When the colonies finally gained independence from Britain in the late 18th century, the newly formed United States were still highly dependent on imported goods, with cotton and other cloth among them. With a cotton industry established in Britain for most of the 18th century, the new American manufacturers would be hard pressed to catch up. With the end of the restrictions imposed by the British crown, the technology that British manufacturers had enjoyed for several years finally made its way to American shores. 
Philadelphia was among the first cities in colonial America to begin the manufacturing of cotton cloth for utilitarian purposes. The taste, however, was for the fine English fabrics by the more affluent in city and the nearby areas, including Chester County. In her study of weaving in Chester County, Adrienne Hood comments on the availability and use of imported cloth by residents of that county in the 18th century. Dr. Hood states:
Textile production in eighteenth-century Chester County obviously did not owe
its existence to a lack of money with which to pay for imported material. By providing their own yarn to a local artisan, individuals could reduce the cost of finished goods, leaving them more to spend on commodities, imported textiles among them.
It is here that the division between the two populations, the English-speaking and German-speaking, appears. Though evidence certainly points to the availability of imported cotton fabric – both through written documentation and the material record – Pennsylvania Germans did not choose to purchase this cloth until the early 19th century, and then perhaps not in great quantities, until the 1840s.
In the 1790s planters in the southern United States began growing cotton. In 1793, Eli Whitney would revolutionize cotton production with the cotton gin. Not only did this create more readily available raw cotton for manufacturers both in the United States and Britain, it allowed the Pennsylvania Germans of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to have access to cotton for spinning and weaving. This handspun cotton became the fabric of choice over similarly produced linen, and continued in popularity until ca. 1850. The use of cotton in Pennsylvania German communities in the 18th and early 19th was mostly limited to use in combination with wool or linen. Cotton was generally more costly, and a piece of fine muslin would be treasured. An example of a wedding chemise, dated 1812, with a fine muslin bodice and handspun linen “skirt” in the collection of the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, underscores the emphasis that was placed on using cotton for “special” garments.
Few documented early 19th century Pennsylvania German quilts are known. Quilting was an activity of women of English descent that was popular in and around Philadelphia, particularly among the Quakers. The surviving Pennsylvania German quilts from the early 19th century have a distinctly Anglo-American appearance; the typical Pennsylvania German “look” evolved later. Patricia Herr comments in Quilting Traditions that early quilts by German women in Lancaster County were generally of affluent families. She notes:
The more typical Pennsylvania German families, the majority of the population of Lancaster County in the early part of the nineteenth century, would have been likely to hold to their Germanic roots when selecting bedcoverings. So it is understandable that handwoven coverlets were far more common in inventories and in numbers that still exist in museum collections today.
These early Pennsylvania German quilters were most likely influenced by their English neighbors and possibly school teachers. Nancy and Donald Roan further reinforce this idea in Lest I Shall Be Forgotten, the publication that developed out of the Goschenhoppen Historians’ Quilt Roundup. Only a handful of late 18th century and early 19th century quilts were brought to the roundup for documentation. The designs of these quilts “reflected the English quilting traditions.” 
Communities that were less diverse, such as those in parts of Berks, Lebanon, Lehigh and Montgomery counties, would find quilting arriving at a much later date. These relatively homogeneous German areas were slower to abandon their Germanic traditions. This is especially true of the folk culture in central and northern Montgomery County and northeastern Berks County. The earliest quilt in the collection of the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, for example, is a whole cloth white quilt, with quilted designs in the manner of Pennsylvania German folk art motifs, made for or by Rebecca Schultz in 1838 in anticipation of her wedding. The quilt is much more in the English style of whole cloth quilts than its later pieced counterparts. Smaller objects created from printed cotton scraps are not uncommon among the Germans in Montgomery and Berks counties; the infant cap and housewife shown in this catalog are two examples of early 19th century textiles incorporating imported fabrics.
The rise of quilting in Pennsylvania German areas roughly coincided with the demise of the use of handspun cloth. In Heritage Center’s collection, and in quilts borrowed for the exhibition Cotton in Pennsylvania German Life, there is a definite surge in the 1840s of quilts, clothing and other objects made of purchased cotton prints. By the 1850s and into the 1860s quilts began to become the bed coverings of choice. In “Fabric and the Amish Quilt,” Eve Wheatcroft Granick observed:
Mennonites in both Lancaster and Mifflin County areas, who embraced changes more rapidly show a greater number of quilts in inventories in the 1840s and 1850s. The very earliest examples of quiltmaking that we have found to this point in the Lancaster County Amish Community date from the 1860s. This change from more Germanic forms of bedding to “English” influences also coincides with the end of home-produced fabrics.
This trend away from “home-produced fabrics” could be seen across the wider Pennsylvania German community.
By the late 19th century, the non-plain Pennsylvania German assimilation with the taste and fashion of the greater American scene was near complete. Though some traditions would remain – as they still remain today – dress, home decoration, and the arts and crafts were decidedly reflections of American popular style. Certain quilt patterns gained local favor, such as the Perkiomen Valley, Rainbow and Rising Sun in northern Montgomery County and vicinity, but local women’s exposure to all kinds of resources gave them more choices and more avenues for their creativity. Thrift and adaptability remained important values for the Pennsylvania German community. The incorporation of feed sack cotton into quilts, and its use for clothing and home accessories, was a popular trend in the 1930s and 1940s. A Log Cabin quilt featured in this catalog combines the feed sack fabrics and other contemporary cotton prints with pieces from the “scrap bag” which date to the 1880s through the 1910s.
The role of textiles and textile making in Pennsylvania German homes was a priority to daily life in the 18th and 19th centuries. As the 19th century progressed, the focus would shift from processing of raw materials, field to loom activities that were spread over a year’s time, to the emphasis on creating a finished product from purchased fabric, such as a dress or quilt. The shift allowed for more choice, more creativity and possibly more spontaneity on the part of the maker. The availability of factory-produced cotton to Pennsylvania Germans would lead to the end of a significant aspect of the folk culture – spinning and weaving – but the beginnings of a phenomenon that would become irrevocably associated with the Pennsylvania “Dutch”: the patchwork quilt.
 Mary B. Rose, Firms, Networks and Business Values The British and American Cotton Industries since 1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 40.
 Rose, p. 41.
 Adrienne D.Hood, The Weaver’s Craft: Cloth, Commerce, and Industry in Early Pennsylvania, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003); p. 133.
 Ellen J. Gehret and Alan G. Keyser, Homespun Traditions of the Pennsylvania Germans (Pennsylvania Farm Museum of Landis Valley, 1976) n.p.
 Patricia T. Herr, Quilting Traditions Pieces from the Past ( Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publixhing Ltd., 2000) p. 27.
 Herr, pp. 6, 25.
 Nancy and Donald Roan, Lest I Should Be Forgotten Anecdotes and traditions of Quilts, (Green Lane, PA: Goschenhoppen Historians Inc, 1993), p. 23.
 EveWheatcroft Granick, “Fabric and the Amish Quilt Traditions Sources and Change” in On the Cutting Edge Textile Collectors, Collections, and Traditions(Lewisburg PA: Oral Traditions Project of the Union County Historical Society, 1994), p.50.