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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.

5) Quilting and the Emergence of an Art Form

One may appreciate the cultural significance of quilting and its evolution by comparing the work and statements of the Blue Ridge quilters with those of the Lands' End quilters. A good place to start is the special presentations. From there, students can sample the motivations listed in the Subject Index, to help them see the variety of functions quilting has played, such as creative expression, socialization, commemoration, income, charity, personal satisfaction, and warmth. Then, have them browse the images and statements by both groups of quilters and answer the questions below.

  • What motivations do the two groups of quilters share? What common functions do their quilts serve?
  • What motivations and functions are unique to each group?
  • What does this suggest about the change in how quilting has been done, why it has been done, and how it has been regarded?
  • How have the quilts themselves changed with time? What do these changes suggest about changes in quilting and its reputation?
  • What does the existence of national quilting contests suggest about quilting in the late twentieth century? Were there contests in the first half of the century? What were they like?
  • What do the titles on the quilts suggest about changes in quilting?
  • Do you see evidence of change within the time period of the Lands' End contests, from 1992 to 1996?

In answering these questions, students will find evidence of an increasing sense of quilting as an art form in the Lands' End quilters' statements and work. Examples may be found by browsing the Lands' End photographs and by searching on class, lecture, workshop, and art.

Has being a winner in the Land's End contest made a difference in your life? Has it changed the way you look at your work as a quilt maker? "The development of my resume of quilt shows and contests has led to acceptance for 2 solo quilt shows and development of myself as a serious quilt artist."   -- 1996 Alaska State Winner; Arctic Lava

  • Did the Blue Ridge quilters consider their quilting to be an art form? What about their mothers and grandmothers?
  • Does someone need to consider their work to be an art form for it to actually be one?
  • What is the difference between art and craft?
  • What makes something an art form? The motives of the creator? The audience of the work? The price of the work? The professional reputation of the creator? The community in which the creator works? National or wide-spread recognition of an art form? The subject, style, or technique of the art work?