A detailed look at the colorful fabric and creative stitching on a circa 1850 quilt. This quilt, donated to the Moab Museum by Flora Warbinton in 1996, was made by her great-grandmother around 1850. Quilts allowed for the creative, artistic recycling and reuse of other fabrics: many are composed of leftover scraps from other projects. This quilt is in very fragile condition, as some of the original pieces of fabric have largely disintegrated. It is housed in the Museum’s Collection. [Moab Museum Collection]

This article is part of a series exploring items in the Moab Museum’s collection.

There are several colorful quilts in the Moab Museum’s Collection, each of which exemplifies the creativity and artistic diversity of the craft. Quilting has long been both a thriving, versatile form of art and a highly practical practice. Creating durable, warm quilts was a highly useful skill before factory-produced bedding was available, and it also became a way of making beautiful art. A diverse array of styles has evolved over generations, and all across the United States in both museums and peoples’ homes, many old quilts survive today as cherished keepsakes and connections to the past.

This ‘log cabin quilt,’ circa 1877, was donated by Eula Griffith. According to a note from the donor, this heavy quilt was given to her when she was nine years old and living in Ohio. It was given to the previous owner in New York. A ‘log cabin quilt’ is a patchwork quilt made of blocks made up of narrow strips of fabric (logs) formed around a central square. There are numerous common patterns for quilts, which have evolved over time and in different regions. This quilt is packaged in an acid-free box with muslin and archival padding to help prevent excessive wear on the creases where the quilt is folded. [Moab Museum Collection]

Historically, making quilts has long been a task and a creative form primarily undertaken by women. In the Moab Museum’s Collection, there are quilts that accompanied Moabites on their trips west to Utah from communities in the Eastern US. Some stayed in the same family for generations and bear signs of mending over the years. Others have unknown stories, inviting curiosity and eliciting wonder. Some of the quilts in the Collection have been hung on display, while others have been deemed too fragile to exhibit.

At recent Caring for Keepsakes workshops in 2022, Museum staff provided archival tips for Moabites interested in caring for their family’s old quilts at home. Instead of storing quilts in plastic bags or cardboard boxes, old quilts can be stored in an acid-free box and wrapped in a piece of washed, unbleached muslin. Quilts should be folded so the back side faces out, using as few folds as possible. In order to protect the folds from becoming permanent, crumple up acid-free paper and tuck it into the folds as a cushion, and if possible, re-fold the quilts every several months. 

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.