by Clive Jenkins
Quilting is an ancient activity, present in many cultures and each of these cultures influencing its development and particularity through time. The quilts became the expression of their maker's feelings, the witness of historical events or happy moments in simple people's lives. From its beginning until the present days, quilting had its ups and downs. Today, the development of the textiles industry and those of the machines and accessories used in making the quilts, the improved techniques of quilting have transformed this simple activity into a true art.
The oldest quilt was comes from ancient Egypt and it consists in a clothing item found on the statue of an Egyptian pharaoh, who lived around the year 3400 before Jesus Christ. The technique used in quilting stitches was also found in decorative objects from Middle eve churches. It is considered that the Templar Knights themselves took over the idea of quilted garments from the Muslim soldiers, who used it to replace parts of their armour when the metal was not enough.
In America, the ones who have brought and developed quilting were the Dutch and the English colonists, who made three laired clothes to protect them from cold and, from the remains of the fabrics they made bed coverings. This happened in the early 12th century and there are some written records about the quilting craft and the designed used in those times, but few samples were found because the fabrics were perishable. Though, a well-preserved sample is dated 15th century and you can observe here the parent of the quilting stitch represented by the coarse line and embroidery.
The 17th century gives us the first bed covering the Levens Hall, made from imported Indian chintzes. The details and the exquisite craft design indicate it as an example of high quality quilting, not just an ordinary bed covering.
When colonists brought the first patchwork-quilted products in America, they did not know how much this art would develop here. American women saw the great advantages of quilting, the functionality and the artistic experience of quilts and decided to expand and improve the scarce samples brought by the colonists. Therefore, they started to create interesting geometrical designs that became very popular in the 1880's fairs and competitions.
Long with the modern sawing techniques of the 20th century, the traditional craft of quilted bed coverings, table coverings or child comforts slightly decreased. Cheap and mass-produced garments and comforters replaced the original quilted bed coverings.
The 1960's brought the remerge of the quilting activity in the southern areas of the United States and the tradition was once again brought back to life and passed from one generation to another. It took almost 20 years, until 1980, to make the art of quilting be re-appreciated and practiced all over the country by passions women, even became a flowering business.
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