Sunday, February 8, 2015

World War I Quilts by Sue Reich

World War I Quilts by quilt historian Sue Reich new book looks at quiltmakers response to the Great War, including Red Cross and fundraiser signature quilts and quilts made to honor veterans, set in perspective against pre-war early 20th c. quilts.

Chapters include "Quilting Through the 1910s"; "Loyal To The Cause: Quilts for Soldiers"; "Under the Red Cross Flag"; and "Afterward: Poppy Quilts: The Fields of Flanders".

The book's full color photographs of quilts, vintage illustrations and photographs, vintage textiles and ephemera make a visual feast. (The pages were slow to load on my e-reader because of the many photographs!) Along with chapter introductions and a foreword, Reich includes related newspaper articles about quiltmaking from across the country.

There is a wealth of information in this book. It is not a book you will causally flip through, looking at the quilts, and call it 'done.' You will want to take it in small pieces, enjoying the details, returning to it again and again. I laughed when I read advice to cut the worn feet off old socks and use the tops as quilt batting. Another article suggested sewing channels and inserting padding into the channels as an 'easy' quilt.

Early 19th c. quilts incorporated printed flannel pieces given away with tobacco. After crazy-quilting's ruling late Victorian culture, a patchwork 'revival' invigorated quiltmakers. There seemed to be a competition for quilts with the most pieces. Quilters had new products available. The availability of electricity meant electric sewing machines could be employed for quilting. Nationwide quilt competitions began in 1910. Signature quilts and embroidered quilts continued to be popular. Women's magazines abounded with quilt patterns. Quilt designers like Marie Webster and Ruby McKim arose to offer patterns for modern tastes.

Quilters rallied to support war efforts. Signature quilts raised money. We find Red Cross quilts, Ladies Aid Society quilts, and quilts featuring textiles with patriotic and political themes. The Biscuit or Puff Quilt was created without batting to "conserve wool for our soldiers in the battlefield.'

The 1918 flu epidemic was devastating. Preventative measures included the burning of bed linens, including quilts. Post war quilts included Poppy quilts to commemorate veterans.

Quilters have traditionally responded to current events and needs: Abolitionist quilts; the Sanitary Fairs during the Civil War; fund raising quilts for church building and missionary work; Temperance quilts; and for WWI war efforts and the Red Cross. Quiltmakers continue their response to this day. Michigan quilter Ami Simm's Art Quilt Initiative raised $1 Million dollars for Alzheimer Research; recently a member of my Clawson quilters group attended a ceremony where her son received a Quilt of Valor for his military service.

Quilt historian Sue Reich has published a series of books. Her forthcoming book of Presidential and Patriotic Quilts, also from Schiffer Publications, will include the Presidential Quilt Project created last year--including my John Quincy Adams quilt. Sue's books include WWII Quilts; Quiltings, Frolics, and Bees: 100 Years of Signature Quilts; Quilts and Quiltmakers Covering Connecticut; Quilting News of Yesteryear: 1,000 Pieces and Counting; and  Quilting News of Yesteryear: Crazy As A Bed-quilt. 

Some of the quilts in her new book can be seen at

I received the free ebook through NetGalley for a fair and unbiased review.

WWI Quilts
by Sue Reich
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Publication: Dec 28, 2014
176 pages, all full color
$39.99 hardcover


I have several WWI era handkerchiefs in my collection. They were sent or brought home to sweethearts and family members, often made of silk and embroidered. The embroidery thread was not colorfast! These were for 'show' only.

No comments:

Post a Comment