Friday, July 25, 2008

Download this design

11.8 * 19 cm

10.22 * 12.2 inch

36662 Stitches

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chapter Two –The Technical Bits

There are different styles of quilting, which largely reflect the country of origin and traditions of their quilting history.

Effectively though, quilting requires a sandwich of fabrics. You begin with a face fabric, which can be made up of patchwork or blocks, or which could be a plain color, or a printed fabric.

The padding, or batting, used to be inserted between the stitched areas in some old quilted pieces, such as quilt surrounds for wall hangings that were principally works of high quality embroidery.

However, these days, and particularly for bed cover quilts, there are three layers. The top layer, which if it is patchwork will have been made up separately of small pieces of fabric joined together to make blocks or sections. The blocks or sections are then stitched together. When the size or overall design has been achieved, this is then put together with the batting and a back fabric, and the quilt is created by stitching the three layers together. This should really be described as a patchwork quilt.

However, there are lots of other sorts of quilts.
If the face fabric tells a story, it is unlikely that the base fabric will be decorated.

The stitching is probably going to be on the outlines of the figures, emblems or picture elements of the fabric.

Or, plain fabric can be beautifully decorated using only stitching to create pattern, figures, flowers or whatever you like.

If, however, you are creating a bed cover, or drape, you may want to use the stitching to create the pattern on both face and base fabrics.

Machine quilting is now very popular, as it clearly enables quilters to produce work faster than by hand. However, depending on the type of quilt you are making, it can be difficult to handle, or it might not give the effect that you want.

Hand quilting is still a very popular method for many, as it does give a softer, and perhaps more luxurious look. Again, depending on the size, you may need a hoop which will secure a section of the quilt, or if it’s a bed cover, you may really need a frame to stretch out a larger area of the quilt. The old ones were hand made to suit the space available and the number of people who could work on the piece at any one time. You can still make your own. Use timber lengths covered in fabric so that you can pin your quilt to the fabric and hold it in place. The ends can be used to roll the fabric forwards and backwards so that only the working area is stretched out.

If you are doing hand quilting, you will need quilting needles and quilting thread. Traditionally, you sew with one hand, and use the other hand underneath to guide the needle back through to the face. The key is to keep the stitches the same length and absolutely in line.

They don’t have to be minute, but they do have to all be identical to give a good finish.

You can use different colored threads to match the color of the fabric, or contrasting colors, or even colorless thread.

If you are using a sewing machine, a walking foot will ensure all three layers of the quilt move together – it’s important not to allow one part of the sandwich to be more out of sync with the others.

Some of the terminology for quilting that you will find useful is given below:

Accent quilting can add pattern that works with, but follows, different lines to those of any patchwork.

Achromatic color schemes - using black white and grey only

Album quilts – these use a mix of blocks pertinent to the maker, the recipient or an event, and are usually gifts for specific events or circumstances

Amish Quilts – these are very simplistic and orderly and always functional

Analogous color schemes – neighboring colors on a color wheel

Anchor fabric – this is used when piecing to hold the fabric pieces together when machine piecing
Appliqué – not specific to quilting, but often used on quilts – this is the use of smaller pieces of fabric, often making a figure or character, stitched to the face fabric of the quilt.

Sun Bonnett Sue’s are examples of these. Various stitches can be used – visible or invisible

Backing fabric – as you would expect, this is this is the base fabric

Bargello quilting – use of fabric strips to give the look of a wave

Basting is a way of holding the three sandwich layers together on a temporary basis. You can tack, pin or use sticky spray

Batting is the middle or wadding layer of your quilt sandwich

Bearding is when the batting fibers come away and find their way through to the face or base fabric – it happens more with polyester wadding.

Beaswax coating on thread makes it stronger and prevents it from knotting.

Betweens are quilting needles, and they are very short. Sizes 9, 10 or 12 are generally used – the 12 being longer than the nine.

Binding is used to create the quilt edges. It is essential to cut binding on the bias to avoid pulling out of shape.

