What is quilting Quilting History I

Quilting History I 

What is quilting well There is evidence throughout history that quilted items have been used for warmth and protection. An Egyptian carved ivory piece belonging to the British Museum shows a pharaoh wearing quilted clothing. Persians used quilted prayer rugs and draperies. Apparently, quilting arrived in Europe during the Crusades in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Crusaders started using quilted undershirts (gambesons) to wear under the chain mail worn underneath their armor to 

What is quilting Middle Ages in Europeprevent chaffing like their Arab enemies wore. It was as effective and lighter than the leather-clothing layer they wore previously. Quilted outer garments and bedding were used during the Middle Ages in Europe.

There is an example of decorative quilting dated circa second half of the thirteenth century: the Tristan Quilt. It is thought to be the only surviving example of decorative quilting of the Middle Ages. Historical evidence in the form of household inventories show that quilted bedding and draperies were used in Europe during the next centuries (even king Henry VII of England’s household inventory lists quilts as part of his bedding furnishings).

It is likely that quilts arrived in the continent with the first European settlers, but it is unlikely that many quilts would have been made during the first years of this period. The colonial housewife had no time to quilt. She had to raise food, prepare it and preserve it. Women had to spin thread and weave it to make clothing. They were also responsible for making household goods such as candles, and on top, had to raise children.

Fabric would have been scarce and therefore precious. Fabric making was a lengthy and tedious process, whether linen or wool fabric was made. It took an average of sixteenth months from the time the flax was planted to the time the linen was ready for garment making. There were restrictions in place regarding the import of flaxseed and sheep to the New World’s colonies.

It is likely then that most bedding was simply mended and patched, or if the need arose, woolen coverlets and blankets would have been purchased. Colonial homes during the first settling period were simply too small to allow for a quilt frame to be set up. More than likely there was neither time, nor space, nor money to make quilts. If any quilts were made, they would have been strictly utilitarian items made with discarded clothing fabric and padded with wool, meant to be used for warmth, not decorative but functional pieces.

During the earlier half of the eighteenth century, life became easier for the colonist woman. More imported goods from Britain became available for purchase. The growing middle class had more money and more leisure time to purchase and use them. Schools for girls to learn fancy stitching started to appear in larger cities to teach the daughters of the wealthy. Colonists wanted to copy European fashion, so everything that was fashionable in Europe also became fashionable in the colonies, as was the case with chintz fabric imported from India. Chintz was glazed cotton fabric, printed with exotic motifs, such as flowers and birds. It became the rage for home articles and clothing all over Europe and America. As life became easier, quilts were made in the style of European quilts. Three styles are indicative of this colonial period:

-Whole cloth quilts: a quilt made with three layers, neither pieced nor appliqued. A top layer of linsey-woolsey, wool batting and a loose weave backing were heavily quilted together to make large bed coverings to fit four poster beds, often times long enough to reach the floor, with slashes to fit around the bed posts. Linsey-woolsey refers to a fabric with a linen warp and a wool weft. The fabric was dyed with natural homemade dyes. Most often it was dyed blue, red or in shades of brown. These quilts are generally heavily quilted with scrolls, feathers, floral motifs and a lot of background quilting to make the other quilting motifs stand out. The truly gifted needlewoman would even use “trapunto”, in which What is quilting Calamanco quiltsareas of quilted are stuffed with bits of batting to make them more noticeable. Calamanco quilts are made in the same fashion, but with glazed wool fabric (wool fabric treated with heat), giving them a shiny appearance. Calamanco was made in England and imported to the colonies.

-Medallion style quilts: made by stitching pieces of Indian chintz onto a plain background, in a style known as “Broderie Perse”. These quilts made use of the expensive chintzes in a resourceful way. The motifs were cut out from the chintz and appliquéd onto a linen or linen/cotton or fustian background to create stunning pieces of quilting art. The British ban on chintz fabric import made it expensive and hard to get, so these quilts are also called “one yard quilts”, as one yard of chintz could be used to get enough fabric to appliqué a top. The motifs are arranged in a medallion style, with a central large motif, such as a tree (Tree of Life) is surrounded by flowers, birds and other designs. These were “best quilts”, made for special occasions.

-Pieced quilts in the English style: normally, one piece quilts, either rectangles, squares, hexagons or diamonds, arranged often times around a central medallion, with or without borders, similar to the ones made in England.

The War of Independence changed the history of quilting in America. During the war years, it became increasingly difficult to import fabric. Quilts with patriotic motifs are made, as are memorial quilts to remember victims of the war. The eagle and stars become popular designs for quilters’ patriotic quilts.

After the war, because of changes to the way fabric is imported, made and printed, quilting flourishes in America.

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