Stitches through Time

A “textile” is any material made of interlacing fibers. Clothing and bedding, woven from fibers from plants or animals, have been the most common textiles for centuries. From the earliest days of Frederick County, textiles usually were produced at home, by hand, by women. Likewise, most clothing and bedding were utilitarian: durability and function mattered more than style.

The history of textile production in Frederick illustrates the transformation of home-based work meeting a family’s needs into industrial manufacturing that met wide-spread consumer demand. Machines produced textiles more efficiently and in varieties and quantities far beyond the capacity of a woman at home.

Over generations, as people migrated from farms to towns – and towns became linked to cities by trains then cars – local retailers reflected the emerging consumer interest with style; general stores were transformed by ready-to-wear clothing. The revolution in America away from customized, handmade textiles that were meant to last a lifetime toward regularly buying new, disposable goods to keep up with the latest fashion trends is a story about consumerism and how women were central to that change.

Stitches through Time was exhibited at Heritage Frederick from March 1 to December 16, 2023.