Thanks to the Quinobequin Quilters

Last night, I had the wonderful opportunity to deliver my “Quilts in U.S. History” lecture to the Quinobequin Quilters in Needham, MA.  The guild members asked some great questions and there were a few that I wasn’t able to fully answer in the moment that I wanted to follow up on:

  1. What led to the 1971 Whitney Museum quilt exhibit? 

Last night, I said that I thought Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof were driving forces behind the exhibit and, according to the International Quilt Study Center, that was indeed the case. They began to see the quilts in their collection as examples of abstract art. I also said that I thought there had been some earlier quilt exhibits that encouraged the Whitney to consider the “Abstract Design in American Quilts” show and that does seem to be the case as well. According to a post by the International Quilt Study Center, the changing perception of craft and ideas of what constituted art also set the groundwork for the Whitney to consider such an exhibit.

2. What innovations in the sewing machine were happening in Europe in the mid 1850s?

According to Wikipedia, there were numerous advances in sewing machine technology, starting with a patent awarded to a German man working in England in 1755. Also according to Wikipedia, the first modern sewing machine design that brought together the advances of the earlier models was invented by an Englishman in 1844, but the patent application was botched. American Elias Howe invented a similar machine in 1845, that Singer improved upon in 1851. Howe won the patent in 1846, according to this article from 1860 in The New York Times. 

It seems that the European companies of the quality sewing machines that we are enjoying today as quilters began in the following decades:

Pfaff – founded in Germany in 1862

Bernina – founded in Switzerland in 1893

Elna, a Swiss brand now owned by Janome, was founded much later in 1940.

There may have been other questions that I missed so if you were there last night and have further questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thanks again to the Quinobequin Quilters.

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