A Qualitative Study of Quilting History from 1950 - 1960s

Hypothesis (really a research question and not exactly a hypothesis): Even though not supported by the huge commercial enterprises of today, the art and occupation of quilting activities were a vibrant and vital part of women’s lives, practically, recreationally and socially in the 1950’s and 60’s. 
 
I think you might want to avoid using a statistical or quantitative approach. So your questionnaire will really be a written interview, along the lines of asking people how they started quilting.  I have some suggestions for you but you will need to GET THIS IDEA APPROVED BY YOUR THESIS ADVISOR before proceeding too far. More on my idea in a moment.
 
I found this article:
Title: Quilting as age identity expression in traditional women
Author(s): Cheek C, Piercy KW
Source: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AGING & HUMAN DEVELOPMENT 59 (4): 321-337 2004
Document Type: Article
Language: English
Cited References: 30      Times Cited: 0       
Abstract: A qualitative study using McCracken's (1988) multistage process for data analysis examined how women in three traditional cultures express themselves and their age identities in quilting. In semi-structured inter-views, 10 Amish, 10 Appalachian, and 10 Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women discussed their quilting-related experiences, rewards that they receive from quilting, and the variety of ways in which quilting assists them in creating positive age identities. Results illustrated how quilting aided personal progress in building quilting-related skills and enlarging personal influence through owning quilting businesses, teaching and mentoring others, gaining respect as skilled artisans, and acting as guardians of family traditions.
KeyWords Plus: SOCIAL SUPPORT; OLDER WOMEN; LATER LIFE; HEALTH
Addresses: Cheek C (reprint author), Penn State Univ, Commonwealth Coll, Mt Alto, PA 17237 USA
Penn State Univ, Commonwealth Coll, Mt Alto, PA 17237 USA
Utah State Univ, Logan, UT 84322 USA
E-mail Addresses: clc24@psu.edu Note the author’s email address – nice touch!
 ... and this one as well.
Title: Tending and befriending: The intertwined relationships of quilters
Author(s): Piercy KW, Cheek C
Source: JOURNAL OF WOMEN & AGING 16 (1-2): 17-33 2004
Document Type: Article
Language: English
Cited References: 30      Times Cited: 0       
Abstract: Using the convoy model of social relations, we explored the contributions of quilting activities to the relationships of middle- and older-aged women in three distinct groups: Amish, Appalachian, and Latter Day Saints. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten women from each group and analyzed qualitatively using McCracken's five-step method for analysis of long interviews. We found that these women had considerable horizontal and vertical connections to others. Specifically, they exhibited generativity by teaching their skills to others, building bonds with grandchildren through quilting, and leaving legacies through their quilts. Many developed friendships with other quilters that provided social support to deal with fife challenges. Additional study of the contributions of mid-late life women's leisure activities to their social milieu, personal development, and well-being is needed.
 
If I were interested in this topic, I’d get in touch with Professor Cheek at Penn State and see if she has something for me in terms of background studies or theories.
 
Now – my idea. You have a questionnaire that you’ve already circulated some.
  1. When did you start quilting?  Who taught you?  Did you learn from a relative, on your own or did you attend formal classes?
  2. Why did you quilt?  Did you piece the tops only or did you quilt the layers and finish the piece?  What did you do with your quilts after completion?
  3. Were there any specific types or styles of quilts you liked and made?
  4. Specifically after 1950, what were your sources of fabric?  Did you use scraps or did you buy new fabric?  Did you share your fabrics?
  5. Specifically after 1950, what were your sources for patterns?  Did you use shared or published patterns? 
  6. Did you quilt with a group or alone?  Were there organized quilting functions or events?
Please share any other information or stories that may be of interest.  Thanks so much for your help and participation.
Before you make new observations, you need to think hard about your research question.
Even though not supported by the huge commercial enterprises of today, the art and occupation of quilting activities were a vibrant and vital part of women’s lives, practically, recreationally and socially in the 1950’s and 60’s. 
After reading the literature about identity expression and “befriending” you might  want to try to ask about these benefits of quilting in groups.  Your question is less about the actual quilts and their use than about the identity stuff.
So you will want to concentrate on these aspects of quilting as compared to them during the “old days”.  Questions 1, 2 maybe 3&4 if these questions are meant to ask about getting fabric, ideas, patterns from other quilters, and maybe 6 as well.
  
What else can you ask about?  Look at your questions again:
  1. When did you start quilting? 
  2. Who taught you? 
  3. Did you learn from a relative,
  4. on your own
  5. or did you attend formal classes?
  6. Why did you quilt? 
  7. Did you piece the tops only or did you quilt the layers and finish the piece? 
  8. What did you do with your quilts after completion?
  9. Were there any specific types or styles of quilts you liked and made?
  10. Specifically after 1950, what were your sources of fabric? 
  11. Did you use scraps you already had or did you buy new fabric?
  12.  Did you share your fabrics?
  13. Specifically after 1950, what were your sources for patterns? 
  14. Did you use shared or published patterns? 
  15. Did you quilt with a group or alone? 
  16. Were there organized quilting functions or events?
I count 16 questions, not 6 – remember the idea about making your questions about one item at a time.  You may not want to know about some of these now. And you can add some new questions as well.
            -how does quilting make you feel?
            -when you complete a quilt, try to describe your sense of completion?
            -what purpose do your quilts serve?
 
You and your advisor can hash these out.
In getting your questionnaires answered, you might think about putting the questionnaire on some of the newsgroups on the internet.
While this type of sampling is not representative, it does get a lot of responses worldwide.
 
See http://www3.uakron.edu/witt/vjbonda.htm
and
http://www3.uakron.edu/witt/work/soundgov.htm
and
http://www3.uakron.edu/witt/work/soundgov.htm
 
 -ddw