A patchwork quilt often tells a story. In fact, the development of patchwork quilts is thought to be a story in and of itself.
Many historians say the first patchwork quilt was made from scraps of discarded clothing during the time of great economic hardship following the Civil War in the United States in the 1860s. There were little time and few materials to use for quilting during the war and in the years of reconstruction after it. Many men left home to join the war, taking with them quilts from home to keep them warm and protected until the war was over. Many soldiers and their quilts never returned home afterward.
As fabric swatches could be culled and collected until enough was available to piece together a patchwork quilt, quilters were able to replace some of the quilts lost during the war, although the patchwork quilts that resulted weren’t considered to be as fine as some of the quilts lost to the war. Nevertheless, quilters are clever and creative. It wasn’t long before quilt makers were piecing together decorative patterns and even using them to “tell” the story behind the making of the quilt.
In many cases, a patchwork quilt was made from scraps of fabric cut from the clothing of the members of a family. Looking at the patches brought back memories of lost loves and happier times. Many broken hearted quilt makers used the clothing of a missing soldier to make quilts that became poignant and treasured keepsakes.
In later years, the tradition of making a patchwork quilt from the clothing of a deceased loved one became more common. The clothing of a lost parent, spouse, or child was a way to keep thoughts of the person close at hand, providing comfort during times of grief.
There is a popular, happier, trend in recent years of turning a wedding gown into an exquisite patchwork quilt to adorn the bed of the newlyweds or that of their first child. This method of using the all-important wedding gown, usually worn only once, is considered to be more practical than preserving the gown, intact, in the hope a future daughter will want to wear the dress for her own wedding some day.