Mary Ellen Cummings
July– the Red-White-and-Blue month;
Independence Day; our nation’s birthday month. The
colors of our country’s flag are found everywhere—beach
balls, swim suits, kiddie pools, fire works, picnic
accessories and QUILTS.
The colors of fabrics in quilts are as numerous
as the patterns or designs of the quilts. However,
three colors have dominated the quilt scene; red,
green and yellow. With the official U.S. Flag
adoption (after the Revolutionary War) in 1777,
patriotic themes were featured in bedcovers. Since
the flag was red, white, and blue, it was common
practice to use these colors and gold in quilts.
Robert Bishop, author of Quilts, Coverlets, Rugs,
and Samplers, says: "It was not unusual for a
quilt maker either to piece or appliqué...motifs
such as emblems, shields or stars; sometimes a real
American flag was used as a central design
element." The American Eagle enjoyed wide
popularity from the late 1780s until the 1840s;
declined until the Civil War when it was revived.
Patriotic quilts become more popular in times of
national celebrations, emergencies, or tragedies
such as the U.S.S. Cole bombing as reported in this
column in May. In the 1930s (the Depression Years)
quilt kits were popular and patriotic motifs
reappeared in stylistic forms. Again during World
War II, red white, and blue patriotic quilts became
popular especially with navy and air force symbols.
Uncle Sam, flags and stars with embroidered slogans
wee among the designs.
Many of the patriotic symbols were simple designs
and left large areas of the quilt top bare. As a
result, these areas were heavily quilted with
Quilt making became less popular during the war.
The men were away with the armed forces, and the
women were working in the factories and defense
industries. However, in the last ten years, the
craft has again been revived with new twists. Red,
white, and blue are still popular colors, but they
are combined with all shades of the rainbow and all
intensities of the spectrum.
The new quilt scene is a gallery of fabric art.
The designs are more arty than patriotic. A July
quilt would be made of fabrics printed with flags,
fireworks, oceans, and skies. A July quilt could
even be "Bugs in a bottle."