Quilting is the term given to the process of joining a minimum of three layers of fabric together either through stitching manually using a needle and thread, or mechanically with a sewing machine or specialised longarm quilting system. An array of stitches is passed through all layers of the fabric to create a three dimensional padded surface. The three layers are typically referred to as the top fabric or quilt top, batting or insulating material and the backing.
Quilting varies from a purely functional fabric joinery technique to highly elaborate, decorative three dimensional surface treatments. A wide variety of textile products are traditionally associated with quilting that includes bed coverings, soft home furnishings, garments and costumes, wall hangings, artistic objects and cultural artifacts.
A wide range of effects can be employed by the quilter that contribute to the final surface quality and utility of the quilted material. The quilter controls these effects through the manipulation of elements such as material type and thickness, stitch length and style, pattern design, piecing and cutting. Two dimensional effects such as optical illusions can be achieved through aesthetic choices regarding colour, texture and print. Three dimensional and sculptural components of quilted material can be manipulated and enhanced with further embellishment which may include appliqué, embroidery techniques such as shisha mirror work, and the inclusion of other objects or elements such as pearls, beads, buttons, sequins. Some quilters dye or create their own fabrics. In contemporary artistic quilting, new and experimental materials such as plastics, paper, naturally occurring fibres and plants amongst a diverse array of other materials have been used.
The origin of the term 'quilt' is linked to the Latin word culcita, meaning a bolster or cushion. Usage of the term seems to have first been used in England in the 13th century. However the sewing techniques of piecing, appliqué, and quilting have been used for clothing and furnishings in diverse parts of the world for several millennia and a wide range of quilting styles and techniques have uniquely evolved around the globe.
In Europe, quilting has been part of the needlework tradition from about the fifth century, with early objects containing Egyptian cotton, which may indicate that Egyptian and Mediterranean trade provided a conduit for the technique. However, quilted objects were relatively rare in Europe until approximately the twelfth century, when quilted bedding and other items appeared after the return of the Crusaders from the Middle East. The medieval quilted gambeson, aketon and arming doublet were garments worn under or instead of armor of maille or plate armor. These developed into the later quilted doublet worn as part of fashionable European male clothing from the fourteenth to seventeenth century. The earliest known surviving European bed quilt is from late-fourteenth-century Sicily: the Tristan quilt made of linen and padded with wool. The blocks across the center are scenes from the legend of Tristan. The quilt is 320 287 cm (126 113 in) and is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.The word quilt comes from the Latin culcita meaning a stuffed sack, but it came into the English language from the French word cuilte.
There is a long tradition of African-American quilting beginning with quilts made by enslaved Africans, both for themselves and for the people who enslaved them. The style of these quilts was determined largely by time period and region, rather than race, and the documented slave-made quilts generally resemble those made by white women in their region. After 1865 and the end of slavery in the United States, African-Americans began to develop their own distinctive style of quilting.Harriet Powers, an African American woman born into slavery, made two famous "story quilts" and was one of the many African-American quilters who contributed to the development of quilting in the United States. This style of African-American quilts was categorized by its bright colors, organization in a strip arrangement, and asymmetrical patterns.
The first nationwide recognition of African-American quilt-making came when the Gee's Bend quilting community of Alabama was celebrated in an exhibition that opened in 2002 and traveled to many museums, including the Smithsonian. Gee's Bend is a small, isolated community of African-Americans in southern Alabama with a quilt-making tradition that goes back several generations and is characterized by pattern improvisation, multiple patterning, bright and contrasting colors, visual motion, and a lack of rules. The contributions made by Harriet Powers and other quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama have been recognized by the US Postal Service with a series of stamps. The communal nature of the quilting process (and how it can bring together women of varied races and backgrounds) was honored in the series of stamps. Themes of community and storytelling are common themes in African-American quilts.