Blanket stitch – originally used to edge blankets and prevent fraying, it is also used as a decorative stitch for securing pieces of appliqué

Block – a section of patchwork, usually, but not always, square

Border – fabric strips used between blocks and or on the top bottom and sides.

Cats ears – a block style also known as prairie points

Chain sewing- a continual thread to sew pieces together without finishing off and re-starting

Chain stitch – is an embroidery stitch that resembles a chain.

Charm quilts have only one shape which is used repeatedly, but never using the same fabric more than once

Cheaters Cloth – fabric which looks like it is made of patchwork, but which is actually printed

Cool colours – blues or greens

Crazy quilt – quilt using irregular fabric pieces stitched to foundation fabric and then decorated.

Cross hatch – parallel lines marked on the quilt to help hand stitching.

Cross hatching uses straight lines on a grid – diamonds or square or rectangles can be used.

Dimensional appliqué – this stands in relief from the quilt cover, either stuffed or not.

Echo quilting – lines of quilting that repeat around the edge of a piece or design

Fat Quarter is a yard and a half of fabric cut in half to enable a square piece 18” x 22”

Foundation blocks are blocks that are made up of any number of small pieces of fabric. The finished block is then joined to other finished blocks to create the patchwork face. Try and keep the fabric, if possible, to have the straight grain on the edge of the block.

Frames can be small circular hoops for hand sewing or large rectangular frames for holding bigger quilts.

Friendship quilt – made to be given to friends or family and often having messages or using swap fabric

Grain – the line of fiber running perpendicular to the side selvedge

Hawaiian appliqué – A technique for applying very detailed design pieces onto quilt fabric.

Hoops – large frames to hold the quilt for hand or machine stitching

Lap quilting – quilting squares as complete pieces,
and then joining the pieces when they are all made

Lattice strips – strips bordering the blocks

Loft – the spare between face and the backing fabrics – high lofts mean warmer, thicker quilts

Meandering or stippling style – this is a style of filling in areas of quilt with stitch, but none of the stitching should touch. So you can’t cross over a line you have already stitched

Marking – marking the quilt by tracing or freehand to indicate where to stitch the quilt. Tailors chalk or wax is often used – soap also works.

Medallion quilt – a quilt with a central design from which the rest of the design follows outwards

Millenium quilts - or Y2K quilts – to commemorate the year 2000

Miters – a method of measuring diagonals and angles

Monochromatic – all one color

Motif stitching gives a pattern which can be done on plain or patch work quilting. Motifs allow the quilter to incorporate names, hearts, animals, flowers, in fact any object, or, an abstract pattern.

Muslin – a very thin plain fabric, often used as a foundation fabric for piecing blocks

No knots – No knots are to be seen when quilting. The trick is to pull the knot through to the batting layer so that it can be hidden. When you finish you will also need to lose your knot in the centre batting. As with a starter knot, wrap the cotton a couple of times round the needle, check your last stitch hole, and pop the needle back in, and pull it through so that the knot stops in the batting, then cut the thread close to the fabric.

Off hand – usually the left hand which guides the needle from underneath the quilt

Outline stitching is, as you would expect, intended to provide an outline, and achieved by stitching about ¼ away from the seam. By doing this, the quilt is strengthened, as you get, in effect, a double line of stitching, and the other advantage is that the stitching is inside the cut edge and no seal allowance is needed.

Paper piecing – using paper to attach pieces in a block. The paper is usually numbered or lettered and the pieces are matched, stitched to the paper and the adjoining pieces.

Piecing – stitching pieces of fabric together – or called patchwork

Quilting Thread is single strand of very strong cotton and glazed to help it pass through the batting.

Rocking – this is the popular method – if you rock the needle back and forth you should be able to get about 4 or 5 stitches on at one go.

Sampler – showing a number of different quilting techniques

Sashing – fabric strips that separate blocks

Satin Stich – side by side stitching

Selvedge – the edges of the fabric where the weave was finished.

Seminole quilting – creating large pieces of fabric with pieces so that the joined fabric can then be cut and used with shapes repeated.

Sewing in the ditch refers to stitching very close to a seam where the stitches are barely visible.

