Influences on Depression Era Quilts

quilt-top-1Many factors influenced the quilts of the Depression and post-depression years.

Stock Market Crash 1929: The stock market crash of 1929 and the economic depression that followed through much of the 1930’s influenced the quilts of the time. The stock market crash, coupled with several years of drought, severe summer temperatures and the dust bowl storms of 1934 made this an era of survival. Families were losing their farms and homes by the thousands, and money was scarce, if available at all.

Worlds Fair Century of Progress: In 1933, this quiltmaking competition at the Chicago World’s Fair offered a grand prize of $1,000, plus $25 for regional winters. This generated interest in quilting, as times were lean and this chance to make money was welcomed.

Weekly Newspaper Columns: Newspapers carried regular columns with quilting patterns. The Kansas City Star began printing quilt patterns in 1926. In May 1933, the popular ‘Nancy Page Quilt Club’, by Florence LaGanke Harris, began a regular Tuesday Quilt Club, which featured pieced and appliquéd patterns to complete an entire quilt.

feed sacksFabrics: The wisdom of the time was “Use up, wear out, make do, or do without.” A scrap bag was common in most households. Salvageable pieces of worn out clothing were used for scraps to mend other clothes or piece into quilts. The fabric sacking used for feed, flour, sugar, seed, meal and salt bags began to be printed fabrics. This fabric was used for clothing, dish towels, diapers, nightgowns, underwear (according to my mother, to her dismay) and quilt pieces. Three feed sacks were needed to make a woman’s dress. Novelty sacks were often printed for dolls or aprons.

Colors: The pastels of the 1920’s began to get brighter and more intense. Dye colors began to get more reliable with newer methods. The number of colors used in prints began to increase. Contrasting color combinations were used more frequently.

  • Nile Green or Mint Green was popular, especially in combination with Rose Pink (presently referred to as Bubble Gum Pink).
  • Pastel blues were not as popular, being replaced by medium and darker blues.
  • Yellows became more golden, especially in combination with brown, along with Lemon & Canary Yellow.
  • Lilacs and lavenders were popular
  • Red/Black/White combinations were popular
  • Red was a clear, bright, chemical red or an imitation of the Turkey Red of the 1800’s.
  • Burgundy as a deep-colored print made a comeback in the late 1930’s.

Prints: Prints became busier with more colors added. Bright colors in contrasting combinations were popular. Prints became larger in scale than the prints of the 1920’s. Black accents began to be used as a design feature in the 1930’s.

Quilting Patterns: The most popular patterns are: Double Wedding Ring, Dresden Plate, Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Fans, Sunbonnet Sues, Yo-Yo’s and Redwork. Embroidery made a come-back. Appliqué with black buttonhole stitching around each piece was distinctive.


LKO COVERCheck out MEMORIES ON MUSLIN – the story of 30 quilt squares from Athelstan, Iowa in 1934.

Available as an electronic PDF file from the author for $3.99.

A print is available from the author for $5.99 plus $3.50 shipping and handling. (Email for details)

Available as an ebook at Amazon, for $3.99.


One thought on “Influences on Depression Era Quilts

  1. Pingback: Influences on Depression Era Quilts | Trisha Faye

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