Patchwork Quilts are formed the same as any quilt with three layers; the top sheet, a layer of batting and a layer of backing material and then they are hand or machine stitched together to form a quilt. The unique and beautiful thing about patchwork quilts is the top layer. Various small shapes and colors of fabric are all pieced together to make one large piece. This form of quilting has been around for many, many years and I remember reading where a quilted funeral tent canopy was found in the tomb of an early Egyptian Queen who lived about 980 BC. During the early Middle Ages two heavy outer fabrics, quilted with soft padding between them were worn as body armor by soldiers. It not only provided warmth, but also aided in protecting them. For warmth, in the 14th century people would use lamb’s wool, feathers, moss or even grass to fill the patchwork quilts. We don’t realize how lucky we are to be able to run down to a quilt or fabric shop and choose from a great assortment of material and batting.
Although ancient history is extremely fascinating the part I’m more interested in is the 18th and 19th centuries when the art of quilt making was brought to America by the Pilgrims. When they first arrived in America they dealt with poor land conditions, harsh weather and very little money. When material items would start to wear out, they were repaired or reused to make beautiful patchwork quilts. More than just quilts were made; they would make tents, mattresses, clothing, flooring and even coverings for protecting their crops. Living then was never easy, so they started quilting bees as a way to enjoy a social gathering while they were working on their patchwork quilts. Young girls were taught to quilt at an early age and as soon as they learned how, they start compiling a dowry and as soon as she was engaged, she would start on her Bridal Quilt.
I’m so glad that a quilting history built on necessity and thrift has stood the test of time and is still enjoyed and treasured today. I have a couple patchwork quilts that my mother made for me and I treasure them dearly. She would use material from our old dresses and Dad’s shirts and lovingly hand feather stitch every piece together. Maybe that’s why I enjoy creating them. My sister does beautiful machine embroidered squares of everything from birds, all kinds of wildlife, flowers and etc and I then incorporate them into our own patchwork quilts. It’s a great way that we stay in touch and enjoy a craft together. It’s kind of interesting to think that Patchwork Quilts were originally started to make use of left-over scraps of fabric so nothing was wasted and today we take full bolts of fabric and cut them into small squares or pieces of fabric only to stitch them back together to make one.
Lanette Herrmann is co-founder of Something and More Hand Crafted Gifts, http://www.somethingandmore.com, and has enjoyed woodcrafting and other types of crafts for many years. She started out learning how to braid rugs with her grandmother. She got her love of hand stitching and weaving rugs from her mother. She also enjoys quilting, using the scroll saw and many other woodworking tools. When she isn’t working at her full time job, Lynn’s favorite pastime is spending time with her family.
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Photos: 1: Bethany Carlson, 2: Brano Hudak, 3: Jonathan M