Sharps – fine needles for joining pieces and stitching on appliqué

Stencil – using a pre made shape for transferring designs and motifs

Template – a shape for cutting pieces – made of plastic, paper, sandpaper.

Warm colors – orange, red, yellows and tans

Piecing together the foundation blocks is easiest using foundation paper. This will need to be marked so that you can attach the fabric matching your number sequence. Each piece needs to be sewn both to the paper and together. Small stitches (min. 14 per inch) and machine needle size 14 is recommended.

Experts recommend using tracing paper for machine stitching, but not for hand stitching. Other options are the paper used in medical exam rooms – it’s cheap, and works very well. Anther option is the vegetable parchment you use in the kitchen, which some people find works very well. The tracing paper will pull away really easily after you have created your block, as long as you use small stitches. Muslin is recommended for hand piecing.

Present the wrong side of the fabric to the central piece to the back of the foundation paper ensuring you have a quarter inch seam allowance all round. Machine the paper and fabric together.

Then take a piece of fabric for an adjoining section, and place the right side of the fabric facing the right side of the first piece. Then turn over the foundation paper to see the marked side, and sew on the line between shown between the first and second piece. Then when you turn it over, the second piece should cover its space with the necessary seam allowance.

Next, lay the work down with the numbers on the foundation paper facing you. Fold the paper on the stitching line you have just done, so that the numbers on the paper face each other and the seam allowance of the first piece and the main fabric of the second piece are open. Cut the fabric to the minimum of a quarter inch on the edges.

Patterns can be made from almost anything. The traditional American patterns work on a block or section, and are repeated throughout the quilt, with each block being made up of a number of pieces. The quilts are then edged to surround the blocks.

Traditionally, paper and sand paper have been used. The benefit of sandpaper is the fabric will stick to it well and not slide. Now you can find plastic template material that has a much longer life than paper, and doesn’t blunt the scissors like sand paper, nor does it catch on anything.

So how do you make the patterns for quilting?

First, of course, it depends on why you are making a quilt, which determines what sort of pattern you would like and what sort of fabrics you would use.

For patchwork quilting – most American Colonial Style for example, it’s very straight forward to make your patterns, and you can find lots of examples, with sizes, for you to print off from the internet.

Cut paper templates for your shapes, and then trace them on to sand paper (fine gauge) or plastic template material. Then trace the templates onto the fabric and cut out.

Or, if you are making a quilt from varying shaped pieces, you can make a large paper or card design, and gradually cut out and put together sections to match your design.

You will need to determine the sequence of stitching to create each square or section if there are overlapping pieces of fabric. Follow the tips above for using foundation paper, which is numbered to reflect the pieces you use to make up the block.

The art of quilting is really in the care and precision, both in the planning stage, and for the stitching.

These days you can buy wadding to sit between the back and face fabrics, and stitch through to create the quilt finish. If you secure the three sections, i.e., the back cloth, the wadding, and the face fabric at strategic points, you can then appliqué the decorative pattern on the face fabric.

Rotary cutting is more precise than using scissors. The cutters are extremely sharp, and need to be used with care – definitely something to be kept out of sight and access for youngsters.

When you use a rotary cutter you need a proper cutting mat that won’t get ridged from the blade and won’t damage the blade either. If you use a damaged mat, the cutter can slide off course, which could mean that your fabric wouldn’t have the straight edge you need. The cutters should always have their blades closed when not in use, and the guard in place whenever you are not using it.

Even experienced quilters and crafts people have managed to cut themselves, so it is essential to ensure you have the right mat, that the cutter blade is only open when you are actually using it, and that blade and mat are kept clear of bits and pieces. Do take care when using the cutter, and don’t allow your attention to wander or you risk cutting yourself, and worse – getting blood on your lovely quilting fabric.

Most people working with soft furnishings of all descriptions have an iron and ironing surface in their work space. Pressing fabric to create your seam lines makes assembling pieces and blocks that much easier. Having said that, many people do prefer to finger press the edges of the smaller pieces, and when all is said and done, it is personal preference and skill level that informs your decision.

