My interest in quilting and patchwork started many years ago and I found that starting with a small project and using Baby Quilt Patterns as a source of ideas and inspiration, I was able to produce a very pleasing quilt for a baby’s cot without too much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands.
I think the term The Quilt became a product of the verb To Quilt as there is evidence of ancient statues wearing quilted garments, a quilted linen carpet was found in Siberia around the beginning of the first century and of course the very fashionable quilted doublet and hose of the Elizabethan era. Even today we have quilted body warmers, trousers and sleeping bags.
To quilt is to attach two pieces of fabric together with a sandwich of wadding or batting between them (to provide warmth if required) by sewing through all the layers. Attaching the layers together ensured that the padding remained evenly distributed particularly during the washing process and also air was trapped which provided further insulation.
Baby Quilt Patterns are unlikely to have been used in the first quilts created because coloured fabrics were scarce. Therefore the first quilts were made out of one piece of white calico and the stitches used to secure everything would have been small running stitches. Probably initially they would have sewn the fabrics diagonally but as they became more imaginative, they created more intricate patterns.
It is unlikely that quilts were made as the first form of bed coverings – they took too long to make. Blankets were spun and woven out of wool. However, once the very necessary need to keep warm in bed had been met, I think the more affluent ladies who did not have to bother with household chores and therefore had time on their hands wanted something to occupy their time and an outlet for their creativity. They started to make pretty bed coverings. White calico with a couple of lines of running stitches was somewhat boring so gradually stitching a pattern on the calico developed until some very intricate patterns were created. As the art developed, so did the competition to become the most proficient quilter.
With the increasing availability of coloured fabrics, colour was introduced to The Quilt by sewing shapes to form applique quilt patterns to the top cover. Any shape could be used (even a motif cut out of an old curtain). The edges were turned under and the shape sewn onto the fabric with a variety of stitches. Once again creativity blossomed as the shapes to be appliqued could make a pattern depicting a scene, tell a story, help a child to read by sewing on the letters of the alphabet. The ideas were and still are endless.
Block patterns came later. It has been a general assumption that the poorer families re-used old clothes and old furnishings by cutting them up into a variety of shapes or strips and sewing them back together to make a new garment. An early example of recycling. It became known as “patchwork” quilting. One example is the Log Cabin Quilt effect. When I first started to learn to quilt I looked for some easy quilt patterns. Log cabin patterns are made up of strips of fabric cut at the same width but differing lengths and then sewn together to create a block effect. An additional pleasing effect is achieved by lighter and darker shades of the same colour.
Paper played an important part in quilting too. In the early American pioneering days, paper was scarce. Used envelopes, letters, newspaper cuttings were cut into shapes – (hexagonal being very popular) and a piece of fabric was cut of the same shape, slightly bigger. The fabric was tacked to the paper and then the shapes were sewn together to make pleasing patterns. The paper was left in to provide insulation and many years later was a source of information about pioneer life.
Of course all this activity was taking place without the aid of electricity which meant hours of sewing by hand in natural light and then by the poor light of a candle or paraffin lamp if there was a deadline to finish the quilt. These days we may not get together as much to help make a quilt for a young girl’s bottom drawer but the art of quilting is still very much alive and there are lots of quilting groups both in America and Britain.
The invention of the sewing machine in the 1850s and subsequent electric models has considerably reduced the time it takes to make a quilt. Quilts have become a work of art and are used as wall hanging as well as bed covers. There is a lot of information available to anyone considering making a quilt but I would advise you to start small and what better way than to look at some Baby Quilt Patterns to get inspiration and you could create a quilt which in time becomes an heirloom.
Davina has created an number of quilts, duvet covers, beach bags, cushion covers over the years. It is a very satisfying hobby and I would encourage any one who is interested in colour and patterns to have a go. Be warned though, you will find your spare room becomes filled with bags of material just waiting to be attached to other bags of material!