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Quilt Block History & Coloring Pages


Quilting is the process of sewing two or more layers of fabric together to make a thicker, padded material such as a quilt or quilted garment. Historically there are three different types of quilts – the plain or whole cloth quilt, appliqué quilts, and pieced or patchwork quilts.

Our pioneer ancestors typically made quilts for necessity to provide warm covers for beds or to cover doors and windows to keep out the cold. Women were often creative in their use of materials on hand to keep their families warm. While interest in quilt making continues to grow, it is now done more for relaxation than out of necessity. Some quilters follow the craft in a very traditional form while others have found quilt making to be an artistic medium, and have created new styles and techniques.

The earliest American quilters typically made their quilts by adding small pieces of fabric or strips to an ever-growing top. This proved to be difficult to work with as the quilt top approached its full size. Therefore, quilters eventually started breaking their projects into more manageable sections or blocks. Quilt blocks were usually constructed from simple geometric shapes including squares, rectangles, triangles, and diamonds. Through the years, the popularity of quilt blocks has changed.  Keep reading to learn a bit of history about four popular quilts: Basket Quilts, Log Cabin Quilts, Crazy Quilts, and Dresden Plate Quilts. And for fun, why not print one of our Quilt Block Coloring Pages and show your creativity with a design of your very own!

Click here to print Quilt Block Coloring Pages!
Basket Quilt Block Coloring Page
Log Cabin Quilt Block Coloring Page
Crazy Quilt Block Coloring Page
Dresden Plate Quilt Block Coloring Page

Basket Quilts

In the mid-19th century, pieced basket patterns became a popular motif for quiltmakers. The variety of ways we use baskets in quilts is endless, from baskets with handles to those without, appliqued with fruits and flowers or various pieced basket patterns. Throughout the life of our nation, you can find baskets used as a decorative symbol from dishes, carved mantle pieces, painting and stitched into samplers and quilts. Although we no longer use baskets in our everyday lives to carry vegetables, flowers, and other goods we still use them as containers for gifts, decorative arrangements and to piece into our beloved quilts.


Log Cabin Quilts

One of the most used and well-known quilt blocks is the log cabin block.  Based on pioneers traveling west, it is comprised of narrow strips to represent the logs of their homes.  Traditionally made of red fabric, the center square symbolizes the hearth, the focal point of life in a cabin or home.  In the 1860s, during the time of the Civil War, log cabin quilts became widespread in the United States and are thought to have a connection to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln who was raised in a log cabin home.


Crazy Quilts

Crazy quilts were popular in the late 1800s and began in the homes of wealthy women.  Traditionally made from delicate silks and velvets and used only as a display, the “patches” of fabric were stitched together and lavishly embroidered with a variety of threads that added elegance.  They were not a practical quilt used on beds, as the fabrics used were very fragile.  Instead, these quilts were displayed in the parlor of the home as more of a woman’s way of bragging to her guests.  If a woman had time to sit idly and stitch these very ornate quilts, she usually came from an upper-class family.
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Dresden Plate Quilts 

Making its debut in the 1920s, the Dresden plate quilt block was first published as a pattern in the 1930s.  These quilts are typically easy to date because of the traditional floral prints of the time and are often made of feed sacks.  This pattern consists of a flower-like plate that is pieced and then appliqued to a solid, often white background. During the Great Depression, feed sacks, used for holding grain and seeds, started to be manufactured with prints, and women would often request that their husbands return home with matching sacks. Women would use these floral cloth sacks to make clothes for themselves and their children and the scraps would be made into quilts.  
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