Many have wondered, “Are quilts art or craft?” Well, the answer can be yes to either. Confused yet? Let’s start with the definition of art. In the Oxford dictionary art is said to be, “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
In that sense, quilts can be considered an artform. Although quilts are created to serve a purpose, most often to keep us warm, they are also made to be nice to look at. It takes skill and imagination to create a quilt. In addition to this, many quilts are created to celebrate a special occasion, mourn a loss, mark time passing, and so on. They are literal representations of love. Emotion is stitched into every square inch.
Contrary to this definition, are some quilts made without great skill or imagination? Sure. Are some simply utilitarian, without much thought given to the design? Yes. But these early attempts are a first step in learning how to make quilts that could be considered art. The first time we create anything is a trial period. There should be no high expectations. It’s a time to build skill and learn from experience. As we grow, we become more creative in our approach to quilting, gaining confidence in our design choices, and more skilled in quilting techniques. No matter where we begin, we can always improve.
Quilts can also be considered a craft. The definition of craft is, “An activity involving skill in making things by hand.” Simple enough. Quilting is a skill that can be learned by anyone and it can be fun to do even if we don’t view it as an artform. Regardless of what our intent is when we make quilts, they can be both incredibly beautiful and useful. Let’s hear what our customers had to say about quilts being art or craft:
“They are both. When I was in school, many many years ago we could make a quilt in our home economics class as a sewing craft and make another in art class as art.” -Denise Vasel
“In my 3-dimensional design art class in college, we were given the assignment of turning linocut prints we made into quilts. I would say there isn’t much distinction in my mind between craft and art. It’s all art.” -Denise Fox Eskridge
“Both. Craft because you are making something and art because the material, pattern and colors you use makes it unique.” -Paula Herbst
“A quilt is art that you craft.” -Sharon Crouch
“Both, art and craft. You create your own concept, pattern, and color, and craft because it is handmade.” -Pat Trueblood
“They can be both. I think some people are confused because a quilt is used. It’s functional art. It’s consider myself an artist.” -Julie Tierney
“Craft, art, and love.” -Debbie Torrey
“Both but also much more. They are art in the selection of color, fabric, and design. They are craft in the construction and quality of quilting. On top of all that, they are heart, and love, and passion.” -Victoria Hubbard
“Both. Quilting is a work of art and it’s like putting a puzzle together. I never knew I could be so artsy and crafty. Love love love it!” -Alice Hayden
“I was disappointed to have an art teacher tell me that quilting was a craft not art. I believe she is wrong. I have seen so many works of art made from fabric.” -Leslie Savitsky
“Quilting is an art. When you thoughtfully and methodically pick out a pattern and figure out an eye-catching layout and fabric placement for a quilt, that’s art.” -Suzanne K. Einspahr
We completely agree! You are all wonderfully skilled, artistic quilters and we love seeing what you make. Share your beautiful creations with us at #msqcshowandtell and keep on creating your beautifully crafted works of art!
Summer is just around the corner and that means it’s time now to start stitching up those beautiful, patriotic quilts for your summer picnics and Independence Day celebrations! Quilting has been an American past-time since the beginning days of our country, so celebrate the history of our craft and nation this year with a red, white and blue color palette!
If you’re needing some inspiration, we’ve gather five of our favorite patriotic quilt projects that would be just perfect for any summer celebration. Pick up one of our new lines of patriotic fabrics and you’ll be ready to kick back on your very own picnic quilt and watch the fireworks. And if you’re still looking for more inspiration, head over to our website for everything patriotic and Americana!
It doesn’t get more Americana than the Stars and Stripes quilt! This simple strip quilt comes together with ease using Jelly Rolls (2.5″ strips of precut quilting fabric) and snowballed corners. The iconic red and white stripes compliment the uniquely blue stars creating the perfect patriotic theme while still capturing the simplicity and beauty of a quilt.
To best capture those stars and stripes, consider using a solid fabric. Sometimes when we think solids, we think of very plain fabric, but that doesn’t have to be the case! Cut up some strips from the Tonga Batiks – Freedom collection to add some depth to your solids and make this quilt pop in subtle ways!
The Old Mill Path quilt is a play on the classic Drunkard’s Path quilt block and has never been easier to create thanks to the use of the Missouri Star Drunkards’ Path Template. Inspired by a 1929 antique quilt called “The Mill Wheel”, this vintage design is full of elements that distinguish it as a slice of yesteryear. Add in a patriotic color palette and this quilt will feel like an vintage creation nearly 100 years in the making!
