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Quilting Terms: What is an African Quilt?

Updated on January 27, 2012
Millionaire Tips profile image

A lover of arts and crafts, Shasta Matova enjoys making artistic, applique, pieced, traditional, miniature, modern, and crazy quilts.

This unfinished crazy quilt, named my African Prince, uses a variety of African and American fabrics, and African motifs.
This unfinished crazy quilt, named my African Prince, uses a variety of African and American fabrics, and African motifs. | Source

African Quilt Books on Amazon

Quilt Inspirations from Africa : A Caravan of Ideas, Patterns, Motifs, and Techniques
Quilt Inspirations from Africa : A Caravan of Ideas, Patterns, Motifs, and Techniques

This is a beautiful book of a variety of American style quilts made with African fabrics. I have used the ideas in this book to make a quilt border, and have used some of the quilting motifs.

The circles in this African Circles quilt are all African fabric.
The circles in this African Circles quilt are all African fabric. | Source

Sometimes it is useful to create categories to describe things, and quilts are no exception. There are already a number of different categories in quilts, and I would like to define a new one.

African quilts do not have their own official category yet, as far as I know, although most people would be easily able to identify them. It is time to create a definition to help us with our sorting.

What are African Quilts?

The African Quilts category include all quilts that are about Africa, or use traditional African fabrics.

Africa is not known for making quilts, but people on the continent have developed an interest in quilt making, particularly in South Africa. All quilts that are made in Africa are African quilts, but the ones that don't use traditional African fabric or motifs might not easily identifiable as African Quilts.

Quilts that are not made in Africa but are either about Africa or use traditional African fabrics would also fit in this category. They are not limited to a particular time period, since African quilts have been made for decades if not centuries.

What are the characteristics of African quilts?

African quilts have the following characteristics:

  • the focus fabric(s) use traditional African designs and colors in their design
  • can be made using a variety of patterns - traditional, liberated, art, etc.
  • they tend to be complex - I read somewhere that some Africans believe that in order to keep evil out of a quilt / fabric, it should not have a clear path. I don't know if this is truly an African belief, but many quilts do tend to follow this rule
  • they have African motifs, such as African animals, people in traditional African costumes, huts, and a map of Africa.

Many African American quilts start with African quilts as a basis, and have adapted and expanded to incorporate other fabrics and motifs.

African fabrics can be purchased at a quilt show, a flea market, or a quilt shop. Many quilters who have purchased them tend to take them home and not know how to use them. They are looking for ideas about how to use traditional African fabrics in their quilts. The links below will show you how some quilters have incorporated traditional African fabrics in their quilts.

Some Quilters who have made African quilts

A sampling of quilters who have made African quilts are listed below. They generally tend to make quilts of a variety of categories. The links take you directly to at least one of their African quilts:

Helen Conway This link takes you to a showcase of a number of beautiful African quilts she has made.There is a link on the page to her blog.

Isa made a small quilt with fabric from Western and Central Africa.

Pacific Life uses African reproduction fabrics using a pattern from Hoffman, the fabric manufacturer's website.

Selvage quilter showcases a quilt made by one of her readers using a combination of selvages and African fabrics.

Gretha Steyn makes quilts that are inspired by art, beading and fabric from Africa and around the world.

South African Quilters Guild is an association who aims to foster an environment where quilters in South Africa can reach their full potential in quilt making.

The African Quilt is a pattern on an Australian website to make a quilt using African fabrics.

Both of the quilts in these photos were made by Millionaire Tips. African Circles and My African Prince both of them use a combination of traditional African fabrics and American fabrics.

Day Three: Hub #6 of 100 Hubs in 30 Days
Day Three: Hub #6 of 100 Hubs in 30 Days

African quilts are quilts that are made by Africans, and quilts that are made using African fabrics. Quilters have found a variety of creative ways to utilize these interesting and unique fabrics to make beautiful and intriguing ethnic quilts.


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    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you John. I agree, they are more comfortable to wear, and when you are finished with wearing them, they make great quilts.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Great article. I do enjoy African clothes and fabrics, they seem more comfortable than many of their Western counterparts.... Enjoyed your article


    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      Donna, Thank you for your vote and share. I have been intrigued by African quilts since the first time I saw one made with African fabrics at a quilt show.

      P.S. crochet is a good activity in its own right. In a a family of crocheters, the quilter would be the black sheep.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 6 years ago from USA

      My goodness, Shasta, how interesting! You right, I do not associate quilts with Africa or vice versa, so this really piqued my curiosity! My mom will be here this week and she is quite the consummate quilter. I'm excited to share this with her, and I've shared the link on Facebook as my sister and nieces also quilt. Alas, I'm the black sheep of quilting in this family...I only crochet.

      Excellent hub, and so I voted it up and interesting. Thank you for sharing and being so well to sharing your expertise with me when I needed some help.