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Album Quilt

Quilting stitches in contrasting patterns create texture on the white background fabric.

Miniature white stars were carefully sewn onto this patriotic shield design.

Fabrics of different colors and patterns give shape and texture to the fruit and flowers.

key idea
Piecing It Together

Women in Baltimore, Maryland, made album quilts that looked quite different from those made in other parts of the country. These unusual quilts became known as Baltimore album quilts.

The vining border along the edges of this quilt is characteristic of Baltimore album quilts. It acts as a frame, focusing attention on the rows of individually designed squares. To create their designs, the quilt makers used a challenging technique called appliqué. They cut small shapes out of fabric, layered them on top of a larger background fabric, and then carefully sewed them down with tiny, even stitches. Another type of stitching, called “quilting,” joins the front, middle, and back layers of the quilt together. Thousands of these minute stitches give texture to the entire quilt.

Baltimore album quilts are remarkable for their dazzling variety of fabrics. In the mid-1800s Baltimore was a bustling port city, with markets that sold dry goods of all kinds. Cloth from Europe and from America’s growing textile industry flooded into Baltimore in a sea of colors and patterns. In other regions of the country, album quilts were often made with scraps of leftover material or bits of worn-out clothing. Baltimore quilt makers, however, selected fabrics carefully and purchased them specially for the quilts. They chose cloth that was new and unusual—and often costly. Baltimore album quilts were not for everyday use. They were meant to be displayed and admired.

This layered fabric looks like a woven basket.
January 2009