However, for rotary cutting, when you need to create the cross fabric line for cutting, it does make it much easier if you use the iron. Before you cut the cross line, fold the material selvedge edge to selvedge edge and ensure the material lies smooth with the grain of the material in the fold. Then fold it again so the first fold and the two selvedge edges are aligned.

Machine stitching large quilts can be quite tricky. If you don’t have a massive work table that will hold the complete quilt, try putting together some pasting tables, or support some board on chairs. You will find it much easier to work if the quilt is not catching on the edge of your work table and being weighted down.

You can find a host of information on ‘how to’ with quilting, in books, on the internet and in craft magazines. However it’s much more fun to find someone who has a level of expertise, and volunteer to work with them on one of their own quilts – you gain experience, and hopefully friendship.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Chapter One – ***The History of Quilting***


Hawaiian quilting is said to have started when the wives of two chiefs were introduced to quilting by missionaries on board a boat. Hawaiians would not naturally have begun to quilt for domestic use, as quilts were not needed in the warm Hawaiian climate.

The missionaries showed the Hawaiians how to cut up fabrics into pieces and then sew them back together. This the Hawaiians found rather wasteful, as they were careful with all their resources and didn’t understand the concept of cutting up a large piece of material, only to sew pieces of it back together, and then be left with bits that couldn’t be used.

Eventually, the Hawaiians found a way of using their own clothing fabric (called tapa) which they folded to achieve 1/4 or 1/8 patterns, and they gave any waste pieces back to the missionaries for them to use in their own quilting. This tapa was from tree bark.

The unique nature of the Hawaiian quilting is clear in their use of local flora, and the spirit world as design influences for their quilts.

Conceptually, they used quilts to record their environment, their departed love ones, and their still to be born. Their quilts were also strongly about the Hawaiian identity and the identity of the individual members of their society.

The Hawaiian Gods, their rites and ceremonies, and their history, are all depicted in the wonderful Hawaiian quilts. Local events and major historical events were all beautifully detailed and preserved in their quilts. In fact, all their quilts have a story to tell, or a person to describe, or an act to preserve for posterity.

Quilts were not made in Hawaii just to keep the women busy or as a necessary domestic duty. Quilts in Hawaii are their history, and they predict the future too!

One of the few nations to produce famous quilts that were never intended to keep them warm at night, the Hawaiian culture and history has instead been retained beautifully. Quilts continue to be made in Hawaii, with new designs constantly emerging. Here, quilts are both the history and the future in a very unique and valuable way.

The United Kingdom

Clearly a colder climate than Hawaii, the traditions of ‘make do and mend’ were such that for centuries, cloth was very valuable and not to be wasted. Long before any mechanical cloth production, every piece of cloth was made by hand or with simple weaving frames. Anything so time consuming to produce could only be treated with care and considered to be of value.

Long before the first settlers arrived in America, British women, and men were involved in patchwork and quilting, both for home and commercial benefit. So the history of quilting in Britain goes way back.

There are records of padded clothing being made for soldiers to be worn underneath their armor to protect them from the metal, and also to provide warmth and comfort. And as far back as the fourteenth century, quilted fabrics were used as bedcovers and clothes.

There are examples of eighteenth century pieces of clothing that remain from noble and royal households. For example, an underskirt for a Scottish wedding is now part of the Heritage Collection of the Quilters Guild, and dated at 1764.

Although in the households run by nobles and royals, there were wonderful examples of luxurious and exquisite pieces of quilting, these were the minority. The very wealthy would import cloth from abroad and use it to display their wealth and social status.

Hence we see silks, satins, velvets, and printed Indian calico used in complex quilting, often as backgrounds to embroidered hangings and bed drapes.
These pieces would generally be made by professional craftsmen who would have been members of some of the early Guilds. Women would not generally have been employed on a commercial basis in this way until much later.

In the homes of the less well off, the quilting and patchwork traditions would have a much more utilitarian approach, and although some would be very cleverly designed and executed, the main concern was to provide warmth without too much expense.

The cottage industry was very much part of the northern England and Welsh tradition, and as such, there would be quilters undertaking work on a commission basis, and either selling directly to certain wealthier homes, or through an agent.

