Thursday, August 23, 2018


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. 

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.

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.


  1. Wow! I had heard and took for granted all of those myths as true. Oh well. I still love quilts! Thanks for the post and for destroying my illusions! Haha....

    1. Me too. But quilts are still special and made with love. Just call me the "Illusion Destroyer". =0)

  2. Very interesting! Thank you for sharing!

    1. You're welcome. I found these interesting too.

  3. As a volunteer at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum here in Lincoln, Nebraska, I'm all too familiar with these myths. Each one makes a great story, but when there's no primary verification from historical documents, it's a shame when myth is taken as fact. Greetings from a fellow quilt-lover!

    1. These myths did make great stories. That's why they were passed along as facts, because we wanted to believe them. But that they aren't facts actually makes more sense when you think about it.

  4. Informative and interesting post. I enjoy quilt shows and seeing the beautiful handiwork of women.

    1. I enjoy both the exquisite, intricate quilts as well as old, simple ones with worn fabrics and stains. Each quilt tells a story.

  5. In the 1950s in Central Pennsylvania, my mother, my aunt, and their friends made inexpensive quilts from scraps. Every town had a small clothing factory from which workers were able to bring home leftover fabric pieces. They shared them with their friends. I believe that sometimes the factory workers cut the scraps into squares for the quilters with their automatic cutting machines. I remember seeing the stacks already cut into squares. The stacks were lined up too precisely to have been hand cut. The quilters added scraps left from their own sewing projects to the stashes from the factory. They used worn-out sheets instead of batting to make the quilts warmer. The only cost would have been for the backing and thread. I own some of those quilts that I got from my mother.

    1. I love this tidbit of history. The birth of the idea of precut quilt kits perhaps?