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War and Pieced...and Pieced and Pieced and Pieced

War and Pieced...and Pieced and Pieced and Pieced

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

Ever think to yourself—"this quilt has waaaaay too many pieces?” A not-to-be-missed exhibition currently at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum will make clear you’ve got nothing to complain about!

Soldier's Quilt made in India circa 1855-1875

War and Pieced: The Annette Gero Collection of Quilts from Military Fabrics features quilts stitched from thousands of pieces and unlike any you’re likely to have seen.

These photos here are from the War and Pieced exhibition held in late 2017/early 2018 at the American Folk Art Museum. Most of the quilts are now on view at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

The most commonly used material is milled wool broadcloth, which limited fraying, and soldiers sewed a number of the quilts while convalescing from injuries sustained in battle. Adeptness with needle and thread was important for soldiers on the battle front, who needed to maintain their uniforms.

"Turkish Wars" intarsia quilt, dated 1719 

In addition, some units travelled with tailors and some of these skilled sewists created some of these quilts.

Samuel Atwood, an Army tailer, circa 1850-1860. He served in India and is making a quilt characteristic of those produced there in its complexity and layout.

While the quilts were one way of transforming the horror of battle into a thing of beauty, some also served a political function.

Sailor's Quilt, late 19th century

Detail of Sailor's Quilt (above)

Those created during the Crimean War, a conflict for which the British government was accused of providing soldiers with inadequate food, clothing, and shelter, may have been highlighted by the government to demonstrate that injured soldiers were functioning and capable of earning a living after battle.

Portrait of Thomas Walker, 1856. Walker survived more than a dozen surgeries and this painting was widely shared as a way of providing living proof that the government cared for its soldiers. Queen Victoria visited him in the hospital and eventually acquired one of his quilts.

Other quilts, including those made in India, may have been a way to fill long hours in an unfamiliar land. The reasons for their creation are not always clear, but the outcome is jaw-dropping.

For more information on the history of these quilts and about the exhibition, click here and scroll down. Don't miss your chance to see these amazing pieces of art! Visit the International Quilt Study Center and Museum before the exhibition closes on September 16, 2018. 

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