Quilting may refer to either the process of stitching through layers of fabric and a filling so as to create a quilt or material used for making a quilt or quilting fabric. Essentially, quilting refers to a quilt sandwich or two layers of fabric with quilt batting stuffed in between. The three layers are tied together by stitching. The upper layer is the quilt top and the lower layer, usually plain fabric, is the backing. The quilt top may be one piece of running fabric or small pieces, called quilt blocks, stitched together to create a design.
The craft of quilting has been around for centuries. The Chinese have been known to use quilted clothing for protection against severe winters. The Crusaders brought the idea back home in the 13th Century on seeing that the Arabs wore quilted shirts under their armor for extra protection. The art of quilting was adopted by European women for making exotically designed bed covers.
Quilting came to the USA with the Pilgrims in 16th Century. Actually, it was lack of resources which made settlers focus on recycling old clothing and fabrics. Old fabric was cut into small pieces and stitched together by patching it over and over till it wore out completely. From a practical solution necessitated by penury, quilting moved into the realm of pretty designs only after the settlers prospered. Patchwork, which started as a necessity eventually evolved as a design element. New techniques such as applique, the art of sewing one or more small pieces of fabric onto a larger background, became a popular way of decorating quilts tops.
Nowadays, patchwork quilts are made from leftover scraps of fabric from previous sewing projects. However, not all scraps are suitable for patchwork. For beginners it is better if they start with only cotton fabrics because cotton is not prone to distortion while it is being sewn. Once a quilter gains adequate experience s/he can then move to loosely woven fabrics such as muslin and other fabrics like silk and wool.
As a quilter you need to plan a project carefully or follow a pattern you see in magazines and design books. The colors depend on your choice and if you have planned appliques then you can experiment with test patches. Most quilters choose to sort light, medium and dark tones or opt for sharp contrasts to create unique quilts.
In olden days quilting was done by hand using needles, a pair of scissors and a thimble. At the most a frame was constructed to allow the quilter to use both hands or for more sewers to work at the same time. Quilts are still made the same way except that some quilters use machines.
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