Quilts are some of the most amazing historical documents we have. They tell the story of ordinary people who lived long ago, often preserving their clothing and bits of their stories in beautiful and useful spreads of fabric.
Early History of Quilts
Quilts were once thought to basically be an American invention. However, like most other great things, this craft is really much older. A carving from the 35th century BC appears to show a king wearing a quilted cloak, while the Chinese were making silk quilts as early as 770 BC.
A quilted linen carpet from around the first century was found in a Mongolian cave, and an eighth or ninth century quilted slipper was found near the boarder of China and Russia that is now housed in the British Museum.
A 12th century French poem is the first work of literature known to mention a quilt, and many descriptions of quilts from throughout Europe are still in existence beginning in the 1400s.
In the 1700s, many countries had laws against using fabrics from outside their borders. The oldest surviving American quilt dates from 1726.
Quilting in America
There's no doubt that quilting has always been a popular pastime in America. During the revolution, fabric was scarce and quilts were made out of the clothes of people who died in order to memorialize them.
Patriotic themes were also popular. When the eagle was adopted as a national symbol, many were incorporated into quilts.
Fashions in quilt patterns came and went. Nine patches were popular in the early 1800s, as pattern blocks instead of whole-cloth quilts came into style. In the 1830s, blue and white were popular colors for quilts. Red, green and white were popular in the 1840s.
In 1846, the first commercial quilt batting was developed, and the sewing machine was patented in 1851. The use of cola tar dyes in the 1850s made more vibrant colors possible.
In the 1860s, German immigrants began to influence the style of quilts in American, and in the 1870s the crazy quilt craze took off. A favored quilt in the early 1900s used redwork embroidery.
During the Great Depression, scrap quilting became popular because that was all that was available.
Those of us who love quilts are so lucky to live in a time when technology has given us so many great tools. Beautiful fabrics are available at your local crafts store, fabric store and discount retailer, allowing people at all budgetary levels to make gorgeous quilts.
The sewing machines available today are better than ever. Many machines are designed with the special needs of quilters in mind, coming with extra feet that make machine quilting easier.
There are so many patterns to choose from, from the multitudes of old favorites to new designs being dreamed up every day. Some quilters even work with fabric like a painter works with paint on a canvas, making one-of-a-kind designs that are nothing less than stunning works of art.
At LoveToKnow Crafts, we hope we have some ideas, projects and patterns that will help you discover the wonderful world of quilting.