Suzy Quilts Book Club: Fabric of a Nation Discussion Part II

Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

Hello again, you wonderful quilting book worms! Here we are in Part II of the first-ever Suzy Quilts Book Club! This week, we're discussing chapters 4-6 of the quilt history book Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories, sharing our thoughts about the book as a whole, and getting all the details of an amazing IG LIVE interview with one of the exhibit's curators. Plus we'll see pictures of some of the best quilts made in recent history—what's not to love? 

Keep reading for details on how to watch my interview with MFA curator Jennifer Swope and to be part of the Fabric of a Nation conversation by answering discussion questions in the comments of this blog post. I can't wait to chat with you and hear what you learned during the Suzy Quilts Book Club!

Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

Double Wedding Ring, Unidentified artist, American, possibly Missouri, about 1940. Cotton plain weave, pieced, and quilted. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Suzy Quilts Book Club Schedule

  • Introduction, October 8: Order Fabric of a Nation
  • Discussion Part 1, November 18: Chapters 1-3 blog post
  • Discussion Part 2, December 13: We will discuss Chapters 4-6 in this blog post.
  • Live Book Club Interview, December 16: Laura will interview Jennifer Swope, Associate Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts for the MFA, Boston, and moderate a discussion about both the book and the exhibit. Don't miss this behind-the-scenes look at a landmark exhibit! This IG LIVE event will happen on the Suzy Quilts Instagram at 11:30 am Central.
Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

To God and Truth.Bisa Butler (American, born in 1973), 2019. Printed and resist-dyed cottons, cotton velvet, rayon satin, and knotted string, pieced, appliquéd, and quilted. 
© Bisa Butler and Claire Oliver Gallery. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Here's how you can get involved with the book discussion.

  • Comment on the blog: Answer one of the discussion questions below, ask your own question, or write your observations from the book in the blog comments, which I'll read and reply to.
  • Watch the Instagram LIVE: Comment during an IG LIVE on the Suzy Quilts Instagram. If you can't watch LIVE, the video will be reposted here and saved on Suzy's grid, so you can still comment. 
  • Join the Suzy Quilts Facebook Group: We'll keep the conversation going after the IG LIVE in the Facebook Group as well! I'll post a link to this blog post and readers can also comment there.

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Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

Bricklayer or Courthouse Steps quilt, about 1955. Creola Bennett Pettway (American, 1927 – 2015) or possibly Georgianna Bennett Pettway (American, died in 2012). Gee's Bend, Alabama, United States. Pieced cotton plain weave top; quilted. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The Big Three Questions, Part II

In Part I of our book club, I asked three questions to get your discussion wheels spinning. And I told you I'd be asking them again in Part II! It will be so interesting to see how you all answer these questions after reading the entire book. 

  • What was your favorite quilt, or the quilt that sparked your interest the most?
  • What was the most surprising new fact about quilts that you learned?
  • Has this book broadened or changed your understanding of quilt history? In what ways?

For Part II of our discussion, I'm also interested in learning if you had a favorite chapter of the book, or if you preferred the first or second half. Were you drawn more to the oldest quilts or more interested in the more recent art quilts? 

Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

Survivors, 2011-2013. Carla Hemlock (Haudenosaunee, Kanienkeháka (Mohawk), born in 1961). Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory, near Montreal, Quebec. Cotton plain weave and glass beads; pieced, appliquéd, beaded, and quilted. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

An Interview With a Curator

Now that we've finished the entire Fabric of a Nation book, we are going to have a conversation with Jennifer Swope, a textiles curator at the MFA to get a look behind the scenes! We'll talk about her background and how she got her job, the development and installation of the "Fabric of a Nation" exhibit, the differences between the exhibit and the book, and more! 

So mark your calendars for December 16 at 11:30 am Central! This IG LIVE, which will be on the Suzy Quilts Instagram account, is at a different time than usual. Our LIVES are usually in the evening, but for this very special book club LIVE, we will be chatting during the workday so that we are able to talk with Jennifer while she's at the museum.

I've written interview questions to ask Jennifer, but I'll also try to keep an eye on the comments. So if you have any questions you want to ask about the book or exhibit, make sure to put them in the comments on the IG LIVE! You can also tell us any questions you have for Jennifer in the comments on this blog post and I can add them to my interview.

Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

Pictorial quilt, Harriet Powers (American, 1837-1910). Cotton plain weave, pieced, appliqued, embroidered, and quilted. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Audiences in the Millions: Quilts Outside of the Home

In the first half of Fabric of a Nation, labor was a central theme. Investigating not only who made quilts themselves, but also who made the fabric and materials harvested that are required to make quilts opened our eyes to lesser-known or discussed topics in American quilt history, such as imported quilts or weavings and bedcovers that pre-date American quilting traditions.

In the second half of the book, one interesting theme is the transition of quilts from being domestic objects to being public objects, and how that happened on a large scale earlier than other quilt exhibits explore. As the authors write, quilts were "constant features" at international fairs that were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. "With audiences in the millions, these fairs provided highly public platforms for individual artistic creations," including quilts like those made by formerly enslaved quilt artist Harriet Powers. Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition of 1933-1934 even hosted a quilt competition that received around twenty-five thousand entries!

Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

A Century of Progress, 1933, Richard H. Rowley (American, d. 1968) and possibly Louise Rowley. Cotton plain weave, appliquéd, embroidered, and quilted. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The story of quilts moving into public spaces culminates in the chapter "Rockets & Gallery Walls" where we see the budding art quilt movement and learn about one of the earliest blockbuster quilt exhibits, the Whitney Museum's 1971 show "Abstract Design in American Quilts" which featured quilts from the collection of Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof. 

And of course, today we quilt shows across the country and world, like QuiltCon, Quilt National, and the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival in addition to museums around the world that exhibit quilts. There are quilting TV shows, quilt guilds, and professional quilt organizations like Studio Art Quilt Associates. Not to mention social media where quilters of all skill levels share their beautiful work!

As quilters today, our audiences are at least in the millions.

Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

Krakow Kabuki Waltz, 1987, Virginia Jacobs (American), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cotton plain weave, pieced, and quilted. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

I'm curious about how familiar you were with art quilting and the history of quilts being displayed in public before reading Fabric of a Nation. Have you ever displayed your quilts in public? Let us know in the comments!

Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

Thanks for Joining the Suzy Quilts Book Club!

You did it! Over the last couple of months, you got a crash course in hundreds of years of quilt history, saw some of the most beautiful quilts ever made, and learned about American history at the same time! Give yourself a big pat on the back.

Did reading this book change how you thought of your own quilting? Let us know what you found most interesting about Fabric of a Nation in the comments! 

Join us for Part Two of our Suzy Quilts Book Club discussion for the book Fabric of a Nation! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilthistory

7 thoughts on “Suzy Quilts Book Club: Fabric of a Nation Discussion Part II

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Thank you so much, Vicki! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It’s always so exciting to talk with someone who cares so much about quilts and quilt history!

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