Where Does Quilting Come From?
A heavy duty sewing machine can make light work of the thickest quilt – but have you ever wondered where this hobby comes from?
Quilting can be enormously satisfying, as well as very creative. Quilts can be personalised to the recipient, and there are many beautiful examples of specially made-quilts. Quilting uses a needle and thread to join two or more layers of material together, and a heavy duty sewing machine or a machine with a walking foot will make light work of this task. The most commonly-used stitches are rocking, straight or running stitches.
People have been quilting for practical and creative purposes for centuries, although few surviving examples pre-date the 18th Century. At that time, silks were the most commonly used materials for quilts, and quilted petticoats were popular.
By the end of the 18th Century and into the 19th Century, changes in textile manufacturing saw the spread of printed cotton fabrics, and these were incorporated in quilts. Cottons were pieced together using a mosaic patch work method. By the mid-19th Century, cotton was much cheaper and rich, contemporary quilters began to favour silk and velvet. Synthetic dyes had been created too, which gave rise to vibrantly coloured and patterned cloths.
In Victorian homes, you might see patchwork cushions, throws, tea cosies and more, beautifully embellished and trimmed.
The wholecloth quilt flourished in the late 19th and early 20th Century, particularly in Wales, the Scottish borders and the north of England. A wholecloth quilt is as the name suggests, made from one continuous piece of fabric. They rely on elaborate, decorative stitching and often incorporate embellishments such as beading. Quilt stampers were professional markers who drew the designs onto plain or pieced material. Different areas developed their own unique style – feathers and twisted ropes were common in the North Country, and in Wales, you would find leaves and spirals.
In Colonial America, quilts were mostly wholecloth and medallion style (a quilt with a central ornamental panel and borders). Patchwork quilting dates back to the 1770s and quilts often mixed silk, linen, wool and cotton in the same piece. As paper was so scarce, women often used letters, newspaper clipping and catalogues to provide the pattern and insulation.
In the UK, quilting became less popular in the 20th Century, thanks to two world wars and a scarcity of materials, and competition from commercially made products. But by the 1960s, there was a resurgence of interest in this beautiful art form, and in 1979, the Quilters Guild was established to ensure the craft was kept alive and passed on to new generations of quilters.
A heavy duty sewing machine can help you with thick quilts, as can a walking foot. Check out our selection of sewing machines to find what you need for quilting.
With thanks to the Quilters Guild.