War and Pieced…and Pieced and Pieced and Pieced

Ever think to yourself—”this quilt has waaaaay too many pieces?” A not-to-be-missed exhibition currently at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum will make clear you’ve got nothing to complain about!

Soldier’s Quilt made in India circa 1855-1875

War and Pieced: The Annette Gero Collection of Quilts from Military Fabrics features quilts stitched from thousands of pieces and unlike any you’re likely to have seen.

These photos here are from the War and Pieced exhibition held in late 2017/early 2018 at the American Folk Art Museum. Most of the quilts are now on view at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

The most commonly used material is milled wool broadcloth, which limited fraying, and soldiers sewed a number of the quilts while convalescing from injuries sustained in battle. Adeptness with needle and thread was important for soldiers on the battle front, who needed to maintain their uniforms.

“Turkish Wars” intarsia quilt, dated 1719 

In addition, some units travelled with tailors and some of these skilled sewists created some of these quilts.

Samuel Atwood, an Army tailer, circa 1850-1860. He served in India and is making a quilt characteristic of those produced there in its complexity and layout.

While the quilts were one way of transforming the horror of battle into a thing of beauty, some also served a political function.

Sailor’s Quilt, late 19th century
Detail of Sailor’s Quilt (above)

Those created during the Crimean War, a conflict for which the British government was accused of providing soldiers with inadequate food, clothing, and shelter, may have been highlighted by the government to demonstrate that injured soldiers were functioning and capable of earning a living after battle.

Portrait of Thomas Walker, 1856. Walker survived more than a dozen surgeries and this painting was widely shared as a way of providing living proof that the government cared for its soldiers. Queen Victoria visited him in the hospital and eventually acquired one of his quilts.

Other quilts, including those made in India, may have been a way to fill long hours in an unfamiliar land. The reasons for their creation are not always clear, but the outcome is jaw-dropping.

For more information on the history of these quilts and about the exhibition, click here and scroll down. Don’t miss your chance to see these amazing pieces of art! Visit the International Quilt Study Center and Museum before the exhibition closes on September 16, 2018. 

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9 thoughts on “War and Pieced…and Pieced and Pieced and Pieced

    1. You’ve got sharp eyes, Carole! But I think it doesn’t have a top or bottom. If you look at the writing on the four sides you realize that one will always be upside down, no matter which way you hang it. The intent when making it was likely to view it on a bed, not on a wall.

  1. I’d love seeing these quilts. There are two (maybe more) in Auckland NZ’s War Memorial Museum made by NZ soldiers coming home from the Crimean War. The fabric is from uniforms.

  2. I also saw this in NYC. This one is well worth the trip, and the accompanying book is excellent as well.

  3. Simply INCREDIBLE!! These quilts make me want to step up my game with my modern conveniences! I sit at my computerized sewing machine at my table made for sewing in my room designed for sewing with extra fluorescent lighting with my laptop playing quilting tutorials and my IPhone playing music. All the while surrounded by rulers, templates, patterns, rotary cutters and such and I don’t make quilts nearly as involved as these shown. Thanks for the inspiration. This post has really got me thinking.

  4. Those quilts are stunning! I had never heard of this before and was fascinated to see the pictures of the soldiers actually with their quilts. Wow! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I was born and raised in Nebraska and never knew this museum was there! I’m going back to visit family next month so this post was perfect timing for me, thank you!

    1. You will really enjoy your visit to the IQSCM, Kandra. There’s always something wonderful on exhibit. Have fun!

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