What is quilting?
Why is it more popular in cold countries than tropical ones?
What makes is special?
For beginners new to quilting, introduction to this old but growing craft can elicit a lot of questions. The following is a brief history of the craft.
The dictionary defines quilting as a method of securing or wadding of two layers of fabric, usually with a soft, thick padding (cotton, wool, etc) between them, by way of stitching them together.
In the old days, this extra padded fabric is used to make garments for insulation against the cold. Later, the stitching that keeps the stuffing evenly distributed provided the opportunity for quilters to express their artistic inclinations through designs and colors.
Very old quilts were found in the mountains of Mongolia dating as far back as the 1st century. A wadded carpet found has a center quilted in an overall pattern of spirals and bordered with diamond designs and animal shapes.
The patterns and the techniques of those old quilts are still in use today and are already part of the quilter’s catalog of techniques.
The first quilts were thought to have originated from ancient Egypt, went all over Asia, and then to Europe in the years of the Crusades in 11th century.
In the U.S., it first became popular for use in petticoats and comforters. At the end of the 18th century, American quilters were already using colored fabrics sewn on the outer layers known as the appliqué.
Later, the patchwork patterns became widely used as well.
When emigrants from Europe brought over their quilting skills with them on their new home, quilting flourished in the U.S. in the colonial era. American women learned to create patchwork quilts from fabric scraps.
African-American women began quilting as well and continued the art form to this day. Their quilts have been much praised for their bold, asymmetrical designs and bright colors, usually with tied knots.
When there was a rush to migrate to the West, the quilting patterns reflected the new experiences then that included designs and names such as wagon wheels and log cabins.
Picture quilts and friendship quilts became widely known, too. The picture quilts have designs that looked like pictures were sewn on the quilt itself. Friendship quilts are ‘albums’ of special events like weddings, births and anniversaries.
The most famous friendship quilt is the 1987 AIDS Memorial quilt. It contained the names and dates of persons who died of AIDS.
The American quilt blossomed in the 19th century. (Early 18th century samples have largely disappeared.) This was the time where several traditional patchwork patterns have evolved and are still popular today: Sunburst, Sawtooth, Log Cabin, Bear’s Paw, etc.
Some of the most compelling works of art are the quilts made by Amish women. These were utilitarian quilts with geometric designs that are color-rich and are now much-sought-after by collectors.
Today, quilting is used as a form of textile art. It already has incorporated a utilitarian function in modern life. And like any other art forms, it continues to grow and evolve.