What Is A Quilt?
Learn How To Quilt
What is a quilt: a thick blanket, a wall
hanging, a table runner, a jacket, a lap
warmer, a conversation piece, a large purse...
Exactly what is a quilt?
This is how to quilt:
A quilt in simple terms is an item composed ot
three layers (a top or facing layer, a filler
layer, and a backing layer) that are sewn
Most people think of bed
coverings when they think of quilts, and they
are right. The typical bedding quilt has a
quilt top, a layer of batting, and a layer of
material for backing. Before the sewing machine
the answer to the question of how to quilt was
simple. It is sewn or tied together to
make a heavy blanket.
When I was a child, two
elderly neighbor ladies made quilts for my
brother and I. They were fantastic.
For years, long after I was married and had
children of my own, I would not sleep without
The process of joining these
layers together is called quilting. You
can learn how to quilt very quickly and easily,
but it will take much longer to master all the
finer details. The most common practices
are to either hand sew or machine sew the
layers together. Therefore we have the
terms, hand quilting and machine quilting.
We define quilting as: "The
process of sewing the three layers of the quilt
together is called quilting. It may give many
different appearances with designs, hand
stitching, and various machine quilting
stitches." Needle and thread connect the
layers together forming a complete piece.
This is how to quilt.
Quilting may be strictly
practical or functional using simple straight
stitching or even tying techniques; or it may
involve elaborate decorative designs.
A quick functional way to
finish a quilt is to use a hand sewing
technique called Tying or Hand
Tying. The three layers are
prepared and basted. The quilter uses a hand
sewing needle with a large eye and thread or
yarn. Square knots are used to finish off the
ties, which are placed 3-5" apart all over the
quilt. Comforters unlike most quilts have less
frequent ties to hole them together giving them
a puffy appearance.
When we look at quilts,
there is often a sense of nostalgia, because
for hundreds of years, quilts were made simply
to keep people warm. They were a necessity.
Today making quilts is an
art. Gifted quilter's are called fabric artists
instead of the outdated seamstress or
Bed quilts are popular, but
quilted clothing, wall hangings, home decor,
and purses are also very common
Handmade quilts may sell for
hundreds of dollars and hang on museum walls,
not just bed frames. Amish quilts from
Pennsylvania and Ohio are especially sought
after, as are vintage and antique quilts.
Since quilts are most often
made of natural fibers, they require care to
maintain their beauty and quality
condition. If you are lucky enough to
have inherited or purchased such an heirloom,
taking proper care of it will maintain and
perhaps increase its value. Do not store quilts
in plastic bags, cardboard boxes or
wooden trunks. Quilts should be aired at least
twice a year, but not in direct sunlight. Very
old quilts should be aired flat to avoid
stressing the stitches. There is always a risk
in washing antique fabric. Spot test it first.
If you are using a machine, wash in cold water
with a mild detergent and a gentle cycle. Dry
your quilt on a flat surface. Using a fan and
rotating it will speed up the drying
Quilts throughout history
tell the stories of their times and makers.
This is especially true during the depression
when fabric was scarce. Some historians even
believe secret messages and codes were hidden
in handmade quilts at different times
throughout history. One such story relates to
the Underground Railroad. A certain quilt
pattern would mean it was safe for escaping
slaves to continue on their journey. Not all
historians believe this theory, however it is
true that signature quilts were a popular
method of raising funds both before and after
the Civil War. Signatures were added after a
donation was made. These quilts were also known
as friendship quilts.
While not all historians
agree on this usage in the past, it is becoming
increasingly popular today. Memory quilts and
t-shirt quilts are popular and treasured gifts.
Technology has even made it possible to add
photos to fabric. Quilts are still used to
raise money at raffles and charity events.
Quilt guilds are being created and growing at a
rapid rate, preserving and passing on treasured
patterns and techniques.
So, What Is A Quilt?
A quilt in simple terms is
an item composed of three layers (a top or
facing layer, a filler layer, and a backing
layer) that are sewn together. Sewing them
together is how to quilt.
But it can be so much
more. A quilt can be a treasured
heirloom, a symbol of culture and history, a
warm comforter, a beautiful wall hanging, a
purse, a jacket, so much more. A quilt is
indeed what you make it.
Donna Trumble is a professional designer,
seamstress, author, sewing educator, and sewing
business owner. She leads several
Sewing Show And Tell groups in her stores
guiding participants to shop sewing machines
and learn about sewing and quilting.