cover image The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort 1750-1950

The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort 1750-1950

Roderick Kiracofe. Clarkson N Potter Publishers, $65 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-517-57535-2

This is something that an overcrowded market actually needs: not just another do-it-yourselfer's patchwork quilt guide, Kiracofe's ( Homage to Amanda: 200 Years of American Quilts ) ambitious survey takes stock of American quilting's causes and effects. And, naturally, he recognizes the story of quilt lineage as social, involving members of families or communities in work that was practical, durable, and aesthetically satisfying. Kiracofe goes into detail, addressing what fabrics and dyes, as well as patterns, were used at different points in American history; the role of slaves in Southern quilting, and African American quiltmaking styles; the effect of westward expansion on quilt supply and demand; and the craze for the ``Oscar'' quilt (featuring a sunflower motif) following a much-publicized visit to the U.S. in 1882 by Oscar Wilde. Of course, that's not all: there are also the quilts themselves, on view here in startling illustrated abundance--from an Islamic-seeming ``sunburst'' specimen, made in Pennsylvania, circa 1901, to an azure-blue and canary-yellow Hawaiian applique variety from 1946. Serious collectors and quilters will need this book; many others will want it. (Nov.)