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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Quilts and Quiltmaking in America

[Detail] 1994 Judges' Choice Winner; Susan's Fan.

Quilts and Quiltmaking in America 1978-1996 is comprised of two smaller collections. The first contains sound recordings of interviews done in 1978, of six Appalachian women identified by researchers as traditional quiltmakers with photographs of their work. Discussing their past and the lives of their ancestors, these quilters provide information about quilting and American social history from as early as the late nineteenth century to the time of the interviews. The second portion of this collection documents American quilting in the late twentieth century through photographs of and notes about approximately 180 winning quilts from the Lands' End All-American Quilt Contest, held in 1992, 1994, and 1996.

1) Rural Life and an Agrarian, Pre-War, Local Economy

Interviews with six quilters from Appalachian North Carolina and Virginia together with photographs portray the rural life of this region and its agrarian, pre-World War II, local economy.

Making her own quilts was just one of many ways a woman dealt with living in a time and place where resources and money were hard to come by. Students can get a sense of this lack and the self-sufficient lifestyle it necessitated by listening to quilters describe how they, their mothers, and grandmothers made quilts from old clothes, feed bags, sacks, and tiny scraps, to keep their families warm. Locate these recordings by searching on money, warm, scraps, and sacks.

 "Experience teaches you better than anything"

MP3 | Wav

Searches on storm window, heat, fireplace, washing mahine, and treadle locate interviews that will help students understand the lack of modern-day amenities in the region's recent past and changes since that time. Searching on Christmas, hard, and farm, students will get a sense of how hard a rural lifestyle could be. Items found by searching on neighborhood, neighbor, and group reflect the role of community in this region, and can be supplemented by searching on quilting bee in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. After they sample a few of these items, have them answer the following questions:

  • What kinds of chores are mentioned by these women?
  • Are these chores that you or your family do today? How are they the same and different?
  • Would you have liked living in this region in the first half of the 1900s? Why or why not?
  • Was the experience of rural Americans changed by the Great Depression? Search on depression for evidence and analyze and interpret this evidence to answer the question.
  • Was life different for African-Americans living in this region? Search on slave, and black people, and read the biographies in the special presentation, Blue Ridge Quilters, to see if you can answer this question.
  • What other collections in American Memory could you use to answer these questions?