Click the Image to Enlarge

Unknown Floral Spray Lily Quilt, 19th Century


Quilts are bed coverings made by sewing two pieces of material together with a filler in between. Quilts are described according to the techniques used: pieced, appliquéd, quilted, and combinations.

Quilt making was a skill passed down from mother to daughter, and quilts, although practical household items, were decorative as well. Quilt making also provided opportunities for social occasions through the quilting bee—a work party where women came together to help each other in the stitching and final assembly of quilts. Pioneer women had little time for chatting, and neighbors typically lived far away. The quilting bee provided a chance for women to visit with each other while completing a necessary task.

  • Floral Spray Lily Quilt, 19th century
  • 81″ x 67″
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Keywords: textiles, quilts, appliquéd cotton
  • Subjects: flowers, appliqué

This quilt uses an appliqué technique with a diagonal composition. The background material is white, and the appliquéd patches are red and green. The jagged edge is accomplished by piecing two triangles together to make a square.

Some Points To Consider

  • Help students analyze the formal (traditional) and technical (measured) quilt design choices. Identify and discuss shape, pattern, repetition, balance, and red/green color scheme. (Art 4.3.1)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Help students research quilt designs online. Let them choose a design and draw it on paper. Invite a local quilter to bring quilts to the class for study and to help students make a pieced quilt. Have parents or other volunteers available to help with the sewing. Provide precut triangles and squares of scrap fabric. Help students sandwich the batting between two pieces of fabric and baste the layers together. Then they can draw designs using chalk on the top fabric. Help them stitch through all layers using small stitches. Have them try for ten stitches per inch—that is how many stitches a master quilter would use. Ask a parent or other volunteer to sew all the squares together so you can exhibit the finished quilt in the classroom. (Art 4.7.1, 4.7.2, 4.7.4)