After I started quilting, I discovered quilt fiction. I had no idea until I started reading a few books with a quilt focus, but this is almost a genre unto itself and it actually has been since the mid-1800’s. Apparently quilters’ obsessions with anything at all having to do with “quilting” has existed for centuries. The first two quilt stories were published in periodicals in 1844 and 1845. They were both called “The Patchwork Quilt,” and they both idealize the quilt as a symbol of domesticity. The second story is by an author who is unidentified other than “Annette.” It’s a sad little story about a woman who spends her teen years making her masterpiece of a quilt for her wedding. Sadly, she ends up as a spinster and finishes the quilt for her younger sister who does find a beau to wed. The quilt in this story represents love, marriage, and security, and the sister who achieves these goals gets the quilt. These were highly valued for women in the 19th century who existed in the world of the “domestic sphere.”
It is interesting that contemporary quilt fiction also often uses the quilt as a symbol of domesticity, safety, and comfort though in these more modern stories, quilts perhaps don’t represent love and marriage so much anymore as they represent female solidarity and relationships. In any case, the quilt is still a prevalent symbol in fiction.
We quilters are an interesting group. We are not only obsessed with building fabric stashes and stitching, but when we take a break from sewing, many of us pick up books novels about our favorite pastime. There are an amazing number of novels and stories all about quilts which I find fascinating. There is even an index of quilt fiction on the web though it looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2002. You can find it here. In a general search of “quilt fiction” on Amazon, I hit 572 books. That’s a lot for a pretty specific topic like quilts! In a quick preview of these novels, it appears they can be broken into several sub-genres of quilt fiction (though this is based on a quick review, not any study): contemporary fiction, historical, Christian, and murder mysteries. The last two crack me up – they are so very different but both of them frequently use a quilt as a relevant symbol in the story.
My novel will definitely land in the first two categories; though I realize that contemporary and historical might not mesh, in my case they do. We’ll see how it actually turns out. In any case, they are the categories I am the most familiar with and the ones I enjoy reading, so it seems that’s what I’m drawn to write. It’s also fun to combine two of my favorite pastimes: quilting and words (reading or writing) in this story.
I have no idea if publishers consider quilt fiction as a genre unto itself, but I do, and judging from the searches on Amazon and the shelves of fiction books available for sale in my favorite quilt shops, quilters do too. If anyone who happens to read this blog is interested in reviews on quilt fiction, let me know, and I can add that as a monthly or weekly feature.