What Makes a Quilt, a Quilt?

Quilt-circle

It is difficult to find a comparable term when referring to a quilt.  It is not a blanket, or a bedspread, nor a duvet or comforter.

A quilt consists of two or more layers of single woven cloth, usually 100% cotton, with batting or cushioning in the middle. Batting can be made of natural fiber such as cotton, bamboo, even goose down, or it can be synthetic. The layers are artfully stitched together throughout the entire span of the fabrics with 100% 50 wt. cotton thread.

Quilt Layers

Quilts consist of three layers.

Traditionally, the top layer is created by sewing together several fabric “blocks” composed of pieced cloth designs, while the quilt’s back layer is typically made from a large piece of complimentary cloth.  Binding is added to the perimeter of the quilt after all three layers are sewn together.

 

Of course, quilting was invented eons ago to pull leftover fabric scraps together into something utilitarian.  And God bless the industrious individual who came up with the idea!  The craft has become increasingly popular through the ages, but now we create our own “scraps” for each project.  Whether the material is gathered from multiple fabric mixes like t-shirts and corduroy, or selected from designer bolts of quality cotton material, quilting is most definitely alive and well.

Traditional quiltstraditional-quilt

Traditional quilts are tried, true and familiar.  These designs have been around for hundreds of years, and have names such as Log Cabin, Courthouse Steps, Nine-Patch, Dresden Plate.  There are thousands of these traditional patterns, and they are based on blocks and a grid.

Simple or complex, traditional quilt design is symmetrical, being made up of many repetitions of the same block in orderly rows. These are frequently combined with uniform sashing between individual blocks and/or borders all around.

Traditional quilt patterns are the standard, still made and loved today, by our mothers, grandmothers—and their grandmothers before them.

Modern quiltsmodern-quilt

Modern quilt designs began to gain notoriety in the last half of the twentieth century and have enjoyed an additional boost during the past several years.

They differ from traditional quilts in many ways. Where traditional quilts are created by a set of rules using a grid of repeating symmetric design blocks, sashing, borders, and simple quilting,  modern quilts go off the grid and use asymmetry, minimalist designs, and more improvisational arrangements of blocks and settings.

Emphasis is placed on negative space rather than filling the entire quilt with designated block designs. They may feature bold colors, off-center motifs and graphic designs that give high-contrast pop.

Both are inspirational pieces.  Quilting is an art form.  Some express it in nostalgic, traditional designs handed down from generation to generation.  Others see the cloth as a canvas where imaginative art can be expressed.  Knowing that both are constructed similarly through layers of woven cloth, batting and patience forms a kinship that is interesting and enjoyable.