt would damage or tear easily, and all that work would be fruitless.

The frugal quilter theory suggests that quilting was out of necessity only. Many quilts were far too elaborate to be made for daily use. However, simpler quilts were made for everyday.


An old quilt my grandma made decades ago

QUILTING MYTH #4 ~ To show humility, mistakes were intentionally made in quilts from yesteryear.

Intentional mistakes in old (or new) quilts was never a common practice. All quilters make mistakes. It’s nearly impossible to make a perfect quilt no matter how hard one tries.

However, there are mistakes in quilts that have been put there purposefully, possibly for religious reasons or superstition.

It is believed that Amish and Mennonite women put a mistake in each quilt because it would be prideful to make something perfect, because only God is perfect. But to include a mistake on purpose would presuppose that one believed herself to be perfect and that would be prideful.

So, when you find a mistake in a quilt, it’s unlikely to have been made on purpose. It’s just the quilt maker being human.

QUILTING MYTH #5 ~ While migrating west, pioneer women pieced blocks and quilted.

On the long trek westward, a woman rarely worked on a quilt. Any able-bodied person, including women and children, walked most of the roughly 1,500 miles, so doing any form of sewing would have been pretty much impossible during the day. If a woman would have been fortunate enough to travel in the wagon the rough ride would have made fine sewing nearly impossible.

Once stopped at the end of a long day, there were many chores to be done; tending to the livestock, gathering wood, cooking, and so much more. If a woman had any energy after all that, the poor evening light would have made sewing hard, and so they preferred knitting that could be done in low light. Though a few pioneer women might have pieced blocks together for a quilt along the journey, it was uncommon.

So there you have it, five quilting myths that are sadly not true.

I’M GIVING AWAY A DIGITAL COPY OF THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT TODAY TO ONE LUCKY COMMENTER!

MARY DAVIS is a bestselling, award-winning novelist of over two dozen titles in both historical and contemporary themes. She has five titles releasing in 2018; “Holly & Ivy” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection in January, Courting Her Amish Heart in March, The Widow’s Plight in July, Courting Her Secret Heart September, & “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in MISSAdventure Brides Collection in December. She’s a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.

Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty-three years and two cats. She has three adult children and two incredibly adorable grandchildren.

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THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT ~ A sweet historical romance that will tug at your heart. This is book 1 in the Quilting Circle series. Washington State, 1893


When Lily Lexington Bremmer arrives in Kamola with her young son, she’s reluctant to join the social center of her new community, the quilting circle, but the friendly ladies pull her in. She begins piecing a sunshine and shadows quilt because it mirrors her life. She has a secret that lurks in the shadows and hopes it doesn’t come out into the light. Dark places in her past are best forgotten, but her new life is full of sunshine. Will her secrets cast shadows on her bright future?

Widower Edric Hammond and his father are doing their best to raise his two young daughters. He meets Lily and her son when they arrive in town and helps her find a job and a place to live. Lily resists Edric’s charms at first but finds herself falling in love with this kind, gentle man and his two darling daughters. Lily has stolen his heart with her first warm smile, but he’s cautious about bringing another woman into his girls’ lives due to the harshness of their own mother. Can Edric forgive Lily her past to take hold of a promising chance at love?

THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT releases in ebook on July 1 and will be out in paperback by mid-June.

Buy link:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CV4XDLH/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1525466464&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=mary+davis+the+widow%27s+light%3C%2Fa%3E&tag=pettpist-20

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36 Comments

  1. Good morning and welcome Mary, I loved your blog. Both my grandmothers quilted and I have many of their quilts. They both have passed now so I even cherish them more. I love the myth about mistake in each quilt. That’s so true, I can look at each of mine and find one, since their quilts were all done by hand and no machine, it makes them even more special.
    You have a wonderful weekend.

