I started teaching a course called History of the American Quilt today at the Academy of Lifelong Learning. I'm sorry my class is as small as it is but 10-12 people is very do-able. Today was difficult for me because I wanted to give some background before getting into all the kinds of quilts that have been made. One thing I discovered in my research was "bed ruggs" (that was the spelling in the 1600-1700 period. The background is a linsey-woolsey fabric (part linen, part wool) with a somewhat loose weave that made it possible to either embroider or hook (as in latch hooking a rug) a design on the top. The yarn of the design was usually wool and it often covered almost all the top.
This example is from the Metropolitan Museum in NYC and was dated 1795, which is fairly late. And it is somewhat more refined and even delicate in its design than many of the examples in a book I have. I read that Governor Winthrope of Massachusetts, back in the late 1600s sent word with his son on a trip to England to bring back 245 yards of bed ruggs. The colonists essentially had NO texile business of their own at first and depended on shipments, mostly courtesy of the East Indian Company, for something to sleep under. I didn't look into what they slept on, but I suspect it was bags of straw.
I was describing how heavy these ruggs must have been to work on and to sleep under and someone said, "they must have felt like that X-ray shield the dentist lays on your chest when he X-rays your teeth. I suspect she was exactly right.
I am not really a historian and there is very much I don't know about the settlement of the East Coast, but I am learning about textiles and dyes and so on. It seems indigo plants were growing in American and so was flax for linen. I believe it was some time before very many sheep were imported and a woolen industry could have grown up. I was somewhat surprised to discover that cotton grew more or less around the world and that the Carib natives Columbus met were wearing cotton garments. It's an interesting area for me to explore although I'm eager to move on to more modern times.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!