For this project, you’ll need Layer Cakes (10″ squares of precut quilting fabric). Liberty Lane 10 Karat Crystals by Stephanie Marrott for Wilmington Prints feature weathered patriotic prints that will give this quilt an aged and dated feel; directly complimenting the overall aesthetic created by the design. And while this particular pattern isn’t full of stars or stripes, you’ll have plenty symbols of American culture displayed proudly within the fabric.
If you prefer more traditional patriotic displays, then the You’re a Grand Old Flag quilt is the choice for you. Created using Charm Packs (5″ squares of precut quilting fabric) and the Missouri Star Small Tumbler Template for 5″ Charm Packs, this fun flag quilt can be created with ease. The outcome is impressive, a simple tumbler flag design that, when the proper color palette is utilized, will be a favorite for many Independence Days to come!
Consider investing a little extra time into cutting your 5″ squares from yardage to take advantage of the America the Beautiful collection from Moda Fabrics. The barn wood yardage from this collection would be absolutely adorable as a red, white and blue flag and we think it’s just the best choice for this design! Whether you go precut or yardage, this quilt will be sure to brighten up any outdoor setting.
What more can be said, this quilt is simply outstanding! These pretty star blocks are framed with a simple sashing and cornerstones. While this quilt would look great in any color, when given a patriotic palette it truly feels like a slice of Americana. We just can’t believe how versatile this simple design is!
Follow Jenny on this one and create this quilt using American Gatherings from Moda Fabrics. Designed by Primitive Gatherings for Moda Fabrics, this red, white, and blue collection features basic yet lovely prints like stripes and florals, plus traditional patriotic symbols like stars and flags. This quilt will be full of American themes by the time you are done!
Pinwheels are an iconic quilting symbol that have been heavily utilized in American quilting. When early settlers were first traversing west across our country, they would quilt what they saw (no wonder stars are such a big deal!) and what better way to capture the motion of wind then by using pinwheels! Stitch up a little history in your patriotic project with this quick and easy Pinwheels on Point quilt.
You’ll again need 2.5″ strips of precut quilting fabric for this quilt, but there’s no need to focus on solids. Have some fun when selecting fabrics for this project! If you’re feeling ambitious, cut your strips from the America the Beautiful collection from Moda Fabrics. This line is full of the patriotic symbolism and colors you’re looking for while still adding unique elements such as posies to the fabric.
Nestled in the Northwest corner of the Kansas City metropolitan area is the town of Hamilton, Missouri. The tiny town of 1,809 residents has long been known as the birthplace of American businessman James Cash Penney who would go on to revolutionize the retail market with his self-named department store chain, J C Penney. Until just a decade ago, Hamilton remained a quiet rural community similar to many in the Northwest Missouri area. Businesses came and went and generations of residents continued to call this area their home, proudly remember their past with the annual Steam and Gas Engine Show as well as J.C. Penney Day festival in September.
In November 2008, Missouri Star Quilt Co. was founded by Jenny Doan and family in Hamilton. No one could have imagined the impact this quiet little quilting shop would have upon not only the town, but the world as a whole. Now Hamilton has a new reason to celebrate. Quilt Town, U.S.A. has become a destination for makers and has been called the “Disneyland of Quilting”. Last week you had the opportunity to learn about the History of Missouri Star Quilt Co., but the history of what is now known as Quilt Town, U.S.A. goes back even farther. To celebrate National Quilting Month, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the town that we now call home; a place that has allowed a start-up quilting shop to thrive and grow while inspiring countless of new creators along the way and in turn, has helped keep the art of quilting alive and well.
According to History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, Hamilton owes its existence largely to the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad. In 1855 Albert Gallatin Davis built the first home in Hamilton as a township was being considered due to the news of the railroad’s forthcoming arrival. Small railroad towns were a common development in the mid 1800’s as the new method of transportation allowed people to have access to goods and services that would have previously been difficult to acquire. Hamilton would begin to thrive thanks to these new developments in transportation and the town would reach a population of 1,800 (close to it’s current population today!) in the 1880’s (History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri).
