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During the late nineteenth century, when Swedes determined which textile arts would be promoted through their hemslöjd, or handicraft movement, they selected weaving and embroidery as representative of the indigenous textile expressions of their national heritage. In the twenty-first century, Swedes and tourists alike purchase kits to reproduce traditional embroidered items. Many modern Swedes order their own folkdräkt (folk dress) outfit representing their ancestral village, which are woven and sewn by artisans and worn for weddings and other ceremonial occasions. In all the ways that indigenous Swedish crafts are presented to the public, quilts are absent.
And yet, during a research trip to Sweden, this American researcher found quilts everywhere. Many museums have quilts in their collections, although these are rarely displayed. Women showed me their quilts, including a wool log cabin made by a grandmother; an elaborate late-nineteenth-century crazy quilt purchased in Östersund, in the remote northern province of Jämtland; and the baby quilt a young clothing designer made for her baby daughter to use.
This paper examines the place of quilts in contemporary Swedish life and compares the historical development of hemslöjd with the American experience of the Colonial Revival.