In years past, many of us remember the comfort of a handmade quilt lovingly pieced and stitched with a story for every fabric scrap used in the making.
Those quilts are heirlooms now, too fragile to use, so we enjoy them as art, whether they’re hanging on a wall or folded in the bedroom. There are quilters out there now (and you know who you are) who are creating new works of art for their family and friends or simply for the fun of quilting.
What is a quilt? Simply defined, it is made from two layers of fabric, usually cotton, with a layer of padding made from cotton or polyester batting and stitched together in a decorative pattern over the entire surface. The decorative pattern of the top layer comes from both piecing fabric together in a pattern and then stitching it to the batting and bottom layer. The history behind the many hundreds of quilt patterns is fascinating. Log cabin, wedding ring, nine patch and Jacob’s ladder are some of the more commonly known. Some quilt patterns have a number of names, as quilters developed their own interpretations.
A handmade quilt is quite literally put together by hand stitching the pieces and the layers. It is truly a labour of love. It is a measure of a quilter’s skill to make tiny stitches, stitched evenly all over the quilt. Most quilters today will machine stitch the pieces together and then either machine or hand stitch the ‘quilting’ or the layers.
A quilting bee is a very social time of hand stitching, chatter and tea when a number of quilters will put the layers together after the piecing of the top layer is complete. Historically, this would be a time for women to share recipes, exchange news and spend some time away from the other chores of running a household. Plus, a little showing off of sewing skills may have been part of the attraction.
Quilts are somewhere between a blanket and a duvet when it comes to the warmth value. In the summer, I love a quilt, as it holds just enough body heat on a cooler summer evening to stay comfortable. A quilt and a sheet are the perfect combination. In the winter, add a blanket between the two and most of us will be warm enough in our airtight homes.
The quilts we have in the store today are machine made and are often a single, solid piece of material with an attractive pattern printed on it. They’re often stitched together in an intricate pattern. A good quilt has been pre-washed to shrink the fabric so it doesn’t pucker when you wash it. Quilts are popular, in part, because they are easily machine washed and dried. The fabric is strong, colourfast and is a major decorative element in a bedroom. The sizes range from twin to extra king and from solid, simple fabrics to very subtle patterns or colourful pieced layers. The modern quilts may not become heirlooms, but the value of warmth and the esthetic appeal is important.
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