Patchwork and Quilting: A Potted History
Patchwork and quilting: now and then
Quiltmaking is not new, it's been around for centuries.
Born of necessity, patchwork was about being frugal, while quilting was about warmth or protection.
No longer just a cottage craft, some areas of quilting have now been elevated to the realms of fine art. Such a piece is Boab, by renowned Australian quilt artist, Susan Mathews.
What are the origins of quiltmaking?
Ancient craft from the middle east and the orient
The Knights of the Crusades wore quilted garments and decorated their armour with this sewing technique that they learned from their enemies, the Muslim Saracen soldiers, who used quilted coverings as an alternate means of protection for themselves and their steeds.
When the Crusaders returned to Europe, bed linens and garments were made using quilting techniques. More warmth was gained using the three layers that is a quilt.
Gradually the makers began to use decorative stitchery to enhance these early quilted works.
See the wonderful quilted horse covering - On the Saracen soldier's horse?
Photo purchased from iStockphoto[dot]com
Quilt styles - in no particular order
- Whole cloth quilts
- Strippy quilts
- Block based quilts
- Sampler quilts
- String quilts
- Strip quilts
- Baltimore Applique Album quilts
- Applique quilts
- Bible quilts
- Album quilts
- Memory quilts
- Photo quilts
- Modern quilts
- Art quilts
- Amish quilts
- Hexagon quilts
Modern Quilting — the new kid on the block
There's a new wave of quilting and the style is big and bold, with lots of bright, clear colours.
I have made a couple of these quilts, but didn't know I was 'in trend'!
This is the one I made for Bob's eldest daughter and it is very definitely in the modern style!
Karen's favourite colour is turquoise and her second favourite is pink, so I chose some great fabrics combining the two and made extra large blocks to feature the fabrics.
Links to some modern quilting guilds - in America and Australia
- The Modern Quilt Guild
Our mission is to support and encourage the growth and development of modern quilting through art, education, and community.
- Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild
The home of Modern Quilters in Melbourne, Australia
- Sydney Modern Quilt Guild
Our primary focus is community, but there are many smaller goals that flow naturally from that. Here's what we're all about. To create a group that positively responds to innovation and design in quilting and can provide creative support and encoura
Whole cloth quilts
made from a single piece of fabric
Whole cloth quilts are traditionally made in plain fabric, often unbleached calico (muslin).
They are heavily quilted in elaborate designs, showcasing the maker's skill in quilt design and stitchery.
Angela Zilliotto's Bride's Trousseau Quilt from Griffith - in NSW, Australia
Photograph Peter Kabaila
often also whole cloth
Families made these quilts as a cottage industry.
The traditions were passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter.
Welsh quilt - in gorgeous gold
Image property of the York Quilt Museum and Gallery
Welsh Quilt sites
- Mary Jenkins: Making Welsh Quilts
I had been part of the patchwork and quilting revival in Britain in the late 1970s, when we were excited by American quilts with their wonderfully romantic names and infinite variety of patterns. No one I knew then in the quilting world in Wales was
- The Quilt Association
Welsh Quilts 1830 - 2010
- Collections | Quilt Museum and Gallery, York
Images of antique Welsh quilts
Broderie Perse quilts
Very frugal quilters made these
Fabrics from the exotic orent and India were being brought to the British Isles when fabrics were fairly staid.
Women were enraptured by these beautiful paisley and oriental birds and flowers, that they began to cut the designs apart and sew them with very tiny stitches to a whole cloth background.
The resulting quilts were quite beautiful, and it was indeed a frugal use of a scarce resource.
The Rajah Quilt - a famous Australian Broderie Perse quilt
Image property of the National Quilt Register, Australia
Broderie Perse sites - Wonderful old style quilts
- Broderie Perse: Lovely Applique of Persian Chintz Motifs
Discover the relatively unknown art of broderie perse, the applique of printed chintz motifs to a solid bedcovering.
- Martha's Quilt
Martha’s Quilt The history of a Broderie Perse quilt made in Armagh, Ireland in 1795 and the people who have been its guardians.
That's where many of us started!
English paper piecing is a method for making paper patches, covering these patches with fabric, and joining them together into a design with whip stitch.
Many quiltmakers began this way in the last part of the twentieth century. (Me included.)
Hexagons are usually the pattern, but there are several other traditional paper piecing patterns that were/are popular:
- Tumbling Blocks
- Baby Blocks
- Inner City
and many more...
Hexagon quilt started by Margaret's mother - while she was still living in England, and finished by Margaret (student)
Hexagons Come in Many Guises
While traditionally hexagon quilts were made like Margaret's mother did hers — sewn together in rows, or sewn into rosettes of seven hexagons, making flowers, there are many other designs that can achieved by colour placement.
Variations on the design Grandmother's Flower Garden can be found in Jaynette Huff's book on the subject.
Sampler quilt from an early class with me
where each block is different
Beginning quiltmakers are often taught via a sampler quilt, as each block tries out a new technique, or builds on a previous method.
Sampler quilts were extremely popular in the quilting revival of the 1980s.
Patchwork teachers would instruct students in making simple blocks, each one adding a few more skill levels, until enough blocks were completed to make a bed sized quilt.
Sampler quilt sites
- Sampler Quilts Photo Gallery
Sampler quilts are always varied, and you'll find a batch of lovely versions in our sampler quilts photo gallery.
- Quilt Sampler
Sampler quilt blocks, photographs, and instructions.
- What Is a Sampler Quilt? | eHow.com
What Is a Sampler Quilt?. A sampler quilt is a quilt in which every block pattern is different. Traditionally, quilt blocks are the same size. Today, you can find sampler quilts with all different sizes of blocks, fitting...
