Quilt Art: More Than Bedspreads
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“Quilt Art: More Than Bedspreads,” Ensign, Aug. 1976, 44–45

Quilt Art: More Than Bedspreads

During the past few years there has been increased interest in the art of quiltmaking. Unfortunately, most people, including Latter-day Saints, have been slow to fully recognize and appreciate the skill, industry, and beauty that quilt-art expresses.

Quiltmaking is an ancient art, said to have originated in China. Patchwork quilts, however, are an American innovation. Patchwork quilts can be some of the most creative, colorful, and striking examples of decorative art in this country.

Quiltmaking is a vital part of our Mormon pioneer heritage and many of us have a quilt or quilts made by skilled ancestors. Others of us have been taught and have mastered quilt-art ourselves. But whether we have heirloom quilts, or whether we make them ourselves, we could use them more effectively to enhance the decor of our homes.

Whether your quilt be intricate (I have one with nearly 10,000 one-inch pieces!) or elegant (velvet pieces with elaborate embroidery) or of primitive simplicity (blocks of cotton scraps), they adapt beautifully to contemporary as well as historical settings.

The obvious use for a quilt is as a bedcover or spread. A small quilt (older or antique quilts are usually small for today’s beds) can adorn the top of a larger bed if a dust ruffle is used around the sides. If your precious heirloom won’t cover a bed, display it folded at the foot of the bed as a throw.

Quilts make marvelous table covers. Patterns like the Lone Star look charming on a round table. Geometric designs like the Log Cabin, Sunshine and Shadow, or Barn Raising adapt nicely to square or rectangular tables. We keep a floor-length muslin underskirt on our round table in order to have a neutral background for the various quilts we like to enjoy.

For special parties we have delighted guests by sitting down to dinner around a Triple Irish Chain quilt with an array of thumbnail-size pieces. Quilted patchwork placemats can be ‘salvage-art’ from an older quilt only partially worn.

A quilt can be a brilliant, graphic wall-hanging. Quilts like the Mariner’s Compass or the Broken Star can be visual masterpieces and are best used full-out in an art gallery setting. The best parts of a worn but treasured antique quilt could be framed or stretched and tacked on a wood frame like a canvas for a wall piece. A free-hanging quilt could be an unusual room divider or a quilt might be used to upholster a piece of furniture.

Why not an array of patchwork pillows or shams made from scratch or from good-condition sections of an old quilt? Older quilts usually have more intricate needlework, and even after years of wear and washings they have a subtle appealing quality.

‘Patch-up’ your bathroom with a patchwork quilt shower curtain. With a separate plastic liner it will function wonderfully and add lively decor.

Recently in the smartest boutiques we have seen handsome vests, jackets, skirts, jumpers, etc., fashioned from old patchwork quilts. Surprisingly, those made from the most faded, used, and laundered coverlets make the most charming clothing items.

Old or new, most quilts have a timeless quality. I think the ones we enjoy most are those garnered from our own family’s clothing. We had quilts in our home when I was growing up that almost told the story of our lives.

Regardless of motif, quilts are meant to be used and enjoyed. Their potential for bringing decoration and delight into our homes is endless. Janet Beck Clark, Provo, Utah