A Charm in the Gallery

By: Elaina Johann, administrative manager on July 7th, 2021

When I was a child, my grandmother taught me how to quilt. My cousin and I learned together, taking turns on Grandma’s sewing machine, as she gathered fabric scraps for us to cut into squares, patch together, and stitch into quilts for our dolls.

While sitting in on a recent Woodson Art Museum volunteer training session, I learned that the first quilt she taught us has a name, a charm quilt.

Traditionally, charm quilts utilize remnants of fabrics left over from other projects, so each square is a unique swatch. Charm Quilt on view in Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts is composed of 2,068 patchwork squares, with only a few duplicates.

Artist unknown, Charm Quilt, 1880-1920, cotton, courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum, gift of Freyda Rothstein, photo by Gavin Ashworth

I estimate that my miniature quilt had about one tenth the number of swatches in Charm Quilt, made by an unidentified artist between the years of 1880-1920. Although created a century apart, I imagine the intentions behind these quilts were similar. While mine was a lesson, it also served its two-fold purpose: to use up leftovers and create an object of comfort.

The quilts in the galleries of Handstitched Worlds span generations, with some that might remind you of your grandma, and other examples that push the boundaries of conventional quilting.

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