Saturday Morning Quilt Break: October in Quilt History

With the new month comes some factoids about sewing- and quilt-related events that have occurred in the month of October over the years. Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane!

1867: Elias Howe, Jr., died on October 3 in Brooklyn, New York. Although not the first person to invent a sewing machine, he was the first to receive a U.S. patent for what is considered the first practical sewing machine. His design for a lockstitch machine that featured a needle with the eye at the tip and an automatic feed revolutionized the garment industry and sparked years of legal battles as he struggled to earn the royalties he was due from other manufacturers, including Singer.

Ringgold quilt 300x294 Saturday Morning Quilt Break: October in Quilt History

Faith Ringgold, Maya’s Quilt of Life, acrylic on canvas and painted, dyed pieced fabrics, 1989. Sold September 15, 2015 for $461,000. Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.

1930: Artist Faith Ringgold, known for her painted story quilts, was born October 8 in Harlem, New York. In 2015, her piece Maya’s Quilt of Life, which she was commissioned to make by Oprah Winfrey to honor Maya Angelou, sold at auction for the record-breaking amount of $461,000. It is now in the collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

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Photo from The NAMES Project Foundation

1987: The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, conceived by gay rights activist Cleve Jones, was displayed for the first time October 11 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It covered a space larger than a football field and included 1,920 panels filled with names of people who had died of AIDS. An overwhelming response led to a 20-city national tour. Panels were added in each city, and the quilt grew to include 6,000 panels by the end of the four-month tour. It is considered the largest piece of folk art ever made.

1995: The movie “How to Make an American Quilt” hit theaters on October 6. Based on the novel by Whitney Otto and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, the film boasted an all-star cast including Winona Ryder, Maya Angelou, Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Alfre Woodard and many others (such as Claire Danes and Jared Leto early in their careers). The “stunt” quilts used on-screen were made by 14 quilters in Southern California; you can read all about their creation as well as which of the actresses already knew something about quilting (and which ones didn’t) in this 1995 article from the Los Angeles Times.

These are just a few of the quilt-related things that have occurred during the month of October. You can read about more here!

Wishing you a week of creating your own masterpiece!
Mary Kate

About Mary Kate

Mary Kate is an associate editor at McCall's Quilting and Quiltmaker. If you ask her what type of quilter she considers herself, she'll answer, "Slow." Favorite techniques include hand quilting, both traditional and big stitch, but she also loves her walking foot and is working on getting better acquainted with her open-toe embroidery foot.
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One Response to Saturday Morning Quilt Break: October in Quilt History

  1. Ruth Gawlikoski says:

    I guess it is really true. One never gets too old to learn something new.

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