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

Front Cover
For more than two hundred years, American women have been recording their hopes and dreams, their fears and frustrations in the exacting stitches and exuberant designs of their quilts. The American Quilt shows how these virtuoso textiles, long appreciated for their bold graphic appeal and naive charm, are also a fascinating reflection of cultural and social attitudes, painting an indelible portrait of our nation’s history and the remarkable women who lived it.

America of the 18th and 19th centuries developed at a breathtaking pace, and the changes that marked each era were inevitably mirrored in the prevailing quilting styles of the period. The American Quilt marks the first time the evolution of quilting has been traced chronologically, identifying the fabric, design, and construction hallmarks of each period and showing the genesis of beloved patterns and styles. A thorough discussion of America’s textile history, complete with a fabric time-line, provides further insight into antique quilts, offering important clues to their age and provenance.

The American Quilt charts the course of quilting in America, from the earliest whole-cloth and broderie perse quilts through the emergence of the block style in all its regional and popular permutations. Special sections are devoted to quilt subgenres, including Amish quilts, Baltimore Album quilts, mourning quilts, and African-American quilts, that are highly prized by collectors today.

Quilt collectors will also find helpful information on displaying, storing, and caring for quilts, as well as an exhaustive directory of dealers and quilt collections that have been updated for this edition.

Filled with more than 250 photographs of rarely seen quilts and delightful evocations of quilting’s colorful past, The American Quilt is a thought-provoking and important step forward in our ever-expanding knowledge of this remarkable folk art.

“[The American Quilt] offers a profusely illustrated survey that ingeniously weaves the threads of America’s social, political, economic, and industrial history into the evolution of the quilt-making arts.” —New York Times

“A longtime dealer of antique quilts, Kiracofe has given us a guide to evaluating and dating old quilts, and has included methods of tracking down the makers, and advice on their cleaning, storage, hanging, and restoration. A pleasure for the generalist, this book will be indispensable to serious students and collectors.” —Washington Post

“A must for any serious student of quilts.” —Quilter’s Notebook

A “classic quilt tome.”—USA Today

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Baxtergirl - LibraryThing

One of the best go-to quilting histories Read full review

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

RODERICK KIRACOFE was cofounder of The Quilt Digest, produced Homage to Amanda: 200 Years of American Quilts, and authored Cloth & Comfort. He has assembled corporate and private quilt collections across the country and curated quilt exhibits here and abroad. He lives in San Francisco.

MARY ELIZABETH JOHNSON wrote her first quilt book in 1976 and has since authored a dozen more craft and home decorating titles. Her latest and final book on the subject will be a history of the quilting in her home state of Alabama. She lives in Montgomery.

For more information, visit

Bibliographic information