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All About Quilting

Quilting is a craft that has been around for centuries. For hundreds of years, the Chinese have used quilted cloth for their padded winter clothing. The Crusaders found that the quilted shirts worn by Arabs offered a great deal of protection under their chainmail. They even brought the idea back home in the 13th century. The process was adapted by European women for the use in creating bedcovers. Quilting came to America with the Pilgrims, in the 16th century.

Lack of resources made it necessary for the settlers to recycle their clothing and other fabrics, they made quilt tops, cutting the fabric into smaller pieces and patching or clouting it over and over until it wore out completely. These first quilts were more practical than pretty, but as the settlers prospered the designs became more colorful and elaborate. Appliqué also became a popular way of decorating the quilts and the patchwork quilt was officially born. Around this time quilts became associated with the celebration of important events. Specific designs were created for specific reasons.

The Double Wedding Ring design was used to mark a marriage or anniversary. This design was made from interlocking rings, each constructed from tiny patches. It was a very time consuming project, and usually was worked by multiple quilter's at the same time. These days' patchwork quilts are traditionally made from scraps left over from past sewing projects. Not all scraps are suitable for this purpose. Loosely woven fabrics, such as muslin, are weak and prone to distortion, while very tightly woven fabrics, such as ticking, are not flexible enough and hard to stitch. Cotton is the best fabric to use, especially for inexperienced quilters. Once a quilter is more experienced they may add other fabrics like silk, lightweight wool and so on. The color of a quilt is up to the creator. Most quilters plan their project carefully, or follow an established pattern.

Making test patches is a great way to experiment. Colors are usually sorted into tones, light, medium and dark. Using tone helps to create depth and design. Textured fabric also creates different effects. Pre-wash all fabrics in mild detergent and warm water before starting a quilt. Any fabrics that may run should be washed separately. When the fabrics are dry they should be ironed, either with a steam iron, or a dry iron and a clean damp cloth. Quilts are made of three layers. The top piece is the layer that is decorated and most elaborate. The middle piece is a layer of batting, or wadding, that provides warmth.

The third piece is the backing. These three layers are held together with lines of stitching. These lines may be worked in a grid, in straight rows or elaborate patterns. Originally they were sewn by hand with a needle. Today some quilters still produce quilts this way, while others prefer machine quilting. In the pioneer days the only equipment needed to produce a quilt included a needle, thread and material, and hopefully a pair if shears and a thimble. A wooden frame would be constructed to allow the quilter to use both hands, or to enable more than one sewer to work at a time. Quilting bees were popular social gatherings. Today many quilters prefer to use a large wooden hoop to make their projects more portable.


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