Dissertation Origins

I am currently pursuing a Doctorate in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester under Drs. Sandra Dudley and Ross Parry. During 2022 I am completing my literature review, including topics such as the history of fabric, quilt fabric, the Pattern & Design movement, social meanings of object and craft, American feminism, digital communities, fan studies, women's leisure and entrepreneurialism, and Generation X women. I am writing up my findings, determining early methodology, and gaining ethics training ahead of acceptance of my topic at a probation review.


The quilt world, a sub-community within the spaces of art and also craft, can be used as a textile litmus test of sorts to measure the strength of and opportunities for women throughout history. Previous Master’s research and personal experience reveal that significant and unstudied changes occurred within the quilt world around the year 2000, post-quilt revival era which began in the United States around 1970. This twenty-first century phenomenon contains emerging differences which affect and reflect the lives of millions of women and a growing but small number of men, including different generational markers and technological advancements particular to their era. This feminist ethnographic study seeks to explore the anthro-socio-economic meaning of quilt fabric today by looking at those changes in a three-part study: one, the evolution of quilt fabric design and manufacturing since 2000, two, the online community of makers and fans which grew around those changes, and three, correlating entrepreneurialism within the quilt world by American women from Generation X. Academic lenses include anthropology, fan studies, and women’s studies. Using the diffusion of innovation theory, I will investigate the ways contemporary fabric innovations differ from previous decades, the methods of diffusion this community uses to disperse these changes around the world, with special focus on online “performance” and fandom, and finally, how these changes affect the largest participation group in this timeframe: American Generation X women during the third wave of American feminism and beyond.


Key words: quiltmaking, feminism, textiles, women entrepreneur, Generation X

The entry line on the first morning of QuiltCon 2020 in Austin, TX, photo taken by Kristin Barrus