While almanacs, paintings, and books often depicted the Western culture as a monarchy of manly adventure, a dispute between nature and men or between Indians and white men, women also played important roles in the voyage and settling of the West. On the other hand, the demands of the cultural norms and frontier life limited the women’s opportunities for inventive and artistic expression. However, scholars have recently found that the significant contributions of early Western women didn’t go unrecorded. Aside from journals and diaries, women also documented their everyday lives through Western quilts.
Western quilts were the most fashionable type of needlework in the 19th century. Such quilts were a way of both emotional and physical comfort on the frontier settlements or the westward trails. Moreover, they were utilized or added into coffins, as well.
The Western quilts, which were created by the early Western women, often depicted the flora and fauna that was experienced in the ancient West. Stars, peonies, hawks, and honeysuckle have been found on quite a number of quilts from the era. Migration was a major theme, as well.
Other Western quilts or pieces celebrated accomplishments, weddings, arrivals, or births. In spite of their commemoratory motifs, the method of crating the quilts was rather complex. It demanded meticulous skill and long hours, and often in very hard conditions, too. They also became a mode of community building because of the frequently isolated and harsh settings on the frontier. Before the migration to the West, a couple of quilting bees were organized by the women in order to inspire unity and cooperation in work ethics. These bees then became ceremonies for farewell. Friendship Western quilts, which were inscribed with the wishes and names of old friends, were popular and cherished mementos of the life and culture left behind, as well.
Western quilts come in three types of style: embroidery, appliqué, and patchwork. The most common among these types is patchwork, which can be found on several cottage beds. A lot of patchwork designs are very complicated and are never written down. Instead, they are remembered by heart and passed from generation to generation.
Applique styles are found throughout the Western area, as well. Small fabric squares are cut out, and its edgings are turned under and stitched onto the block cloth. Meanwhile, embroidery Western quilts are the area of expertise of some nomadic clusters, particularly the Saami. In general, such quilts utilize a coloured thread and a big piece of patched or whole fabric, and have embroidery stitching designs running through all the fabric’s layers.
There are a lot of communities and areas that have their own patterns and colours in their quilts. The conventional colours of the Western quilts are known as satrangi, which means seven colours including purple, blue, dark green, yellow orange, red, black, and white. On the other hand, some communities may prefer to add other colours. For instance, the Hindus like light green and pink, while the Jogis like orange and brown.