National Quilt Collection
"Quilt": A cover or garment made by putting wool, cotton or other substance between two cloths and sewing them together. An American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, LL.D., New York 1828.
The National Quilt Collection incorporates quilts from various ethnic groups and social classes, for quilts are not the domain of a specific race or class, but can be a part of anyone’s heritage and treasured as such. Whether of rich or humble fabrics, large in size or small, expertly crafted or not, well-worn or pristine, quilts in the National Quilt Collection provide a textile narrative that contributes to America’s complex and diverse history. The variety and scope of the collection provides a rich resource for researchers, artists, quilt-makers and others.
Part of the Division of Home and Community Life textiles collection, the National Quilt Collection had its beginnings in the 1890s. Three quilts were included in a larger collection of 18th- and 19th-century household and costume items donated by John Brenton Copp of Stonington, Connecticut. From this early beginning, the collection has grown to more than 500 quilts and quilt-related items, mainly of American origin, with examples from many states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Most of the contributions have come to the Museum as gifts, and many of those are from the quilt-makers’ families. The collection illustrates needlework techniques, materials, fabric designs and processes, styles and patterns used for quilt-making in the past 250 years. The collection also documents the work of specific quilt-makers and commemorates events in American history.
Learn more about the quilt collection and step behind the scenes with a video tour.
"National Quilt Collection - Introduction" showing 1 items.
- Embroidered in dark brown silk cross-stitches and eye-stitches along the top right edge of the center of this quilt is "M. Campbell 1795." This quilt is a rare dated and signed example of the use of reverse appliqué which is found in the center panel and the eight border motifs. In reverse appliqué, the positions of the pattern and background fabrics are reversed from those of onlaid appliqué. The silhouette of the pattern is cut out of the background fabric, and openings are filled by applying a contrasting fabric from underneath. It was not often used in American quilts. The remainder of the quilt top is of geometric pieced work.
- Block printed cotton fabrics of floral prints, stripes, and small geometrics, mostly on brown or tan grounds, were used for the appliqué and piecework. The lining is linen and the filling cotton. All appliquéd motifs are outline quilted along both the inside and outside edges. The white backgrounds, center border, and printed fabric blocks in the outer border are quilted in a diagonal grid and chevron patterns, seven stitches to the inch. M. Campbell's skillfully worked quilt is a notable example of the reverse appliqué technique.
- Currently not on view
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center