Politics and Patriotism in Quilts

Since the birth of this country, quilters have expressed their interest in politics. Even in the late 1700s, toiles were introduced featuring likenesses of George Washington. Sometimes those textiles were used as handkerchiefs, and other times were incorporated into quilts.

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Martha Washington, a famous quilter herself, constructed one medallion quilt featuring a center panel of William Penn negotiating with natives for land in what is now Pennsylvania. Certainly that is a somewhat different kind of political event, but an important one, nonetheless.

Quilting and other arts were socially acceptable means for women to express their political interest and opinions. Until 1920, when women won the right to vote in federal elections, the homely arts were one of the few ways to do so. Through their quilts they campaigned for suffrage, for abolition, for temperance, and other causes. This quilt was made in 1983 when Jessie B. Telfair lost her job after attempting to register to vote.

They made and sold quilts to raise funds for wars, and to commemorate the dead. The Civil War years saw tributes to Abraham Lincoln as well as patriotic encouragements of the North and the South. They celebrated the history of the country. The centennial in 1876 sparked a tremendous celebration in quilts of the Founders and events surrounding the birth of the nation.  This quilt was made by G. Knappenberger in about 1876 in Pennsylvania, commemorating our nation's 100th birthday.

The Great War, the Depression, World War II, the Gulf War. AIDS. All of these are subjects for political expression through quilts. Fannie B. Shaw made this amazing quilt, named Prosperity is Just Around the Corner, at the beginning of the 1930s.

And indeed, quilters are at least as active now in political expression as ever. Pam from Calif showed some great, contemporary patriotic quilts in her November diary.

The Romney Quilt

Before the election in November, I looked in Google images for quilts celebrating the two candidates.

Here is one I found made to honor Mitt Romney:

In fact, this is the only quilt I found honoring Mitt Romney.

The Obama Quilts

On the other hand, there are hundreds of quilts honoring President Obama. Here are just a few, to give you an idea of the variety. All of the quilts here are ones for which I could find the name of the artist. There are so many more that are not easy to attribute. Check out "Obama quilts" in Google images to see many more.

By Marilyn Lee of Debs, MN.

It measures about 8 by 9 feet. Over 500 separate pieces of 17 different shades of fabric make up his face and shoulders alone. There are 700 pieces in the 50 flags. All of the embroidery and some of the quilting was done on a 1929 Singer embroidery machine. All free motion with no computer involved.
The Obama Quilt-Pieces of History

By Susan Shie.

By Corinna Weir

By Denyse Schmidt.

By Jeanette Thompson.

By Nancy in STL.

I created this donkey quilt for the Thimble & Thread Quilt Guild’s 2007/2008 Challenge which required recycled textile materials to be used for the top and backing. Vintage (circa 1940′s -1950′s) decorator silk and silk blend fabric samples, including the small attached optional colorway swatches, were used for the quilt top. Notice that each of the corner stars are actually a different color. The “O” in OBAMA is pieced because I really wanted to use the violet color, but only a snippet of it was left on the swatch.

By Peche Brown.
Peche Brown has started a series of Obama inspired quilts: “I am a multi-media contemporary artisan. I create works in watercolor, acrylics, oils, graphite, fiber & wood. I created this quilt of President Obama as the first one in a series of Fiber Art Quilts (Wall hangings). Size is about 22″ square. I am working on different designs & plan to feature the Presidential family in Fiber art.”

If these whet your interest in President Obama in quilts, there is a book devoted to the subject. Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama shows approximately 100 quilts honoring the President.

Diarists Needed!

There are now lots of open dates. Would you like to write a future DK Quilt Guild diary? Wondering what you would write about? You could write about a current project, a finish, all your UFOs and how they got that way, your stash, a retreat you've attended, quilt museums or shows, good recipes for quilting days, your history in quilting, antique quilts you know...  Please join in! Volunteer within the comments. Thanks.

The schedule:

  1/20 -- Pam from Calif
  1/27 -- glorificus
  2/03 -- OPEN
  2/10 -- OPEN
  2/17 -- OPEN

Originally posted to DK Quilt Guild on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 03:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Jim & Melanie in IA.

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