    1. Tonya,
      Thanks for stopping by. My grandmas have passed away as well and I cherish their quilts.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  2. Good morning. Well I’ve never heard most of these quilting myths before so now I know to dispute them if I do. I do know that when my father was a boy and one of 8 children my grandmother and great grandmother did use worn out clothing to make quilts. Of course, they used the better areas of the clothing to make their quilts. This was a necessity since they were poor farmers when my dad, uncles and aunt were small. Later on in life my grandmother bought material to make quilts. When my grandmother was very ill in her later years we knew that she had a lot of quilting squares in a hole chest that had never been used. At the time we lived in Bellbuckle, Tennessee a very small community that is famous for quilting and antiques. My father partnered a feedlot there in a beautiful Tennessee hollar. My mom asked my grandmother is she could have the quilting squares and have someone in Bellbuckle make quilts out of them. I am one of 6 children and one of four daughters. My mom along with the quilter picked out more fabric to have enough squares to make four quilts for me and my sisters. The quilts are still on a quilt rack in the hall at my parents house because my mom said at the time the quilts were made that we wouldn’t get them until she passed because by then we would all be at an age that we would cherish them more. We are blessed to still have our parents so I hope that those quilts remain where they are for many more years. Sorry my comment was so long but it is my families quilt story. I have many cousins that are very jealous of these quilts but unbeknownst to them my Daddy was my grandmothers favorite son. ? Don’t tell.

    1. Stephanie,
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. I loved reading it. That is so great that you have a piece of your grandmother’s handiwork.
      Your secret about your dad is safe with me.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  3. Mary I forgot to say that I haven’t had the opportunity to read one of your books but I a virtual newbie to the wonder world of reading. I just began reading again in November of 2016 after decades of not reading. Congratulations on have five books releasing this year! That’s an amazing accomplishment! I would love the opportunity to read your book. I’m now on my 141st book which just amazes me since I had not read in years!

    1. Yeah for reading!

  4. What an informative post! I enjoyed reading it. I have never quilted but would love to give it a try.

    1. Debra,
      I hope you you do give it a try.
      I have two recommendations.
      1) Start with a small project so you don’t get overwhelmed.
      2) Don’t worry about mistakes and have fun.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  5. I always wanted to learn how to make a quilt. Maybe one day I will find some placee to take a class. I enjoyed reading your post.

    1. Janine,
      Start with a small project. Until you can find a class, there are many, many YouTube videos on quilting. You could watch a few and see if one sparks your fancy to try.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  6. Quilting has always been something I wish I had learned as well as knitting. But raising 7 children took a lot of my time. Thanks for sharing the myths of quilting. The myth on mistakes was interesting .Looking forward to reading your books.

    1. Carol,
      Maybe when you children are older you can find time. It’s hard for me to find time to do everything I want to. Maybe you could work on a quilting project with your children. There are many projects to try on YouTube.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  7. My mother in law is a well known quilter and I adore collecting them. I knew a few of those were myths, but a couple were surprises to me. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Susan,
      thanks for stopping by. Collecting quilts is fun.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  8. I really enjoyed your post today and you are so right about mistakes in quilts no matter how hard you try you will not get the perfect quilt. A lot of times things just don’t come together like you want them to. I haven’t quilted in a while but maybe one day I will get started back again.

    1. Quilt Lady,
      When we look at a quilt from a distance, it can look perfect, and we get a misconception. I think that makes some people afraid to try quilting because hey don’t feel they can make a perfect quilt.
      In my humble opinion, a finished quilt is a perfect quilt no matter how many flaws it has.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  9. Thanks for sharing. Quilts are a very impou part of our history.

