Curated by Pam Weeks

Horticultural motifs are found in every sort of decorative arts, from clothing to architecture to bedding, and in every time period since humans began decorating their handmade objects. Ricky Clark, writing in Quilted Gardens, Floral Quilts of the Nineteenth Century, outlines the historical and geographical differences found in the floral motifs of quilts, from the Northeast and Middle Atlantic in the eighteenth century to the red and green applique quilts prevalent in the Mid-west in the nineteenth. Her premise is that because women were the creators of beauty in both home and garden, flowers are a dominant design influence.

The Iowa Quilt Museum is delighted to present quilts from the collection of the New England Quilt Museum of Lowell, Massachusetts. This sampling features flowers, whether in the fabrics, the quilting designs, or in pieced or appliquéd motifs.

Pam Weeks, the Binney Family curator at the New England Quilt museum served as our guest curator for this exhibit. She writes this of the NEQM, their collection, and these quilts,

Our collection of nearly 600 quilts and quilt-related objects spans centuries, genres, and geography—we do not specialize in New England quilts. When given the assignment of presenting floral quilts from the collection, I selected from the quilts that are allowed to travel, and from among those, the quilts that have not been exhibited in the last three years, which is the very minimum rest period required before a quilt should be displayed again. I wanted to exhibit some early Eastern quilts that you might not often see in the middle of the country, including whole cloth wool, large cut-out corner quilts, or those with the early fabrics that European immigrants might import for bedding, or recycle from other uses.

The quilts presented in this exhibit cover three centuries. The earliest, a gorgeous indigo wool quilt is representative of a bedroom fashion fad popular from the late 1700s into the mid-nineteenth century, especially in the Northeast. Many were imported from England, and many more home-produced.

I chose five red and green appliqué quilts in a variety of styles to represent the nineteenth century. Thousands were made at the height of their popularity from the 1840s to the 1870s, but very few in New England. In general, New England red and green appliqué quilts were simpler in style than their Southern and Midwestern sisters, as illustrated by the examples from Massachusetts and Maine.

The twentieth century is represented by a wide range of floral quilts, from Art Deco to art quilts. Quilters in the early twentieth century enjoyed a proliferation of print sources for new and differently styled patterns, and several are included here. Also represented are two leaders in the art quilt movement. One of these, Ruth McDowell, is known internationally for her intricately pieced flowers, her inspiration always taken from the gardens and woods around her, as did quilters in earlier generations.

We hope you enjoy this celebration of spring as you take a walk through our Quilted Garden.

Virtual Gallery Tour Admission

We sincerely hope that you’ll be able to visit us at the Iowa Quilt Museum to see our current exhibit of botanical beauties. If, however, you’re not ready to travel, or if you’re just too far away, you can take advantage of our Virtual Gallery Tour Admission.

The virtual gallery tour video features high resolution photos of each quilt accompanied by narration of the exhibit descriptions. The video is available for purchase in our online store for $6, the price of single in-person admission. Just like in-person admission to the museum, this is intended as a ‘single person’ purchase except that you can view it as many times as you want!

If you would like to discuss the possibility of a guild or group presentation, please contact us at:

You will receive an email from the Iowa Quilt Museum within two business days of your purchase with instructions for accessing the private video.

If you are an Annual Member of the Iowa Quilt Museum, you can receive a complimentary copy of the virtual gallery walk in lieu of your free admission to this exhibit. Simply email us to request that:

Virtual Gallery Walk

A Quilted Garden Gallery Walk with Pam Weeks Part 2

A Quilted Garden Gallery Walk with Pam Weeks Part 1