Starting with potholders as young as three years, little girls were preparing for their future by sewing for their dolls. Throughout the nineteenth century, most American women were responsible for the sewing of their families’ clothes and the household linen. The simple stitches required to construct doll quilts were prerequisites to master those household responsibilities, so basic sewing began at an early age.
The American Girl’s Book (1879) suggested that “children may learn to make patch-work by beginning with kettle-holders and iron-holders; and for these purposes the smallest piece of calico may be used. These holders should be lined with thick white muslin, and bound all around with tape; at one corner there should be a loop by which to hang them up.”
The favorite toy of little girls has always been the doll. The young girl who was given a doll quilt could love it and learn from it, but it was with the passing of needle and thread into her own small hands that the tradition of American quilts has been handed down through the ages. Mothers used that needle and thread to convey to their daughters the meaning of being a woman and the responsibilities of womanhood.
While most doll quilts are simple in design, four-patch and nine-patch the most popular, there was still great attention to detail with the emphasis on trying to replicate a full-size quilt. Depending on the age and skill level of a young quilter, doll quilts were often constructed with crude stitches and mismatched pieces. Their charm, however, is still irresistible and when you consider many doll quilts were a first attempt, you have to love them like no other quilt.
This is, indeed, a very special gallery and more doll quilts will be added over the coming months for your enjoyment.