During the month of March the AEP (Spanish patchwork Society) celebrates in Sitges the International Patchwork Festival, bringing people form all over Spain and Europe together. Patchwork and quilting have always been linked closely together.
The word Quilt is thought to connect with the Latin word ‘cucita’ meaning a bolster or cushion. Quilting can be traced back to the Middle Ages, and was widely-practised.
Quilting is usually considered to be two layers of fabric stitched together with a thicker layer between them, though this middle layer is not essential. Early 18th century English quilting for example only used the two outer layers of fabric.
Although quilting and patchwork have been practised for centuries, their popularity has varied according to changes in society. Styles have changed depending on the materials available and the social rank of the maker quilter.
The earliest quilting was used to make bed covers, the finest of which often became family heirlooms in medieval times. Later, in the Middle Ages, quilting was used for protective wear such as that worn under armour to make it more comfortable. It was still used to produce warm, light clothing as well.
The 17th century was the heyday of quilting in Europe: in the early part of the century for the silk doublets and breeches worn by the wealthy, and later for petticoats, jackets and waistcoats.
Quilting in the 20th century suffered from the effects of two world wars, with the resultant changes in society leading to a decline in traditional skills. Commercially produced alternatives seemed more attractive than the time consuming traditionally-made quilts.
Some people continued the tradition, teaching and researching patchwork and quilting. This paved the way for an eventual resurgence of interest in the 1960s and ’70s, and the formation in 1979 of The Quilters’ Guild in the UK. Their aim is to ensure that the traditional crafts of patchwork and quilting are passed on, and to represent the quilters taking the craft forward through the 21st century.
Perhaps because of their rich and interesting history, patchwork and quilting have again become popular in the 21st century, often using traditional skills combined with contemporary artistic techniques. Contemporary Quilt is a specialist group within the Quilters Guild working at the cutting edge of quilt making.
There are numerous quilt makers selling their wares on the internet, with both traditional and contemporary designs available. This should ensure that the popularity of patchwork and quilting continues.