Some people have no trouble threading a needle, making use of the materials at hand, and stitching fabric swatches together to create spectacular quilts. By the way, guess when the invention of the needle and thread took place? (See answer below).
And so visitors to the upcoming exhibition of The New England Quilt Museum are in for a treat. The show MASTER PIECES: Haberdashery Textiles in Antique Quilts is heading to Lowell.
There will be more than 40 works made from simple utilitarian fabrics long overlooked in the study of antique quilts.
The antique quilts on exhibit are made of menswear fabrics recycled from suits and shirts, neckties, pajamas, military uniforms, work clothes, and socks. Some resulted from the artful salvage of menswear swatch sample books and fabric mill remnants.
In addition to the quilts themselves, the exhibit will feature historic advertisements, swatch books, and catalogs from menswear companies, dating from the 1900s through the 1950s, including several items from the vaults of Brooks Brothers, the chief sponsor of the exhibition.
The tradition of making unique, often very personal quilts from repurposed menswear textiles gained popularity around 1850, and lasted through the 1950s. Today, the tradition revives in memory quilts made from old T-shirts and clothing that has personal sentiment. The exhibition once again proves that the art of recycling clothing into items of beauty and practicality has a long and important history in the US (see Etsy or Boston Handmade for example).
Guest curator Laure Fischer will be speaking about the exhibition on September 26. On Sunday, September 27, the museum will host a demonstration on making quilts from recycled T-shirts. The public is invited to come learn how to turn T-shirts into a quilt using basic sewing skills. In addition, historic textiles expert Pam Weeks will deliver a lecture about the history of textile production in New England on October 17.
The exhibition runs from September 24 through November 15.
Image credit: All images courtesy of the New England Quilt Museum. Portrait quilt, made from neckties, with painted center panel, maker unknown, mid 20th century. Photo by Fletcher Boland. Two of the quilts above are made from suiting materials, and another is made from military uniforms. All are late 19th -early 20th century.
The answer according to Wiki is that handsewing as artform began some 20,000 years ago.