Thursday, January 26, 2012


Pictorial Quilt 1898
Quilter --Harriet Powers
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Massachusetts

Bible Quilt -- 1886
"Adam and Eve Naming the Animals"
Quilter, Harriet Powers
Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

History repeats itself over time in all types of genera. In this case -- appliqued pictorial quilts. 

In the 1800s a Georgia woman of African-American descent created a quilt out of cotton panels and appliqued story pieces on them. Today she is considered the "mother of appliqued quilts." Two of her quilts are still with us in Boston and Washington  D. C. museums. These two quilts are the lone survivors of her work. Unless . . .

 Another quilt is known to have been created by Harriet Powers. The book This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers' Bible Quilt and Other Pieces by Kara E. Hicks, provides the following information, "In 2009, a copy of an 1896 letter from Harriet Powers to a prominent Keokuk, Iowa woman surfaced . . . it (sic) describes a quilt made about 1882 that she called the Lord's Supper quilt. It is unclear if the presumably appliqued quilt still physically exists today. Given that two of Powers' appliqued quilts have survived for over 100 years, it is possible the Lord's Supper quilt could be in a collection." (Hicks)

"Wild and Wooley"
Pictorial Applique Wall Hanging Quilt
Creator -- Ms Betty
From the 1800s lets jump to a 2011. Here an appliqued wall hanging tells a contemporary garden story -- created by Ms Betty who is a member of the Berea Depot Quilters guild in Berea, Kentucky.  

Section of "Wild and Wooley"

Here we find the same idea of the Powers quilt of telling a story. The story appears to be about  gardening, home, food and insects all intertwined into a artistic blend of applique.

"Section of Wild and Wooley"

Pieced with many different colors and patterns the quilt does appear joyously wild with the use of wool appliqued pieces.

Section of "Wild and Wooley"

Such works of art such as the applique quilt reminds me of how women can avail themselves to artistically contribute their own personal stories.  

Harriet Powers truly was the "mother of appliqued quilts" who began a traditional art that she created over a hundred years ago. A traditional art that is still going strong today.


Online Sources

Harriet Powers Quilt

Book Sources

by Maude Southwell Wahlman

This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers' Bible Quilt and Other Pieces. by Kara E. Hicks,  Publisher: Black Threads Press


  1. These quilts offer so much to look at and think about, an individual view of the world. The relative size of each item fascinates me but I haven't been able to arrive at any theory about it --like the ant beside the watermelon. Thanks for the sampling of quilts that are not reproduced in photos very often.

  2. I've heard of this book, and have nearly gotten it for my quilting friend Jo as a gift a few times, but then wonder if she's already got it! I love "Wild and Wooley," especially your closeup of the wonderful ant making off with all that tasty fruit! Too cute!

  3. I'm familiar with the Powers quilt -- a wonderful piece of folk art. The women of our community (myself included) have made a lot of quilts, including some applique beauties. Such fun to do.

  4. What incredible works of art they are, and labors of love. I was thinking a a couple of days ago how quilting bees provided women the opportunity to bond and find support among their group, while creating something together that represents so many fine things about this life: home and family (however one defines it), warmth and security, stitching lives together with a common goal.

  5. June -- Interested the theory that you are thinking about. If you come up with one please let me know. You theory would be appreciated as you are a quilter.
    thanks for the comment -- barbara

  6. Laloofah -- Yes, the ant caught my eye too -- so out of proportion to the watermelon -- very folk feeling. There are so many great historic quilt books to choose from for your friend. Check out my sidebar -- I just listed "Barbara Brackman Material Culture." I think your friend would really enjoy her post -- it is done well. Thanks -- barbara

  7. Vicki -- I would love to see some of your work on your posts. Perhaps if I search your blog I will come up with some of your quilts. Thanks for stopping by -- barbara

  8. Teresa -- The interesting part of Afro-American quilts is that there work is so distinctive. The quilt makers of this descent have spread their traditions to most places in the U.S. -- the south seemingly the most prevalent. It supports your idea that quilters bond to like groups which radiates out toward other communities. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

  9. Amazing! What stories they tell... and the colors.

  10. Birdman -- Quilts are a whole culture onto themselves. Thanks -- barbara

  11. When you visited my blog, this was the post at the time. Photographed (again) one in my space that I need to write about. Will get to it one day soon. Saw a very different Kentucky in mid 1950s. Enjoying your images and am drawn to some of the same. Will be back.

    1. naomi -- Nice that you stopped by. Like the feminist slant to your blog. -- barbara