In one phase
of antique collecting, we turn to the crafts practiced by women
in the home. These are needlework and textiles. Before the days
of large spinning and weaving mills, American women practiced all
the stages of converting the raw materials into finished cloth.
Then, with thread, needle, and scissors,
they gave vent to their artistic impulses by creating various things
for home decoration. Sometimes they were so proud of their accomplishments
that they signed and dated their work with fine stitches in crosswork
or other design, but more often they neglected this detail. Therefore,
in many cases we can only approximate the age of a piece and guess
about its place of origin. Much has been written about the various
kinds of needlework done by the women of America which are collectibles
This section is given over to three
distinct types of work about which rather less has been recorded.
The door panels of the Pennsylvania Dutch are characteristic of
that distinct racial group and the colouring and fineness of the
needlework make them antiques of the first order.
The quilting bee has been associated in prose
and poetry with a social event at which work, good eating, and a lively
interchange of gossip and local news blended. But the primary purpose
was the completion of a quilt that the hostess had pieced according to
an original design or one common to her locality. As antiques, these old
quilts have particular interest because of their colourfulness and intricacy
of design. They form one of the most important of the American folk arts.
Equally interesting is the hooked rug, now
so highly regarded by collectors. Its raw materials were a reasonably
large piece of strong heavy material and a bagful of rags. But the patterns,
like those of the quilts, were many and varied. Some were entirely original
and often most naïve; others of the Victorian era were more conventional.
Either type lends colour to the home and so has strong appeal for collectors
or for those who like antiques for their decorative individuality.