History of Charm Quilts
Pictured quilt is Travel Through Time, featured in American Patchwork & Quilting August 2020.
Charm quilts are usually one-patch design quilts, using one shape in an overall pattern across the quilt top. Hexagons, triangles, and diamonds were popular geometric shapes used to make charm quilts in earlier quilts, while the Apple Core was popular during the 1930s. Since charm quilts are about showcasing the fabric rather than the design, you don't see many charm quilts in complicated patterns.
Charm quilts take scrappy to a whole new level. Sometimes they were called Beggar's quilts, because the difficulty of collecting so many different fabrics resulted in the quiltmaker asking friends and family for pieces to add to a quilt. These quilts contain hundreds or even thousands of different pieces fabrics.
Charm quilts are usually made with similar types of fabrics, mostly cotton prints often dating from the same 10-15 year time period. The fabrics in charm quilts represent those that a particular quiltmaker had at that time in their life, making each a unique work of the maker. One way to date a charm quilt is by identifying a specific fabric printed in a certain time period. One example is the Centennial prints made to celebrate the United States Centennial in 1876.
In more recent years, charm quilts had a surge of popularity. In the late 1990s, as Y2K was approaching, quilters wanted to celebrate the new millennium with a quilt. Many quilters decided to make a quilt with 2000 different fabrics. Trading with friends or with those who belonged to list groups had quilters making many trips to their local post office.