In Wales and some parts of England, there were also traveling workers. They would take board and lodging in a household and be required to provide new quilts for bedding, along with other stitch work in exchange for their keep.

In Victorian times, fashion dictated the use of lots of bright colors and contrasting black. Fabrics were more readily available and there was greater wealth available in the new middle classes. Drapery and bed coverings that had previously been seen only in the houses of the nobility were now emulated by the new professional and commercial classes.

Most girls of ‘good’ homes would be brought up to be competent, at the very least, with their needle and thread. So the practice of embroidery, patchwork, quilting, and appliqué was very much kept alive.

However, by the beginning of the twentieth century and the outbreak of war, things were beginning to change.

When war broke out, women found they had to work to help the war effort. This meant little time for hobbies, and rationing meant that everyone concentrated on getting enough food to feed the family and getting the domestic necessities. There was little time or energy for needlework as a hobby.

By the end of the 1940’s, things had begun to back to normal, the country was becoming more and more reliant on manufactured clothes and bedding. Factories had sprung up across the UK, and imports began subsequently to add to the large amount of manufactured goods.

Really it was the resurgence of quilting arising from the United States that helped Britain resurrect its quilting traditions. Now the Quilters Guild has a valuable role in supporting quilting in the UK. The Guild set up a British Quilting Study Group in 1998, and this provides invaluable support to the quilters of today with research and information.

British quilting has, however, never managed to equal the art of the American quilting traditions, and America has been entirely responsible for spreading the word and the work of quilting across the world as far as Australia, Japan, South Africa and Europe.

Were it not for America, the UK may have allowed its quilting history to fade away. Thankfully, however, it has helped to revive quilting both as a hobby and as an art form.

Australian Quilting

Women were given the materials and tools to make patch work quilts en route to their Australian destination so that they could sell them and be able to support themselves when they landed.

Sadly, only one of these appears to have survived, but it is clear that the British women brought with them the skills and traditions of quilting.

Quilting was thought to be a ‘suitable’ occupation for a lady, and the quilters soon began to put their work together at exhibitions, and a market in quilts was quickly established. The British traditions were retained, and quilting in Australia continues to respect and reflect the styles and patterns of the mother country.

However, for many years, Australian families were very poor, and generally the women were responsible for ‘making’ all the bedding, as well as all the clothes and household fabrics. In the absence of money to buy good cloth, the women used their initiative. They used old sacks, old grain bags and anything that could be used to give warmth. With luck, they would be able to find or get something to make a bed cover more attractive, and the sacks would be used as the wadding or batting. Old cloth would be cut and stitched either directly onto the batting, or as a face fabric, and whatever artistic talent the maker had would be used.

Later on it became commonplace to obtain old sample books from traveling salesmen. So many quilts were made with suit cloth, as well as old curtains, and what ever else was available.

Sadly, these days Australian women tend to be too busy to do a great deal of quilting. And of course, with the much more cheaply available goods, it’s now a time of buy new and throw away the old. Not like the old days, which epitomized the make do and mend motto.

Japanese quilting is renowned for the strong religious and spiritual influences. Quilts were highly valued and given as markers of respect to the emperors and ruling warriors.
The recipient of a quilt is being wished a long life, and the giving of quilting fabric is imbued with spiritual significance.

The Japanese have traditionally worn quilted garments, particularly jackets and house gowns. The most famous are the Yosegire patch work quilts from the 16th Century, which are made using fabric strips. These are still made and worn today, and provide both warmth and luxury. Now Japanese quilts have wonderful appliqué and embroidery, and have continued to be considered of great importance.

The French Tradition

As with the United Kingdom, the recent resurgence of interest in quilting is really a consequence of the way the American craft industry has captured the world since the 1960’s.

Although in a domestic sphere, there has always been quilting and needlework in France, this had largely been lost as an art form. The holding of a major exhibition in the 1970’s, which captured the imagination of many Parisians, and the opening of a quilting and patchwork shop in the center of Paris was the beginning of a new life for quilting in France.