An Early Entrepreneur
In 1875 James Cash Penney was born in Hamilton. Penney would later start the retail chain J C Penney which still exists to this day. Hamilton was proud of the accomplishments of one of their own and celebrates his memory each year with the annual J C Penney Days Festival. If you’ve kept up on your Missouri Star history as well, you may notice that one of our shops is named in honor of Penney as well! In order to better acknowledge the global contributions of this entrepreneur, Penney’s boyhood home has since been moved into the town limits and has become a museum which can be visited to this day.
A New Frontier
In November 2008 the Missouri Star Quilt Co. came to Hamilton. Originally a project to help support the Doan family after financial hardship, the company would soon blossom into what we know today, Quilt Town, U.S.A. In 2015, the Doans and Missouri Star Quilt Co. were named the Small Business Person of the Year from the Small Business Administration and their accomplishments didn’t end there. Hamilton has since become a destination for quilters from all over the world, opening a multitude of new crafting related shops, restaurants and even a retreat center to house tourists coming to visit the town.
Celebrities, politicians and quilters of all skill levels have made the journey to visit Quilt Town, U.S.A. To celebrate the art and history of quilting, you can even visit our very own Quilt Museum while in town; or get your picture taken in from on the World’s Largest Spool of Thread! Every week Jenny produces a new quilting tutorial which is uploaded to YouTube that allows even brand new quilters the opportunity to create a time-honored work of art that keeps the tradition of quilting alive. As Missouri Star grows, so does the opportunities to inspire the creativity of others. In 2020 Missouri Star began it’s latest series, The Final Stitch, where host Natalie Earnheart (Jenny’s daughter) answers tough questions from quilters and demonstrates helpful tips to finish quilting projects.
The Doan’s story has become one of legend, a true embodiment of the American Dream in which a family bonds together to create their own opportunity while helping to build the community of crafters around them, while also rebuilding the town which they now call home. Hamilton, Missouri is a very different place than it was just a few years ago. The long forgotten excitement of the railroad has again returned to Northwest Missouri as a world of new opportunities and advancements buds around a local community. Quilt Town, U.S.A. is here to stay and you won’t believe what’s in store next!
Still want to know more about the History of Quilt Town, U.S.A.? Check out this incredible video from our friends at Stripe!
What comes to mind when you hear the word “home”? To me, home is family. I can always be myself with them. Home is comfortable, it’s welcoming, it’s my happy place. Over the past year, we’ve all spent a lot more time at home, but the time is soon coming when we’ll be able to venture out again and I hope to see you before too long in my hometown. You’re always welcome in Quilt Town, USA. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate during National Quilting Month! We want you to know that wherever you are, you can always come home to quilting at Missouri Star.
Looking back on that first quilting tutorial, it’s incredible to see how far Missouri Star has come. There I was, stitching with my home sewing machine and the iron I’d used for years, sitting down (because I’d broken my foot!), and teaching a simple 4-patch block using a jelly roll. I had no idea what the future held for our tiny company. Twelve short years later, many wonderful milestones have been reached thanks to your support and love of quilting. Let’s take a look back at all the steps that have led us to where we are today (click on the links to learn more or for some major throwback nostalgia!):
Now, our hometown has been revitalized. Strolling down the streets is a joy as I walk past thoughtfully restored quilt shops filled with beautiful fabrics, bursting with inspiration for quilters of all kinds. It was not what I originally had in mind. It’s so much better.
The quilt shops came about in an interesting way. Over a decade ago, we had just one little brick shop, but then we started selling many different types of fabric and we thought it would be a good idea to group them by style. So, the individual quilt shops came about naturally. The main street in town had many empty storefronts and we have fixed them up one by one to house each different fabric collection. All our lives, we never had the money for a brand new house, but we had plenty of fixer uppers. My kids took on this project with enthusiasm because they weren’t afraid of these old buildings. And look at what they’ve become!
Thank you for your loving support over the years. We are constantly amazed at what our little hometown has become, a literal Quilt Town, USA! And it’s all possible because of you. We hope to welcome you back very soon.
As we begin to celebrate National Quilting Month, it is important to look back upon our history and appreciate how the art of quilting has evolved throughout our past. Each of us has a special responsibility as a quilter (whether you realize it or not!); we are tasked with keeping an ancient art form alive and well and with every stitch of fabric, we’re sewing the threads of the craft’s future. Whether you learned how to quilt in the traditional way of having the skill passed down from previous generations, or if you’re just finding your way today in a new world of online innovation, you’re now bound within the fabric of your creations. Take some time to celebrate National Quilting Month today and learn a little more about the History of Quilting.