My basket medallion quilt - Basket of Fancy Flowers
central design area quilts
Medallions have been a design favourite in many areas of art for years.
Quilting is no exception.
My love of medallion style quilts has caused me to produce more than one of these lovely patchwork quilts.
Medallions have a central design area, with 'ring' of other designs around this centre.
In patchwork quilts, that means a block of much larger proportions is made, and then successive borders or rounds are added to this central design.
Each 'ring' has a different block pattern usually, resulting in rich, complex designs.
Medallion quilt sites
- Jinny Beyer Studio
Quilt patterns, tips, fabric, instruction and information for the quilting community
- Medallion Quilt-Along Bloomin Workshop
Medallion Quilt-Along Image of original quilt posted here. Used with permission by Cindy Vermillion Hamilton I fell in love with an antique medallion quilt in the book Medallion Quilts by Cindy Vermill
- Framed Medallion Quilts: When & How They Were Made
Quilts weren't always made with repeated pieced blocks. During the late 1700s and early 1800s multiple borders surrounding a central showpiece were common
a very old technique
These quilts fell out of favour, but are experiencing a bit of a revival.
The idea is that the quiltmaker sewed strings (left over strips of fabric, too narrow to be cut into patches) to a shape. This made some new 'fabric' for her quilts.
The shape was often cut from old letters, where the paper was very thin, so that joining the patches together was fairly simple.
String quilt - in voiles
String Quilt sites - just a couple
- A Quilting Life - a quilt blog: String Quilt Blocks--A Tutorial
- a colorful (and slightly wonky) string quilt top from Film in the Fridge
Great images! It’s made out of most of the prints from her Little Folks line, which I’m really quite taken with. The colors, the prints, the feel of it – I just love it! (I’m even thinking about ordering a little more just to make sure I don’t run o
Sewn in vertical rows
Quiltmakers have always been thrifty, and have used whatever they had on hand to make wonderful patchwork quilts.
The strippy so-called style is where the maker sews together vertical (usually) rows of blocks, and joins the rows with wide strips of fabric.
Originally, it is thought, she did this to use her precious 'stuff' in the limited quantity she had, while still displaying the fabric well.
Block based designs
Quilts made using traditional block patterns
This style is probably the most common form of quilt design.
The quiltmaker decides on a block pattern (or patterns) and makes the quilt top using that design.
Autograph 'books' of a different kind
Quilters would make blocks which they signed, to give to a recipient for a special occasion.
Some quilts were for weddings, some for going away gifts, but all were precious to the person who was lucky enough to receive one of these quilts. That's why there are many surviving examples, as they were not used often.
Quote from Womenfolk[dot]com:
Not all applique album quilts were signed and some were just signed with a few names. Many had names on most or all of the blocks. Sometimes all the names, dates and verses were written by one woman who was talented at calligraphy. Embroidery or fine ink sketches were sometimes used to add detail to the blocks.
Baltimore Maryland quilt - How lovely!
Picture property of the Maryland Historical Society
Album quilt sites
- Friendship Album Quilts : A Little History
- Baltimore album quilts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Baltimore Appliqué Society
- Album & Signature Quilt History, 1830 - Today, Revised September 2005
The expansion westward brought on the need for signing quilts and autograph books. It gives me pause each time I remember that westward expansion at that time may be a move to Ohio from Massachusetts! The far western states were still a journey too f
Floral Album Quilt from Nebraska
Image property of Nebraska State Historical Society
More Album quilt sites - beautiful images on these links of quilts in the album style
- Baltimore Album Quilt History
Information about Marylou McDonald, etc.
- Baltimore Album Quilt: The Finest of Autograph Sampler Quilts
The Baltimore Album, a quilt style that originated in the prosperous seaport city of Baltimore, Maryland in the 1840s then spread across the country.
old order quilts
Quote from Answers[dot]com:
Amish quilts are reflections of the Amish way of life. Because the Amish people believe in not being "flashy" or "worldly" in dress and lifestyle, their quilts reflect this religious philosophy. They use only solid colors in their clothing and quilts. Some church districts limit the use of certain colors such as yellow or red because those are considered "too worldly". Black is a dominant color. Although Amish quilts appear austere from a distance, the craftsmanship is often of the highest quality and the stitching forms vigorous patterns that contrast well with the plain background. These traits appeal to a modern aesthetic; antique Amish quilts are among the most highly prized among collectors and quilting enthusiasts.
Amish quilts hung in the wind
Image purchased from iStockphoto[dot]com
Amish quilt sites - plain and simple, but beautiful
- Traditional Amish Quilts & Quilting History: Simple Beauty
We think of Amish quilting as one unique style of quilts but in truth it has evolved over time and varies between communities.
- Amish Antique Quilts & Mennonite Antique Quilts - Betsey Telford-Goodwin's Rocky Mountain Quilts
Amish Antique Quilts & Mennonite Antique Quilts - Betsey Telford-Goodwin's Rocky Mountain Quilts -400+ antique quilts of the finest quality.
- The Official Web Site of the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum
The Official Web Site of the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum. Learn about the museum's history, exhibitions, and the facility.
Another favourite book on my shelf.
I think I bought it in 1988.
My opinion on the topic
and not only mine!
I'm biased, of course, this is my favourite topic: quilts.
One of the greatest things about quilting for me is the community spirit that is a worldwide phenomenon.
Quilters make quilts for loved ones, for troubled people, for charity, for fund-raising...
They help one another immediately when another quilter is in need...
Quilts warm the body, and the soul.
The most important thing to know is...
The patchwork and quilting community is one of the most caring and sharing group of people spread across the globe.
I'd love to hear what you think.
© 2010 Jan T Urquhart Baillie