Over the last thirty years, quilting has blossomed in France, and from being an obscure hobby, with materials and tools being hard to find, it has become an increasingly substantial business.

The design of quilts in France is, as you would imagine, of major importance. Both traditional and contemporary designs are very popular now.

Small and very intricately worked pieces have a particular beauty and are highly regarded.
The appliqué work, particularly the Baltimore style, and the patchwork form are really the most popular here.

The matelessage type of quilting is really popular. This uses a whole piece of fabric with the quilting lines drawn on, and then put together with a plain backing piece and central padding, and held taut on a frame for the stitching.

The top fabric might be silk or finely woven and printed cotton. The design markings are followed with a simple running stitch, but very finely sewn. The patterns are simple taken one by one, but the pieces are very densely sewn so the end product is a very rich and heavily worked.

These make wonderful bed coverings, and the style is used for cheaper manufactured pieces which have now gained a huge market across Europe.

There is a major annual festival, now in its 10th year, which succeeds in enticing over 17,000 people from all over the world. Over 800 quilts were exhibited at the most recent show, so you can see how seriously the French are now taking quilting!

The Piquré de Marseilles is also very famous, and was made from two pieces of fabric, and a back cloth and a fine silk or cotton front piece.
The pattern was worked with back stitch, and the filling was inserted between the needle holes. The patterns are not dissimilar to those of William Morris, famous for his Arts and Craft Movement in the United Kingdom.
The method was amended later on for ease of working, and running stitch used
instead of backstitch, and more padding used to fill out the areas between the patterns.
The stitching work is generally done in a contrasting color to the face fabric, and this type of quilting makes wonderful cushions and items of clothing, such as evening jackets.

The boutis evolved to show increasingly larger areas of pattern which could be done much faster. The name of this type of quilting comes from the Provencal for stuffing. The Provencal style was also part of this tradition, and local flora and fauna, as well as religious and romantic designs, were used, reflecting the interests and feelings of the young women quilters.

Later on, predominantly white cotton was used, and these beautiful pieces are famous for being as wonderful on the back of the fabric as on the face. The plain white bed covers, pillow covers and throws are sought after, and similar styles found in many shops like Laura Ashley in the United Kingdom. The style was also used for baby clothes and cot covers. The style, although without the padding, has also become a classic for good quality underwear.

Sadly, this style of work is less common these days, but fashion trends can always surprise, and it may be that it is making a comeback.

Although it’s known as a French Provencal style, it does apparently originate in Sicily at some point during the Middle Ages.

South African quilts

With a warm climate, you would not imagine quilts being necessary to keep warm. However, they are used to depict the history and the culture of South Africa.

There is, for example, a quilt made by Phina Nkosi, who works with the Zamani Quilting Sisters in Soweto. This group formed to try and help women who not only had to live in a racist society, but also a very sexist one. This group worked on the principle of self help, and established a women’s resource center. This quilt includes portraits of women she believed were part of the struggle for freedom in South Africa. The quilt is hung in the MSU Museum Accession, and was bought in conjunction with the South African Cultural Heritage Project. This museum has an extensive collection of quilts, and you can obtain more information by visiting their web site at

The United States of America and Canada

Perhaps the most well known quilting is from this region of the world. In the northern states and Canada, quilting has been part of a very strong tradition in domestic arts and crafts, ensuring American and Canadian families had both beautiful and functional fabrics in their homes.

However, it is most definitely the stuff of myth and legend that quilting was commonplace, either for practical or decorative reasons, in the early colonial times.

The original settlers worked hard and long, and there was little time spare for the artistic quilting that we mistakenly link to these early days. In these days, plain cloth and wadding would have been used to reflect the restrictive religious beliefs of many of the settlers for whom decoration was considered inappropriate.

These early colonial women would have to weave their own cloth, and undertake all the other domestic tasks – and apart from the fact that the men were considered above such humble work, they tended to be outside in the fields, tending the big livestock, and building or fencing.

Women’s lives were hard, and initially often lonely. They had poor access to civilization, often settling in isolated areas, with near neighbors possibly miles away.