Quilting has a long and storied history stretching back as far as ancient Egypt, piecing together a timeline of humanity from which we draw our crafting skills. While the quilting we know and love today is worlds different from the functional quilting of our past, it still holds a unique place in our hearts and in our history. For generations we’ve warmed ourselves and our families beneath quilts. They’ve been there to protect us, remind us of our past, and comfort us in difficult times.
While it’s not possible to capture the complete history of quilting in one attempt (and we’re by no means experts on the subject!), this guide can serve as a very broad overview of our craft—a guide to remind you that with every stitch you create, you create a stitch within the fabric of time. Many cultures in our world have used quilting as a means to document their history, survive harsh environments, and bring comfort during times of strife. For generations, careful hands have passed down their gifts until they have finally reached us and it is now in our hands to continue the quilting journey. Looking back on our past may be important, but it’s the quilters of today that will keep our craft alive.
Medieval Europe offers some of the clearest glimpses into the early history of quilting. As with many creative processes, quilting was utilized as a method of storytelling as well as a functional necessity. As cinema has given us the opportunity to visualize a story, early quilts allowed the creator to embellish and decorate with stories from both written and oral traditions. Two of the earliest known decorative quilts are from the 14th century and both capture the legend of Tristan and Isolde. Quilts throughout history have been used and created as both functional vessels of warmth and beautiful works of art.
Quilting Comes to America
Practicality was key for early American settlers. In a new environment, isolated from the known world, quilts found their purpose in the form of warmth. Most of the early American quilts were not focused on aesthetics, but rather were created from the limited resources available. They used whatever materials they had on hand, recycling outgrown and damaged clothing (and at times, even other, older quilts!) into new quilts. These quilts were purely for functionality and keeping warm.
If protection from the elements wasn’t beneficial enough, quilting developed another function in early colonial America—social interaction. As we all know, quilting is no easy task. The laborious process is well-loved by many, but before modern revolutions such as pre-cut materials and sewing machines, quilts had to be made entirely by hand.
The quilting bee, a social gathering where women came together to socialize and quilt, was a way for many early settlers in America to not only continue working on their projects, but interact with their community and have fun while sewing during the long process! For many, quilting was a relaxing activity and something to look forward to, especially when able to gather with their fellow quilters. These social gatherings, along with sewing at home, allowed the opportunity for quilting to be passed on as a generational skill. Mothers would teach daughters the basic stitches and then in turn, would pass those skills on to their children, creating a lifetime of heirloom quilts with nostalgic memories layered within the fabric. Quilting became a popular activity for major life events in which entire quilts were completed within a day due to limited time with neighbors whom early settlers might have only seen a few times a year. The Victoria and Albert museum states, “particularly in north America … there is a tradition of a quilt-making ‘bee’ for a girl about to get married, with the aim of stitching a whole quilt in one day”.
These gatherings and the first boom in quilt popularity gave birth to many of the vintage blocks that we still use and gain inspiration from today. Early American crafters, much like the earliest quilters, told stories with their projects by sewing the world around them. The pinwheel block utilizes motion, demonstrating the prairie winds of which they traveled. Star blocks captured the night sky and the importance of light in a vast, unexplored wilderness. These blocks have been passed down for centuries until they became the staples of quilting that we know and love today.
Today, quilting is more accessible than it ever has been. We live in a world of pre-cut fabrics available at the press of a button and instructional videos that can be watched online from the convenience of our homes. Quilting isn’t entirely a necessity as it once was, we can instead use it as a creative outlet and pastime.
The world of quilting continues to change as the world we live in evolves. Modern quilting utilizing bold color designs and prints, once an impossibility due to limited technology and supplies, has brightened the artform in unimaginable ways. Geometric and fractal quilting are growing in popularity as a new generation of quilters piece their first works, many of which have learned their craft online rather than through the traditional in-person learning process. As the world changes, so does quilting. Regardless of what the quilts of tomorrow look like, we can remember where they came from and keep their memory alive within our patchwork. So pick up an old pattern today and try something new— replace the background with a bold, modern color or add some abstract designs into your block but remember that with every stitch, you’re continuing the timeline of quilt history.