Contemporary quilters such as Faith Ringgold utilize quilt making to tell stories and make political statements about the African-American experience. Ringgold, originally a painter, began quilting in order to stray away from Western art practices. Her famous "story quilts" utilize mixed media, painting, and quilting. One of her most famous quilts, Tar Beach 2 (1990), depicts the story of a young African-American girl flying around Harlem in New York City.
Another American group to develop a distinct style of quilting were the Amish. Typically, these quilts use only solid fabrics, are pieced from geometric shapes, do not contain appliqué, and construction is simple (corners are butted, rather than mitered, for instance) and done entirely by hand. Amish quilters also tend to use simple patterns: Lancaster County Amish are known for their Diamond-in-a-Square and Bars patterns, while other communities use patterns such as Brick, Streak of Lightning, Chinese Coins, and Log Cabins, and midwestern communities are known for their repeating block patterns. Borders and color choice also vary by community. For example, Lancaster quilts feature wide borders with lavish quilting. Midwestern quilts feature narrower borders to balance the fancier piecing.
Some Native Americans are thought to have learned quilting through observation of white settlers; others learned it from missionaries who taught quilting to Native American women along with other homemaking skills. Native American women quickly developed their own unique style, the Lone Star design (also called the Star of Bethlehem), a variation on Morning Star designs that had been featured on Native American clothing and other items for centuries. These quilts often featured floral appliqué framing the star design. Star quilts have become an important part of many Plains Indian ceremonies, replacing buffalo robes traditionally given away at births, marriages, tribal elections, and other ceremonies. Pictorial quilts, created with appliqué, were also common.
Another distinctive style of Native American quilting is Seminole piecing, created by Seminoles living in the Florida Everglades. The style evolved out of a need for cloth (the closest town was often a week's journey away). Women would make strips of sewing the remnants of fabric rolls together, then sew these into larger pieces to make clothing. Eventually the style began to be used not just for clothing but for quilts as well. In 1900, with the introduction of sewing machines and readily available fabric in Seminole communities, the patterns became much more elaborate and the style continues to be in use today, both by Seminole women and by others who have copied and adapted their designs and techniques.
"Hawaiian quilting was well established by the beginning of the twentieth century. Hawaiian women learned to quilt from the wives of missionaries from New England in the 1820s. Though they learned both pieced work and applique, by the 1870s they had adapted applique techniques to create a uniquely Hawaiian mode of expression. The classic Hawaiian quilt design is a large, bold, curvilinear appliqué pattern that covers much of the surface of the quilt, with the symmetrical design cut from only one piece of fabric."
There are two primary forms of quilting that originate in South Asia: Nakshi Kantha and Ralli. Nakshi Kantha quilts originated in India and are typically made of scraps and worn-out fabric stitched together with old sari threads using kantha embroidery stitches. "The layers of cloth were spread on the ground, held in place with weights at the edges, and sewn together with rows of large basting stitches. The cloth was then folded and worked on whenever there was time." The first recorded kantha are more than 500 years old.
Quilting originated in Sweden in the fifteenth century with heavily stitched and appliquéd quilts made for the very wealthy. These quilts, created from silk, wool, and felt, were intended to be both decorative and functional and were found in churches and in the homes of nobility. Imported cotton first appeared in Sweden in 1870, and began to appear in Swedish quilts soon after along with scraps of wool, silk, and linen. As the availability of cotton increased and its price went down, quilting became widespread among all classes of Swedish society. Wealthier quilters used wool batting while others used linen scraps, rags, or paper mixed with animal hair. In general, these quilts were simple and narrow, made by both men and women. The biggest influence on Swedish quilting in this time period is thought to have come from America as Swedish immigrants to the United States returned to their home country when conditions there improved.
American artist Judy Chicago stated in a 1981 interview that if not for sexism in the visual arts, the art world, and broader society, quilting would be regarded as a form of high art:.mw-parser-output .templatequoteoverflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequoteciteline-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0 041b061a72