Cotton quilt makers have a history of bold moves.
A cotton flannel or cotton field may be the most recognizable, but the history of cotton quilts goes back decades.
But that doesn’t mean it’s without controversy.
In this case, the history goes back to 1897, when cotton farmers in North Dakota began using cotton as the fabric of their homes.
This is where the idea of the quilt comes from, and it’s the inspiration behind the 100 cotton quilting masterpieces.
“We’re a proud people, and we’re not ashamed of it,” said Jeff Smith, owner of Cotton Quilts North Dakota.
“The cotton industry has always been very important to our people and to our culture.”
The origins of the cotton field and cotton quiling process are a little different from that of modern day quilters.
In 1897, a cotton farmer in the Dakotas named William C. Steed started making quilts out of cotton, then called cotton floss, to be used for the home.
He did this because he was dissatisfied with how hardy cotton was, and he wanted to create a quilt that could withstand the harsh winter weather.
It wasn’t until 1910 that the cotton flax was added to the quilts, and in 1913 the first cotton quill came out.
Cotton was the first fiber to reach the United States.
Cotton quilter Charles G. Stoddard and his wife, Betty, worked in the cotton fields in the early 1900s and were involved in the first-ever cotton quilling business in the United Sates.
The Stoddards, and many other farmers, continued to work on cotton fields and were eventually incorporated into the Cotton Farmers’ Association, the largest union in the country.
The cotton fields, in particular, were where the cotton industry thrived and the people were most prosperous.
And they were home to many of the first immigrants to the United State, like the first African-American President, John F. Kennedy.
So when it came time to create the first 100 cotton, Stoddess was inspired by these pioneers.
“A few years after we started the first one, we saw that the quilted cotton was pretty good,” he said.
“And we decided we would give it a go.”
Stoddys wife Betty was a cotton woman in the 1920s.
“She was always telling me to make cotton, but I didn’t know what I was doing,” he told the Daily News.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get a job doing cotton quills.”
But she convinced her husband to start it, and the rest is history.
In 1931, the Stoddises opened Cotton Quilting, in which they created quilts made from the cotton, cotton flint and cotton thread they used to make the cotton quils.
They started in the Cotton City, a small town in North Dakotah, and worked their way to the town of Pawnee.
By the time Stoddes wife, Alice, passed away in 1982, they had expanded to the rest of the state.
In 1991, Steed became the first person to become the owner of the company, with the help of investors including the family of the late Warren Buffett.
“People started coming from all over the world to sell us the cotton,” he recalled.
“Some people from Russia, South America, Japan, Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand, and Germany.
We got so many customers.”
But in the late ’90s, the economy started to slow, and as the recession hit the industry, the Quilted Cotton Company was forced to shut down.
“In the early ’90, I couldn’t find anyone willing to make more than 10 quilts a year.
And it became very difficult to keep up with the demand.
We just didn’t have enough customers to meet the demand,” said Stodd, who is now 94.
But his wife Betty is still a major player in the industry.
“It was her idea to open Cotton Quilding and to have a new company.
I think she was a little bit of a pioneer in the way she handled the business,” he added.
“When she started, we had only three people in our company.
We’re now doing more than 40 people.
And we’ve expanded.”
And Stodd is still working on his next project, the 100-square-foot cotton field.
“My plan is to expand the field into a lot bigger, bigger fields,” he explained.
“Then we’re going to start making more quilts for the community and the world.
And then I’ll be able to go back to the cotton in some of the homes in the city.”