An author, historian, collector, designer, lecturer, and quilt maker, Florence Peto was a woman ahead of her time. She began her writing career about 1919 by writing popular stories for magazines. After she became interested in antiques and began collecting quilts, she wrote numerous articles for American Home, McCall's Needlework and Crafts, Hobbies and Antiques, from the 1930s to the 1960s. Her articles began as mostly historical pieces, but later she also included patterns and quilt making tips.
Her first book, Historic Quilts, published in 1939, is a history of quilts and their makers- "a social history of early America." Her second book, American Quilts and Coverlets, published in 1949, includes a manual of instruction on how to make a quilt, together with more information and pictures of historic quilts and coverlets.
Her first quilt, made in 1926 at the age of 45, propelled her into making other award winning quilts. She was sought after for her lectures on quilts by historic societies and other organizations, as well as for radio programs. She illustrated her lectures with a flip chart of more than fifty quilt cloth pattern blocks that she had meticulously drafted and stitched.
Florence won several prizes at state fairs with her antique quilts and with those she had made herself. In the 1950s she also designed kits for Paragon. Her Calico Garden was selected in 1999 as one of America's 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century, and its pattern was made available by the Shelburne museum. Florence Peto died in 1970 at the age of eighty-eight. Her meticulous collecting, researching and writing have played a significant role in the history of quilts and quilt making in this country.
Photo courtesy of Joyce Gross
"Now the quilt is finished and should it happily escape the ignominy of being locked away in a chest (use a quilt and love it!), it will bring cheer to the best bedchamber and perhaps
acclaim for its creator."
American Quilts and Coverlets
(1949), p. 63