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Quilts contain a fascinating wealth of information and each one has its own unique story.

Even if very little is known about the maker, careful examination of the fabric, methods of construction and overall style of a quilt can tell us about the social and historical context in which it was made.

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However, anecdotal evidence passed on through the family can also be problematic.

Information can be repeated incorrectly and family myths can grow into historical fact.

Whilst personal stories add great depth and interest to historic textiles, they have to match up with the material evidence.

Even if your family is convinced a quilt was made by your great grandmother in the 19th century, if the fabrics were not made until the 20th century then there has been some error.

The dates of the fabrics within the quilt can provide important clues as to when the piece was made.

Certain fabrics were only available at particular times and developments in technology and fashion led to different designs and dyeing techniques.Very broad historical developments include: Dating a quilt is not always a straightforward process.The fabrics within a patchwork piece may span several decades.Fabrics were saved over many years and particularly treasured or expensive fabrics could be kept for a long time before they were included in a patchwork project.In the same way, caution must also be exercised when using paper templates as a dating clue.Templates were often recycled from used letters, envelopes and accounts, as paper was an expensive commodity.

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