Praising the Quilter Through the Quilt

It is the description of the objects that underwrites the discrediting of the discrediting. We are reminded of the opening lines phrased as a pointed question in Marge Piercy's "Looking at Quilts": Who decided what is useful in its beauty / means less than what has no function besides beauty / (except its weight in money)?

The patchwork quilts are rightly celebrated as objects of great beauty. Made from thousands of pieces of shaped and coloured fabric, sewn into elaborate and intricate patterns, they produced rich colouristic effects and contained symbolic meanings. They were given a variety of suggestive titles, 'Mariner's Compass', 'Jacob's Ladder', 'Star of Bethlehem' and 'Sunburst', the last superbly conveying the effect of the radiating beams of the sun and the beneficence of its golden light. But some of these names, rather than being specific titles of quilts, refer instead to categories of basic methods of putting the fabrics together. This has often, erroneously, led to a dismissal of quilt-making as mere repetitious use of pattern. But, individual quilt-makers used the basic patterns to dramatically different effect by choice of colours, size of pieces, optical illusion and intended meaning.
Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock.

And so for day 1905