History for the Future


Unpack the Past - Quilts

Here is the Text of the Video

The word "quilting" defines the act of stitching together two layers of fabric between padding.  Quilting can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt.  In the Middle Ages, Crusaders wore quilted garments under their armor for comfort, warmth and protection. 

Quilting came to America with the early Puritans.  Quilts were made to provide warmth at night and to cover doors and windows to help reduce cold.  Quilts were functional, more than decorative quilts.  Quilts were made with what was available, often old clothing no longer needed by family members.  Worn quilts were patched together or cut apart to make another usable quilt.  

Some early pieced quilts were called “crazy quilts”.  This was a fad in the Victorian era, where uneven bits and pieces of scrap fabric were sewn together to make a quilt top. These were often made with satin, velvet, silk or brocade and were more for decoration than everyday use.  The fad continued until about 1910.    

Patchwork quilts have been popular since pioneer days.  They are frequently made of blocks, which are made of smaller pieces.  It’s like a puzzle you put together.  There is a lot of math involved in making a quilt correctly.  You must cut the pieces precisely and then sew them together with straight, even seams.  You can use squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, and pie pieces.  Quilt blocks often have names which describe what you see. 

The easiest quilt blocks are made up of squares.  Here is an example of a 4-patch block and then 4 of those put together.  You can make different patterns depending on how you sew them together.  

This quilt is made up of squares and this one has squares with two rectangles as “sashing”, which is a larger piece used to divide patches. 

You can also make a quilt using triangles.  Like the squares, you can turn the triangles different ways to create different patterns. 

This quilt is called, “flying geese”.  It looks like rows of geese flying up and down the quilt. 

More complicated triangle patterns include pinwheel, flying star and farmer’s daughter. 

You can also combine squares, triangles and rectangles to make other patterns.  “Diamond in the square” can also be turned into “bow tie” if you use a solid color for two opposite pieces.  This block is called “shoo fly”.  If you add rectangles, you get “churn dash” or “Greek square”.  If you substitute squares for the rectangles, you get “Ohio Star”. 

Log cabin quilts were very popular with pioneers.  They were meant to show how important “home” was and would often have a yellow or red square in the middle to show the “hearth” of the home.  There are a variety of ways a log cabin patch can be arranged. 

Quilters can get very creative using just basic shapes to make blocks showing sailboats and cats, among other things. 

You will be making a nine-patch quilt top out of squares.