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Patchwork Quilts

Patchwork Quilts

The word "quilt" is derived from the Latin word culcita, which means a stuffed sack, mattress, or cushion. A quilt is a bedspread or blanket made of two layers that is filled with a material, such as cotton, wool, feathers, or down, and is stitched together, usually in a decorative design.

What is a Patchwork Quilt?

Patchwork quilts are quilts characterized by varicolored squares, or "patches", of fabric sewn together to form the upper layer of a quilt. Patchwork quilts are typically made with traditional patterns, but more recently can also be found with new and modern styles that are both unique and interesting.


When the early Pilgrim settlers immigrated to America they brought little with them. Because of the anticipation of cold winters, one of the items that they were sure to bring was bedding. Through constant use, their bedding suffered much wear and tear. The quilts they brought with them were constantly being repaired and resewn. Holes and tears were repaired by "patching" them with scraps of old clothing. After many repairs, the quilt top began to resemble a patchwork design more than a solid fabric top that it started out as. Thus was born the "patchwork quilt". These patched-together quilts were the precursors of the beautiful and skillful patchwork quilts that we find today, a style that has now been elevated to an art form with quilt shows and magazines focused on the skills and techniques used to make patchwork quilts.


There are many different uses for patchwork quilts. While early patchwork quilts were used primarily as protection from hash winters and cold nights, quilt making soon became an art form, so much so that some patchwork quilts are intended for wall coverings or display, not as bed coverings at all. Some collect patchwork quilts as a means of connecting with the past, seeing in these old quilts traces of their ancestors while others use patchwork quilt making as a hobby and way of expressing their creativity though their skilled handiwork. Serious patchwork quilt makers enter their work in quilt show contests around the world.


There are many different types of patchwork quilt styles and patterns; we will briefly discuss here a few of the more common ones.

A 4-Patch is a patchwork quilt pattern where the quilt block is divided into four equal sections. A basic 4-Patch has two different fabrics creating a checker-board look. A 9-Patch quilt pattern divides the quilt square into nine equal squares, similar in concept to the 4-Patch. Half-square triangles are the most used pieced unit in quilting. In this pattern, the block is divided along the diagonal with different fabrics on either side, usually a light and a dark. Yet another popular pattern is called the Mariner's Compass, called so because of its resemblance to old mariner's map compasses. A Friendship Garden quilt block, a remnant of a 1930's quilt, is a pattern in the shape of a flower with a large circle in the center. It was likely named the "Friendship Quilt" because the large circle in the center grew into a convenient space for signing names.

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RSS | September 18, 2019

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