Category Archives: Quilt History

Lecture: Phyllis Twigg Hatcher, “150 Years of Quilts”


This past weekend I attended the Peconic Quilt Show on the east end of Long Island. One of the highlights was a lecture by Phyllis Twigg Hatcher featuring 150 years of quilts.

There is something magical about seeing quilts that were made in the 1800’s. Especially quilts that had a modern design. It makes you see that these women were truly artists and — despite lives that involved a lot of mundane household chores — they took the time to make their quilts beautiful.

Phyllis is an excellent speaker. She was informative, energetic, and very funny. She had great stories about the background of each quilt, and she probably showed us 30 of them. Even though I’m not especially fascinated by older quilts, I learned a great deal and came away with a far greater appreciation of older quilts. I also learned quite a bit about the dying process.

One more comment … I had my teenage daughter with me at the lecture, and my daughter even admitted that Phyllis “did not suck.” That kind of praise is equivalent to having your quilt win at Houston!

You can learn more about Phyllis at

(If you can’t see the photos, please check out my blog at

Phyllis talking about a redwork quilt.

One of the crib quilts from the lecture. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s about 150 years old.

Marianne Elizabeth Lecture and Fabrics


At the “Quilter’s Gathering” in Nashua, New Hampshire, I attended a lecture called “Behind the Scenes: The Making of Fabric” conducted by Marianne Elizabeth. I was excited to attend this lecture, because I knew nothing about fabric design or production.

Marianne is a great speaker. She has incredible passion for her vintage designs and spoke for 90 minutes without notes. She also answered a wide range of questions about the fabric design and production process over the last 200 years.

Marianne researches her fabrics at the American History Textile Museum in Lowell, MA. ( Until this week, I did not know that such a museum existed. Her designs are transformed into CAD programs at the mills and printed in Japan.

It was interesting to me that, although we think of fabric companies (Moda, Northcott, etc.) as manufacturers, they are actually known as “converters.” They design and market fabric, but all manufacturers print at the same few textile mills. The quality of the plates and dyes does not vary between quilt shop and mass marketed fabric — but the grey goods used for production (ie the unprinted fabric) can vary greatly in quality.

She said that most manufacturers do one 3,000 yard run per fabric and that’s it. So if you like a fabric — buy it now!

One thing I found interesting was how you make a line work together — but how each fabric must function on its own. Apparently many (most?) quilt stores do not group collections together, assuming they even purchase more than a couple of bolts from a collection. Rather than being grouped together, fabrics are separated and stored with like colors and designs.

As an aside … I think this is one reason I like online shopping. Collections are shown together, and you know that your purchases will match and make something spectacular. I had no idea that, hidden in my local quilt shop, may be several collections that had been divided up.

Although I am not a fan of vintage fabrics, I have to say that her fabrics are beautiful. Yes, I had to buy some for a  future quilt.

Classically Home Fabrics, by Marianne Elizabeth

DVD Series: Why Quilts Matter


I am a member of the Empire Quilt Guild in New York City. On Saturday, our speaker was Shelly Zegart, creator of the 9-DVD series called “Why Quilts Matter.” We were fortunate enough to watch one of the episodes about how quilts empowered women.

This episode contains the “Sunbonnet Sue Must Die” quilt that I’ve heard about for years. In each block you see poor Sunbonnet Sue murdered in a variety of ways — hanging, drowning, and stabbing are among them. I found this quilt to be hilarious! Shelly Zegart is a former owner of this quilt, now in a permanent collection at a museum.

Many of us (including me) had grandmothers who quilted. I remember snuggling under my grandmother’s HEAVY crazy quilt. As a child, there was something about that quilt that made me feel incredibly safe — possibly because it was quilted over wool blankets and weighed a ton! But I’ve never been very interested in the history of quilting. That is, until Saturday.

I purchased the DVD set, which is $39.95. I have not yet watched any more episodes, but am excited to do so. Here’s Shelly Zegart’s website where you can find out more information.