Only later on, as families and farms became more established, and the community facilities developed, were women able to have the time and leisure to quilt. Even then it was largely in the better off homes where domestic help was brought in, that the lady of the house would do the decorative quilting.

Of course, women settlers would bring with them the skills learned from their families, so a variety of styles and patterns were imported via them to America. Nevertheless, there was only a very limited amount of fabric available in the early days, and it wasn’t really until the mid 1800’s that there was fabric available for quilting to be affordable.

Prior to this date, most families used
blankets – of varying quality and warmth, but nevertheless cheaper than quilts.

The colonial style underwent a resurgence in the twentieth century. The styles of houses, of furniture, and the soft furnishings, all became very popular, both in America, and abroad. The idea of ‘old colonial style quilts’ was part of the marketing done by magazines and manufacturers, but the quilts they were advertising were definitely made much later than they suggested, probably from the 1850s.

About this time, the manufacturing industry was becoming established, and women in America found they could buy materials. Those who had sheep for wool and grew cotton, could get the raw materials made up into fabric, and no longer had the hard, and time consuming job of weaving and fabric making.

This gave women more time for other things, among them of course, was quilting. So this is really the point in time where American quilt making really became a reality.

Patterns became available, and could be bought in magazines or in stores, but American women enjoyed using the patterns that their friends and family used, and pattern sharing was the norm, rather than buying new ones. These patterns became the traditional American quilting patterns that are still famous today.

Quilting was not an easy hobby for many women. Space in the homes of the majority was limited. The quilting frames were generally large enough for at least 6 women to work at, and initially were home made.

Most homes didn’t have spare space for the frame, so it would either be put together and then taken apart as needed, or connected to a pulley system and hoisted up to the ceiling when not being used.

The quilting bees that enabled women to get together were limited to the number of people who could fit in the available space around the frame.


Quilting Revealed 101

Quilting is as old as the hills, and for many, has that wonderful combination of domestic necessity, social cohesion, and craftwork and commemoration.

Quilting methods don’t vary enormously throughout the world, but the designs are largely specific to a country, or a society, although the traditional American patchwork designs have become loved world wide.

It is wonderful to have such a craft, which is a means of handing down traditions amongst womenfolk mainly, and which has an end product that can both look beautiful, and keep you warm at night.

An exception to this is of course the Hawaiian quilting tradition, which began under the tutelage of the missionaries, and evolved into a means of recording the Hawaiian beliefs and lives. Their quilts talk of their gods, their departed spirits, the new members of their society yet to be born, and the main historical and cultural events of their society. Their use of the beautiful flowers and the love of their culture gives Hawaiian quilting a truly magical and precious quality.

In colder climates, the quilting circle was an opportunity for the women to come together, to talk over the major matters of the day and to provide invaluable support for each other.

The new settlers in The United States of America were hardy and tough. Most of them had to start from scratch. Homes had to be built, and furnished, and in these days, nearly everything had to be grown or made.

Needlework was a very necessary skill for a woman. Without this, they would not be able to make their clothes, and would not be able to make the soft furnishings that not only ‘make a house into a home’, but are necessary for keeping out draughts from windows and doors, and for keeping everyone warm at night.

When societies became more established and there was money and time available, the quilting circle would make quilts to commemorate certain events, and together produce really large quilts that would adorn the walls of the buildings that served as community centers.

And of course, the social network was invaluable. The older women would pass on their skills as needlewomen, and designers of quilts and other crafts. More importantly, they would pass on the invaluable knowledge about family life. Childbirth, medicines for common ailments, cooking and how to grow herbs and vegetables – this was the sub-text, and the very important function of the quilting circle.

Clearly in different times, and different places, the women would have different topics that would dominate the quilting circles’ conversations

The quilting circle was common place. It was necessary, it was helpful and social, and it produced wonderful pieces of work for individuals and for communities.

These days, many women live in relative social isolation. Perhaps more so within the much more
heavily populated urban environments where most of us live.

Maybe we should rekindle the spark – and start new quilting circles – everywhere!!

Redesigned by elhusseiny