Welcome to my beginner's guide to quilting series!
I am so happy to have you here and to start exploring your new hobby! My name is Ariane, and I run The Fabric Unicorn shop. I have been quilting since I was 14/15 years old, and I now have over 12 years experience in quilting and 8 years experience in garment making. I started making quilts for my friends and family when I was younger because I have always loved making things with my hands and making personalized gifts. What could be more personalized than a quilt you make for someone, or even yourself! I made myself my first quilt in 2020! All these years I have been making quilts and wall hangings for others, but I never had the time to make myself anything.
Whether you are here to learn how to make things for yourself or others, you are in the right place!
Part 1 of the Series:
We will start with a little history lesson on quilting and why it is still so popular and important to so many cultures around the world. The history of quilting goes back far in time, some say in Ancient Egypt where hieroglyphs were discovered of woven blankets being made. Our history will start a little closer to modern times. Quilting as we know it in North America has deep roots of tradition. One of the the original traditions was that quilts were made for celebrate large events in a person's life. A marriage, a birth, any rite of passage had a dedicated quilt. Many of the quilts patterns that we still make to this day are the traditional patterns given back in the day. A double wedding ring pattern being the most popular pattern to use in a bridal quilt.
In the 12th century, Europe knights and soldiers wore quilted garments under their chainmail and armor to help keep them warm and as a last method of defense in case of attack. Quilted garments proved very useful that eventually the technique was used to create blankets for warmth. I know that this is not the origin of the quilt, as there are numerous different cultures around the world who all have their variety of "padded" blankets and clothing, but this is one of the precursors that led to what we know as quilts. The origins of quilts came out of necessity, used in the bedroom to keep the sleeper warm, which in-turn were what we call utility quilts. For a long time in history quilts were only used for utility, not to say that they weren't adorned or intricate, but they were only meant as a means to cover one's self. In the beginnings of the 20th century quilts started to take a different connotation in society. They moved out of the bedroom, and started to become pieces of art. Quilted wall hangings, political quilts, community quilts, quilting became a way to express oneself more deeply and brought together whole families and communities. Before the commercialization of the sewing machine, quilts took years to finish. Each block had to be stitched by hand, piece by piece, and the whole quilted had to be quilted by hand. During the 1950s in America the popularity of crib quilts rose because they were gifts that could be made much easier then a full sized bed quilt, always in keeping the tradition of making a quilt for a special occasion.
"Quilts are the textile pages of our shared history"
As the history of quilts has progressed so has the different techniques. First and foremost a quilt must be 3 layers in order to be considered a quilt. Consisting of a Top layer, a middle layer of Batting, and a Backing layer. As far as the techniques for making a top, there are a number of different approaches.
Different Quilt Top Techniques:
Pieced- A quilt top make by sewing pieces together, usually with a 1/4" seam allowance, hiding on the under side of the quilt top.
Appliqued- This technique is done by sewing a piece of fabric on top of another, wrong side to right side. Pieces are adhered together with a decorative topstitch around the edge of the "top" shape.
Whole Cloth - This quilt top consists of 1 solid piece of fabric, with no piecing as the quilt top.
English Paper Piecing - This type of piecing is typically done using shapes made of a light cardboard. You wrap your pieces of fabric around a shape and adhere the fabric to the cardboard with a fabric glue. Then once your pieces have been prepped, you hand sew the shapes together, by doing doing invisible stitches on the edges.
Standard Paper Piecing - Standard Paper Piecing is a technique close to applique, but instead of sewing directly on another fabric, you follow a design on a printed piece of paper. These designs are often really intricate, but can achieve great levels of detail.
Hand Pieced - Hand piecing, is just what it sounds like, piecing all your individual blocks together using a needle and thread instead of a sewing machine. This is the way our great-grandmothers used to do it!
This is a Meadowland Quilt that is Pieced Traditionally
This is Unicorn Abstractions that is done doing Standard Paper Piecing
I will go more in depth on some of the piecing techniques that I use in future blog posts, but feel free to look these up and get some inspiration!
If you want to learn more about the history of quilting here are some great resources: