Learn all about what is quilting! Almost anyone who has an interest in crafts has heard about quilting. This article aims to give you more information about this fascinating craft.
What Is Quilting?
Quilting is the process of sewing layers of fabric together by hand or machine to create a warm covering - either as a quilted garment or as a bed cover. The layers are often called a quilt sandwich because you have an upper and a lower layer of fabric (the bread) and a thicker layer in the middle (usually batting) which is the filling.
What are Quilting Stitches?
These are the quilting stitches, made by hand or machine, which hold the layers of the quilt sandwich together. They can be very basic, just a few lines of straight stitching, or very elaborate, making beautiful designs of their own.
What Is Patchwork?
Patchwork is the making of a quilt top out of many different fabrics. A lot of people use the terms quilting and patchwork interchangeably. But patchwork actually refers to small pieces of different fabrics cut into squares, rectangles, strips, triangles, or any shape at all, and stitched together.
These pieces are placed in a regular pattern to make quilt blocks. These blocks are then sewn together to make the quilt top. Patchwork is also called piecing. It is great fun and a good mental challenge to decide how to put these small pieces together to create a harmonious design.
What Does Quilting Mean - A History Of Quilting
The aketon or gambeson, a quilted undergarment worn by Crusaders in the 12th century that eventually evolved into the doublet, is thought to have introduced quilting to Europe (Colby, 1971). The doublet remained an important component of fashionable men's apparel for 300 years, up to the early 1600s.
From England and Australia, the Rajah Quilt, a quilt measuring 9.8 by 9.8 feet (3 by 3 meters), is on display in the National Gallery of Australia. About 30 female prisoners who were being transferred from England to Tasmania in 1841 constructed it. The quilt was rediscovered in Scotland in 1989. It is a medallion quilt with a central piece of broderie perse.
In the United States, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, quilting was very popular. Colonial quilts were ornamental pieces that showcased the skilled stitching of their creators rather than being constructed from discarded bits or used clothing as a simple bedcovering during this time. Few people made these quilts since only the wealthy had the free time to do so. For the majority of people, commercial blankets or woven coverlets were a more affordable option for bedding.
From 1840 on, the usage of piecework and blocks made from printed fabric became more common.
Although scraps were often used for quilt making, it is not true that they were always made from scraps and worn-out clothing. Many were made with matching fabrics specially bought for the quilt.
The invention of the sewing machine also contributed to quilt making.
Before the American Civil War, quilts were produced to generate money for the abolitionist movement, and they were manufactured again during the conflict to assist the war effort and provide warmth and comfort for the troops. These abolitionists were known as ‘The Underground Railroad’ and they assisted escaped slaves to find safety. According to a widely accepted myth, some quilts were used as signals to aid slaves in their escape. A log cabin quilt, for example, might be hung on the washing line of a safe house.
A wide variety of useful, and artistic quilting styles have emerged today, incorporating ever-expanding equipment and techniques. The difference between modern and traditional quilting has substantially broadened thanks to technological advancements like long-arm quilting machines and computer tools for mapping quilt top patterns and color schemes.
Quilting is currently experiencing a strong rebirth. The history of quilting as a social and artistic space where people have interacted through many generations is being carried on by many books, magazines, blogs, and videos demonstrating quilting techniques and instructions that people from all over the world have created and shared online.
Types Of Quilting
The most common types of quilts are a pieced patchwork quilt with many small pieces of fabric cut into specific shapes and made into blocks. The blocks are then sewn together.
Within this category are also scrap quilts, where scraps of leftover fabric are used to create the patchwork blocks. Also within this genre are string quilts, created from narrow fabric strips, ribbons, or lace remnants. Even selvage strips are saved by some quilters, who use them as ‘string’ pieces. These are typically attached to a base cloth before the base patches are fully assembled.
Another type of quilting is the Appliqué Quilt. Generally, designs are appliquéd onto square blocks, which are then pieced together to form the whole quilt. The designs are cut out of coordinated fabric and then stitched onto the basic blocks. They can be attached by hand, using blanket stitch or needle turn appliqué techniques, or they can be attached by machine.
Crazy quilts are created by stitching together a foundation fabric with a number of oddly shaped leftover pieces. The patches don't have a predetermined design. In the Victorian era, these quilts were immensely popular. They are frequently made of expensive fabrics like velvet and satin, and they are always elaborately adorned with embroidery, lace, and beadwork.
Trapunto Quilts may appear difficult and intimidating, but the technique is simple to learn. They are made by stitching a design on your fabric and then stuffing it to give it a raised effect. Narrow areas are filled with yarn, while larger areas are filled with multiple rows of yarn or stuffing similar to that used to fill small toys.
Whole Cloth Quilts
Whole Cloth Quilts are made with one solid piece of fabric rather than multiple patchwork pieces, as the name implies. The beauty of these is in the intricate quilting that gives the fabric texture.
Medallion quilts feature a large central block or motif framed or surrounded by a decorative quilt border. The central motif can be stenciled, appliquéd, or embroidered, and the border can be pieced or quilted decoratively.
Sampler quilts are made up of various quilting blocks that are all stitched together, as opposed to using only one or two repeated blocks throughout the quilt. They are made with a coordinating color or theme to tie the entire quilt together. The various designs are generally unified by the use of sashing, or the exact same colors in each block.
Watercolor or Colorwash quilts are extremely beautiful quilts made with small square blocks blended together in tonal range to create a quilt that resembles an impressionist painting. They may have appliquéd motifs on top of this color blend, or the colors may change subtly to create a picture.
A Memory Quilt is made from old clothes that belonged to a loved one. They are frequently constructed from scraps of baby clothing or T-shirts with happy slogans. They are also sometimes made from scraps of clothing worn by a person who has passed away as a lovely way to remember them.
English Paper Piecing (EPP) quilts are made by stitching or sticking fabric around paper templates and then hand stitching all of these pieces together. The paper templates are then removed before the batting and backing are added. They are typically intricately shaped pieces that would be difficult to machine stitch together.
Foundation Paper Piecing, on the other hand, is a completely different machine-based technique. Sewing your various fabrics onto a numbered, printed paper foundation is how it's done. It's popular because it allows you to make intricate quilt blocks with perfect points and shapes.
What Does Quilting Mean - Quilting Terms
Read about some of the quilting terms you will commonly find in quilt patterns.
Quilting Tools And Supplies
As with any craft, making quilts is a lot easier to do if you have all the correct quilting tools for the job! You will need the following:
- Quilting cotton fabric -Tightly woven cotton fabrics such as fat quarters are best for this.
- Matching cotton thread
- Erasable fabric marker pens
- Batting for the center layer of the quilt
- Backing fabric for the bottom layer of the quilt
- Cutting tools - Rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat, scissors
- Measuring tools - Quilting ruler, ordinary ruler or a tape measure, set square.
- Sewing Machine or needles for hand stitching.
- Iron and ironing board.
- Quilting presser foot
What is Quilting Fabric?
It is advisable to use fabric specially created for quilting, as it is tightly woven cotton fabric, which will hold up to being cut into small pieces and will survive multiple washes.
Loosely woven or thick, heavy fabrics are difficult to work with. Quilting fabrics are also often color coordinated to make selecting your color palette easier. Of course, if you are making a scrap quilt, you may not be using actual quilting fabric, but do try to select scraps of similar weight which are tightly woven.
Pre-cut Quilting Fabrics
It is possible to buy quilting fabrics that are already cut into the smaller shapes needed to make any quilt block. This saves a lot of time and careful measurement! Some examples of these pre-cut fabrics are:
- Fat Quarters- these are quarter yards of fabric, cross cut to make an almost square shape. Usually cut 18”x22”.
- Fat Eighths- are half the size of fat quarters. 9”x 22”
- Layer Cake- these are squares, usually cut 10”x10”.
- Charm Pack- half the size of layer cakes, 5”x5”.
- Jelly Roll- these are long narrow strips, 2 ½’ x44”.
- Honey Bun- narrower versions of Jelly Rolls. 1 ½” x 44”.
More specialized pre-cut fabrics include Honeycomb (hexagons), Mini Charms (2 ½”x 2 ½”) and Turnovers (triangles).
Different Types Of Batting
For the filling of your quilt sandwich, you will need some kind of batting for puffiness and warmth. Loft and Fiber are the two most important considerations when selecting batting for a quilt.
Loft: This refers to the thickness of your batting. Low Loft means thin, and High Loft means thick. Low Loft batting results in a thinner quilt (of course), but it is less bulky and works much better for a running stitch, whether done by hand or on a home machine - especially if you are quilting it yourself. High Loft batting is best for a thicker, comforter-style finish where the quilt will be tied by hand or if you want to really showcase the quilting.
Fiber: This specifies the material of the batting. Polyester, 100% cotton, and cotton/poly blend are the three most common types of quilt batting, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Wool, bamboo, and silk have recently become more widely available. These other natural batting options are excellent, but they are usually more expensive.
The Basics Of Quilting
Read my full article on how to quilting for beginners and how to make a quilt
- Prewashing and Preparation - All the fabric for your quilt must be prewashed, and it is advisable to wash each separately, to be sure that the dye doesn’t run and stain the other fabrics.
