Through the years, quilts have become documents of history. They are the products of their society, influenced by the culture, and the environment of the people who made them. The history of America can be seen in the history of quilts.
Quilt pattern names came from the women who made them, and reflected their homes, gardens, domestic chores and religious beliefs. Quilt patterns were passed on from one generation to the next and one woman to the next. But as families moved, their environments and circumstances changed, as can be seen in the names of quilts. That is why one quilt pattern can have so many names, and sometimes one name is applied to several different patterns.
The Elkins Main Street Downtown Heritage Quilt Trail uses patterns that signify our history and heritage. Explore Elkins and experience the different heritage quilt trail blocks while shopping, dining, and walking in our beautiful historic district.
Donated by Mountain Valley Bank
Log Cabin quilts first made a wide-spread appearance in the United States in the 1860s during the time of the Civil War. The block name may very well have had a connection to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The Log Cabin quilt became wildly popular and was identified with the pioneer spirit and values of America. It also symbolizes home, love, warmth, and security for pioneers traveling west. The red center symbolizes the hearth of the home.
Commemorates the great state of West Virginia and was first recorded in the Hearth and Home Magazine around 1910. The blue and gold colors of this pattern highlight the deeply rooted pride residents share for West Virginia.
As the nineteenth century progressed, the Tree of Life of pattern progressed into the current triangle pattern and became more popular throughout the century. The ”tree of life” reflects on living, knowledge and posterity.
The Civil War’s first battle took place on July 21, 1861, near the Manassas, Virginia railway junction, the first major battle of The Civil War took place. The patchwork pattern Railroad Crossing was given that name in rememberance of the Confederacy “The Battle of Manassas” (First Manassas) and by the Union “The Battle of Bull Run.”
In the early 1900s, all sorts of baskets began appearing in quilts. Appliqué baskets of flowers were still quite popular, and more pieced basket patterns were available. In 1978, basket quilts were popular enough to be included in a U.S. postage stamp series on American folk art.
Baskets, with flower designs, were a popular motif among quilt makers from approximately 1850 on, as they could be easily adapted to suit individual tastes, fabrics and color combinations. Naturalistic motifs, such as flowers, leaves and vines, have been favorite textile designs for centuries, and American quilts share this tradition.
Nineteenth century quilts were primarily practical; beauty was secondary. Quilts served as window and door coverings. Hanging quilts on the dirt walls of a soddie, made them seem more homelike. Quilts could serve as privacy walls, creating sleeping areas in a soddie, or one room cabin.
The 1920’s and 30’s were known as the Victorian Era. During this time, Dresden, Germany produced porcelain plates decorated with elaborate designs using flowers, fruits and foliage. The plates became the inspiration for the Dresden Plate quilt block.
Having originated in pioneer America, coming across a bear track signaled travelers to proceed cautiously, but also that the trail would lead to water and food. One of the most popular theories about the origins of the Bear Paw quilt pattern is that the quilt block was used to guide escaped slaves to food and water in the days of the underground railroad.
Settlers went West for a better life, and part of that better life was education. It was natural then, that the schoolhouse was often one of the first public buildings constructed in many communities.The Schoolhouse block was often a variation of a house or church pattern. Most featured a side view of the building and were either pieced or appliqued.
Stars are probably the most common motif used on quilts. Homesteaders traveling West used the stars for guidance; and they looked upon stars as religious symbols of their faith in God. For many Native Americans, the star is a sacred symbol, equated with honor. Star quilts were introduced around the mid to late 1800s to Native Americans women who began quilting out of necessity.
The homesteader’s life and their daily activities contributed names to many quilt blocks. The Churn was a common household item. The Churn Dash pattern has 21 different variations and names. Even the simplest quilt pattern represented a considerable investment of time and energy.
The Nine Patch is a popular pattern used by pioneer women. The earliest homesteaders had neither time or fabric to spare. Most of the quilts they made were utility quilts, quickly sewn together for warmth. On the prairie, sewing was an essential skill. Young girls learned to sew blocks before they learned to read. The Card Trick pattern is a modern variation of a Nine Patch pattern.
For more information on purchasing an Elkins Main Street Heritage Quilt Panel to display on your downtown building, call 304-637-4803. You can be a part of the Downtown Heritage Quilt Trail!