Through quilts, Americans have done a very human thing: they have shared their lives, comfort, and convictions with their families, communities, and strangers. They have spoken to, engaged with, and related to other people—quiltmakers and non-quiltmakers alike—through the acts of planning, making, giving, and displaying quilts. Across the arc of American history quiltmakers have engaged their worlds through quilts and the processes of making them.
Quiltmakers have long acted out of an understanding that most people share. That is, we don’t live isolated existences, but are connected to one another regardless of geographic, political, religious, cultural, or social boundaries. The words of Rev. Henry Melvill, written in 1853, seem to capture how quiltmakers believe their quilts make a difference: “Ye cannot live for yourselves; a thousand fibers connect you with your fellow-men, and along those fibers, as along sympathetic threads, run your actions as causes, and return to you as effects.” For many American quiltmakers, those connecting threads run through their quilts.