Quilting and agriculture have always been intimately tied together in the United States. The earliest record of an American pieced quilt is dated back to 1704. At first utilitarian whole cloth quilts were the most popular, being quick to make, but as SOMETHING changed applique and patchwork quilts became more popular. Women took inspiration from their daily lives to design these blocks, so quilt blocks often feature agricultural motifs, such as the Nine Patch Straight Furrows block, the Cabbage Rose, the Windmill, and the Garden Patch.
Pieced quilts were a way for farmer’s wives to make use of small bits of material and worn out clothing while bringing color and beauty into their lives. Quilting bees, where a group of women would gather together to quilt and bind a friend’s pieced quilt top, making the time-consuming task much more efficient, also provided a social outlet for many women, who often did not have the time to receive guests often into their homes.
The Texas Department of Agriculture uses quilts to educate others about their natural fibers. Every year, entrants compete to design a themed quilt block using Texas natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and leather. The winning blocks are pieced together and quilted, and then taken on tour as part of a travelling educational display.
Toast a Rising Star Quilt, Terri Vogds and Johanna Isla, 2008. This quilt celebrates Texan viticulture.
Barn quilts are another way in which the traditional craft of quilting and the agricultural fields are pieced together. Large squares of wood or other flat surfaces are painted in a manner emulating a patchwork quilt block, and then decoratively mounted on a barn. Barn quilt trails are becoming more and more popular. Many members of rural farming communities are coming together in order to create these trails, which is a fun way of remembering quilting’s influence as well as brightening up the barn a bit!
While not a barn, this Highway 23 museum is part of the U.S. 23 quilt trail.