Male Quiltmakers

Do men make quilts? The simple answer is, Yes, they do, and have for many hundreds of years. 

“Man-made” quilts go back at least to 13th-century Europe. Male professional makers of quilts (whole cloth), mattresses, pourpoints, and other padded garments founded the culctstickers guild in the Flemish port city, Bruges, in 1293.1 One of the earliest male quilters known by name was Joe Hedley of Warden, England (1750-1826), remembered for his inventive quilting designs.2 

How do male quiltmakers make quilts? Florence Peto profiled several male quiltmakers in her 1939 book, observing that, “Men have shown a disposition to be inventive in their quilt creations.”3 

More recently Jean Burks, curator of the the Shelburne Museum’s “Man-Made Quilts: Civil War to the Present,” observed that men were likely to first develop an idea for a quilt and then acquire the skills to make it. Joe Cunningham, both a scholar of male quiltmaking and a quiltmaker/artist, says that men in the last 200 years typically started quiltmaking in one of three ways: in a spirit of competition, to make money, or during a period of confinement when unable to engage in typical male activities. Especially since the 1970s, male artists have turned to quilts as their art medium.4

Today, more men make quilts—or at least they have become more open about it than in the past. Possibly, as women have moved into typically male realms since the 1970s, men have become more comfortable engaging in historically female activities such as quiltmaking. Some men today join local quilt guilds, but they are more likely to connect online, likely on various social media channels.

1. An Moonen, A History of Dutch Quilts (Utrecht: Van Gruting, 2010), 17.

2. “Quilting,” MarGorsson Classic Contemporary Craft, November 13, 2011.

3. Florence Peto, Historic Quilts (New York: The American Historical Company, Inc, 1939), 115–136.

4. Jean Burks and Joe Cunningham, Man-Made Quilts: Civil War to the Present  (Shelburne, Vermont: Shelburne Museum, 2012), 1, 10-26.