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Learn about quilting and how it came to America, where it is still practiced today.
Tags:The History of Quilting in America,introduction to quilting,needlecraft,patchwork in america,quilting,quilting in america,quilting in the uk,re:fine
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The History of Quilting in America
Quilts for so many people are simply covers that they throw over their beds and wrap themselves up in when the weather turns cold. Maybe the advent of central heating is one of the reasons why the craft of quilting has been somewhat forgotten over the years and few people have experienced the pleasure of making and keeping handcrafted quilts. However, there has been a huge craft resurgence of late which has included several other forms of needlework such as embroidery and patchwork.
During this surge in popularity, many people have started to experience the joy of quilting which is so satisfying and can even prove to be rather pleasantly addictive. Modern day society is washed with mass produced fittings and dressing for the home that make one house look identical to the next. But with crafts such as quilting, you can now surround yourself with beautiful originally conversation pieces that will always get your visitors talking.
One of the many misconceptions about quilting is that it’s a laborious task to make and complete a whole quilt. It’s true that a king-sized bed throne might well take awhile to sew, but the enjoyment and relaxation that people get out of the process is worth the effort alone. You can even quilt while you’re watching television or listening to music. And if you use a design that calls for individual blocks, you can take one with you to stitch wherever you go. Consequently, if you use your time wisely, your quilt will begin to take shape and grow in no time at all. And of course, you could always start with something smaller like cushion.
The origins of quilting however were not quite as relaxed or tranquil as the craft that we practice today. Just like other forms of sewing, quilting grew out of a need to produce warm clothing and blankets that could keep a family warm through bitterly cold winters.
Like many other crafts, because quilts were created in the home, the exact date of when it all began has been lost somewhere overtime. It’s known that quilted fabric was around in ancient Egypt but it wasn’t until several thousand years later during the 18th century that the form of quilting which we know and love today began to take shape.
Up until this point in time, fabric was not factory produced so women had to spend much of their time weaving and knitting in their own homes to produce blankets and garments for their family. The process of hand weaving was lengthy so there was no time to play around with the material as necessity was far more important than creativity. Nevertheless, as the industrial revolution gathered pace, the noise of a thousand fabric looms started to roar. And by the early 19th century, it was estimated that well over 10,000 power looms were in operation in Great Britain. A vast quantity of material was being produced which made the price drop to make it affordable for ordinary people to buy. And the mills particularly in the north of England turn that twirl of the cotton fabrics to meet the demand.
For many people, the hard task of weaving was no longer required and the homemakers of the time were starting to become more creative with their quilt production methods including patchwork and the art of quilting became even more popular.
This is Chawton Cottage, in the heart of the Hampshire countryside and its most famous occupant was better known for her writing than her sewing. This was the home of Jane Austin, the author responsible for such great English classics as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. And as we all know, he young ladies were expected to be highly accomplished in every aspect of needlework.
For visitors to Jane Austin’s house, now a wonderful museum, there’s a real treat in store if they happen to be quilters. In the great lady’s modest bedroom, a beautiful hand stitched quilt hangs upon the wall made by Jane and her sister Cassandra. We know that from their letters that the pair were always on the lookout for patches for their quilt. And like so many quilt, it really is a very precious piece of living history.
Quilting developed as a much practiced needlecraft all over Britain but it was also very popular across the Atlantic in America. And today when you mention quilting, most people will think of the USA.
Over the years, the Americans became very skilled in both patchwork and quilting. The women of colonial America embraced both crafts and to this day, you will find that quilting these take in place all over the USA which is where a number of stitches joined together to work on one quilt or their own individual projects in the company of others. Interestingly as there has been a resurgence of interest of both crafts, this practice has become ever more popular in Britain as well. This has been instrumental and people are using more modern techniques to bring quilting right up to date although there are plenty of quilters keeping the traditional designs alive.
Now, if the sight of these beautiful quilts fills you with trepidation, fear not, it’s not as complicated as it looks. Even though a quilt is one complete item, it’s actually made out of three separate elements and this is why they are actually so warm. Today, mountaineers would use a lot less to build up for warmth and this is precisely how a quilt works.
Looking at a finished quilt, you’ll see two sections. The top and the bottom and be able to feel the third, the padding. The top is generally the most decorative part of the quilt as it’s the section that everyone was seeing and it is usually covered with all sorts of stitching patterns and can either be one complete piece of material or made up of lots of smaller pieces of patchwork.