Quaint quilts have been gracing living quarters since the early 19th century.

Back then, quiltmaking was a big part of social life, and quilting bees were as important as sewing circles.In preparation for the quilting, women would sit at home and piece together discarded patches of fabric. The padding, backing and quilting on the one and only community frame would be done as a group, and this became a real social event.

In the morning, the ladies would gather at the home of the woman who would end up owning the quilt. They would pad, line, roll and quilt the fabrics, working until supper time, when the sweethearts of the unmarried quilters and husbands of the married quilters were invited to dinner.

The men arrived in their Sunday best in respect for the women and all the work they had done. After dinner, there was singing, dancing and courting. Some quilt parties were more special than others. For example, if the party was for a bride-to-be, the quilt was brought out and held high by the young bride and groom, and then it was placed on the floor.

A cat was put in the middle of the quilt while everyone sat down around it. It was said that the person whose head the cat jumped over as it escaped the quilt would be the next bride or bridegroom.

And, when a man celebrated his 21st birthday, the New England Freedom Quilt was presented to him. This was a token of independence, which symbolized his freedom to leave home. It also was a means of convenience since he would no longer have his mother's quilt to keep him warm. He could use this gift until he found a wife to make him another one.

Or memory quilts were made in memory of the deceased. The quilt was made from the clothing of the departed. It sounds sad, but it was an established way to honor and remember the dead.

Then there was the bride's quilt, usually covered with hearts. Actually, before 1840, the sign of the heart on quilts was used only for a bride.