    1. Connie,
      Thanks for stopping by. I agree that quilts are important history. They can say so much, from the fabrics used to the patterns chosen.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  10. Thank you for such an informative post, Mary. I really enjoyed it. A couple of years ago I made quilts out of my son’s not-outworn but quickly-outgrown shirts. One was from toddler years with all their bright colors, and the other was all lovely, cozy flannel made from shirts during his teens that he barely got to wear. I gave him the flannel quilt already but am hanging onto the “baby” quilt for a while. I also made a quilt out of shirts I had worn that makes a dandy bed topper. (Oh, and I did make some quilts with new, store-bought material! 🙂 )

    1. Eliza,
      I don’t blame you for holding onto that quilt made out of your son’s toddler shirts. I’ve made my children quilts out of their old jeans. They are heavy and warm on cold winter nights. I love using old clothes like that as it makes the it a memory quilt as well.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  11. I still have my grandmother’s quilts and even pieces she didn’t finish. I remember sleeping under them as a little girl. She taught me and helped me get started as well.

    I can’t even imagine traveling out west as well as in early America, the women having extra time or energy to sit and make a quilt.

    1. Linda,
      To me, it is so precious to have quilts that my grandmothers touched and created. I’m glad you have the ones your grandmother made.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  12. Beautiful quilt. I use a sewing machine to make mine. And I always make a mistake purposely because no one is perfect in life. I still have the one my grandmother made me years ago. Wonderful topic today. Thank you

    1. Charlene,
      I sew mine by machine as well. Each one is special.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  13. I never heard of any of the myth’s about quilts. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Kim,
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  14. True Amish quilts are made with solid colors of cloth because the patterns would be too fancy. They only wear solid colors of cloth in their clothing, too. It’s one of the ways to distinguish them from Mennonites, Brethren, and other Plain Anabaptists.

    1. Denise,
      Yes, Amish quilts are solid colors, but the beauty they create with them is amazing.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  15. I have several old quilts. Most are from my grandmother and are plain and simple. She worked in a shirt factory and was allowed to take scraps home. All but one quilt are just squares sewn together and tacked. With 7 children, a full time job, a garden, canning, and just being a wife and mother there wasn’t time to do pattern quilts. I have one full sized quilt that is made of heavier material and done in crazy quilt fashion. She did embroider and crochet. I have pillow cases and runners she did with both. There is a baby quilt for the cradle that has seen 6 generations of the family. She did embroider squares for that one and had a patterned border and dividers between the squares.
    I have one antique quilt that I got at an auction. It is white with strips of 2 inch squares running the length of it. The fabric for the squares do appear to be from old dresses and shirts. From a distance it looks quite plain. Close up is another story. The stitches are small and so very even. The white work over the entire quilt is beautiful. I guess I should be thankful it looked so bland from a distance. I paid only $3 to $5 for it.
    I have tried quilting and finished a few pieces, but it isn’t something I enjoyed. I have several friends that do quilt. One does mostly wall hangings and they are lovely.

    I tried

    1. Patricia,
      That’s a neat bit of history you have for your grandmother’s quilts. I hope you’ve written that down and make sure it gets handed down along with the quilts for future generations.
      $3-$5 for a quilt? I’m jealous. =0)
      You don’t have to be a quilter to enjoy quilts.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  16. Love this historical background on quilting. I am fortunate to have 3 quilts handmade by my Mother’s family. Your new book is right in my wheelhouse. Will get it after exiting this comment. Thank you.

    1. Jerri,
      Thanks for stopping by. Write down all you know about who made the quilts and why so in the years to come others will know how special they are.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  17. I have a couple of quilts from my grandmothers and some from my husband’s grandmother. Some of them are very elaborate. One in particular my grandmother made, I think early, in her marriage or maybe before. She was married in 1901 just a few days before her 17th birthday. It is wedding ring quilt with an elaborate design stitched into it. Most of them, though are more of the “functional” type. I have a quilt rack in my entry hall where I display them. I rotate them (when I don’t forget) throughout the year.

    I have already read your book and loved it, so don’t enter me in the drawing.

    1. Susan,
      Quilt racks are a great way to enjoy old quilts with minimal harm to them.
      I’m glad you enjoyed my book.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

  18. Mary, thank you for this fascinating post!

    1. Caryl,
      You’re welcome. It’s fun to learn things like this.
      Blessings,
      Mary
      =0)

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