- Patchwork The Top - Assemble your patchwork blocks just as your pattern tells you to. The piecing order often makes a difference, so stick to the instructions! Press each quilt seam as you complete it. Once your block is assembled, press the entire block and trim the edges with your rotary cutter to get the correct size and shape of the block.
- Sandwiching The 3 Layers - Lay the batting on top of the backing. Then lay the quilt top on top of the batting, right side up. Pin the layers together, starting from the center and working outwards. Baste the quilt.
- Sew Quilting Stitches - Your quilting stitches can now commence. When quilting is complete, trim the edges of the three layers so that they are even.
What is Quilting Binding
Once the quilting is complete, you need to bind the quilt edges to finish them off neatly.
- Square up your quilt once more with your ruler and rotary cutter.
- Make your binding. Because you'll be sewing along straight edges, it doesn't have to be cut on the bias. Choose the width of the binding. It is typically 2-3" (5-7 cm) plus seam allowance. Cut strips and then sew them together to make one long strip that will fit all the way around the quilt.
- Fold and press your binding strip in half lengthwise. Place your binding on top of the quilt, right sides facing and raw edges together. The binding fold will be facing the center of the quilt. Secure with pins. Continue in this manner all the way around the quilt. Open out the binding and join the flaps together when you get close to your original flap. Refold everything and sew it all down over the join.
- The next step is to fold the doubled binding over all the raw edges of the quilt and stitch it down on the back. Traditionally, this was done by hand with a tiny slip stitch, but you can sew a neat line of stitches close to the folded edge with your machine. Make sure that all of your layers are enclosed!
What is Quilt Borders
Quilts often need borders to surround the blocks. Read more about quilt border patterns, quilt sashing, and quilt borders for beginners.
All About Quilting Blocks
This aspect of quilting is so vast it is difficult to do it justice in an all-in-one article like this. There are a huge variety of different quilting blocks, both traditional and modern. Read about matching seams for quilting which will help you put the blocks together. Some examples of simple block designs are:
What to Quilt
The easiest thing to make for beginners is a baby quilt. These small quilts can be used as lap quilts and are great for practicing techniques. You can also change the quilt sizes to make it into a full-sized quilt.
How to Make a Baby Quilt - Easy Beginners Quilt
Flower Quilt Patterns - 14 of the Best
What Is Quilting FAQs
What is the purpose of quilting?
The purpose of the actual process of quilting stitches is to secure the three layers of quilt sandwich together. The purpose of quilting as a whole is to make a warm, padded fabric, whether for clothing or as a bed cover.
How do you quilt on a regular sewing machine?
It is definitely possible to quilt on a regular sewing machine. You will need a walking foot to quilt straight lines. This foot helps to prevent gathers or tucks from forming in the three layers of your quilt.
The feed dogs will be up. You can stitch in the ditch, manage any straight lines of quilting, or turn wide curves. The machine controls the length and direction of your stitches.
If you want those beautiful swirly lines of quilting, you can use a darning foot and have the feed dogs down. This method does take a bit of practice, as you are in complete control of your stitch length and direction.
The most difficult thing about quilting with a regular machine is to fit the quilt into the space you have on your machine! If you roll the quilt tightly, you can squeeze it into the available space!
Is quilting different than sewing?
Quilting is, in fact, a form of sewing. Sewing refers to any type of stitching; dressmaking, sewing home décor, stitching soft toys, and so on, but quilting refers specifically to the joining together of the three layers of the quilt sandwich.
When you are piecing your quilt, you are sewing, but when you are assembling the layers of the quilt, you are quilting.
Can I quilt without a walking foot?
When you use a walking foot, you do not drop the feed dogs. A walking foot, like feed dogs, has teeth and pulls from the top and bottom, which is why it is also known as an even feed foot.
I would try lowering the pressure on your foot and see if it feeds without bunching up. So you can manage to quilt without a walking foot, but you have to be careful not to let any of the quilt layers bunch up or tuck.
Free motion quilting is done by lowering the feed dogs and using a darning foot, but I would recommend practicing on scrap sandwiches first. You will need to practice getting the stitch length and direction correct.
What is Quilting - In Conclusion
Quilting has come a long way since the original forms of this art. It is a lot quicker and easier nowadays, with modern aids such as sewing machines and rotary cutters. These allow you to be creative at any time you have available, rather than having each quilt take years to create!
If you are completely new to quilting, experiment a bit with small quilts, and before you know it, you will be creating wonderful, original bed quilts which are unique to you and your style and are one of a kind!
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