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Donna Carlson

Assistant to the Director

Star Block Quilt (82′ x 79.5″)
Red & White Cotton
Late 19th c.

Donor & Maker Unknown

Last fall I had the great pleasure of helping decorate the Griswold House for the holiday season. This allowed me to spend some extended time in the Artist’s bedroom admiring and appreciating the antique quilt that covers the bed. As I looked at the beauty and workmanship of this late 1800’s red and white star block quilt, I could not help wondering about the woman who created it. Though the maker is unknown, in my mind’s eye, I see her sitting in her workroom, planning the pattern and creating the templates, choosing the fabrics that she will use, carefully piecing the blocks and joining them together. I see her sitting for hours, alone or with family or friends, stitching the layers together in her chosen design in order to make it strong and lasting as well as beautiful. Once finished, she folds it carefully preparing it to be wrapped, and with a smile, thinks about the person she has made it for. Quilts to me are more than utilitarian; they are expressions of love, hope, and good wishes. It was common for a solider, during times of war, to carry into the battlefield the quilt that was made by his mother, sister, or wife, not only to keep him warm but also to remind him he has someone at home who cares for him and is waiting for his safe return. They are commemorative, marking important events and personal accomplishments. Over time quilts have been used variously to express the maker’s political views, to address issues of social injustice, and to convey patriotic feelings. Others were made to raise funds to further the causes of women and the poor. And they are works of art, allowing the artist to be creative using fabric as the canvas and the paint, and thread to create shadow and depth. Quilts seem to have always been with us and each is as unique and individual as the person who made it.