Some quilt collectors get frustrated about the rise of "cutter quilts" being sold by vintage/antique dealers. I've written about this before (here). But actually our foremothers and fathers did upcycle quilts, although every article I read prefaced the word quilt with "old", "worn-out" or "used". My first husband's family had a quilt they used for picnics. It was a really worn piece that most collectors wouldn't want but the family used it until it had large holes in it and didn't provide any protection from bugs, grass, or sand at the beach.
Anyway...I just don't think that folks threw-out or burned quilts as trash often--unless the bedding was used on a really sick person's bed (think Spanish Flu, TB, and polio). Still, there were a variety of articles that suggested using it while caring for the sick.
The majority of articles about using old quilts focused on domestic purposes. For example one could use it as a mattress cover (1944).
In a 1914 piece, a variety of practical items were suggested to use up an old quilt--and all of them incorporated cutting up the piece. The dining room table could be benefit: either as a protector under the tablecloth (it was suggested that the quilt be cut and bound with tape to the right size) or even as a hot pad/trivet type of thing: "the heat is slow to penetrated through cotton."
The same article suggested reducing the quilt to make a baby quilt, although it was suggested that the new upcycled piece she be adorned with bows and ribbons.
The baby concept was taken to a whole new level in 1944. "This is an easy way to prestidigitate a clothes basket into a bassinette. Use an old quilt to line the basket..." Thus forming a bumper pad in the basket.
A 1943 article suggested that an old quilt be used to pad the back and the seat of chairs. This amazing quilt was found as padding in a bench in a local cabin:
Especially in the beginning of the 20th century, there appeared to be a decorating conflict about old quilts. The roaring 20s with modern and art deco tastes appeared with the colonial revival also occurring.
1922 above and below
As quilting became more popular, makers were encouraged to look at the work of their ancestors:
Probably one of the most important domestic uses for old quilts was one as protection. Only a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, defense agencies suggested ways to protect families in the event of a blitzkrieg. Quilts were to play an invaluable part in shielding Americans.
Wishing you a safe and happy day!