Autumn Leaves Quilt… on autumn leaves
Even if you have never heard of the word “quilt”, it is a technique that has been in existence all around you, for centuries. It is based on the simple fact that three layers of clothing are warmer than one. To withstand their devastating winter, the ingenious and textile-rich Ancient Chinese started manufacturing their well-known quilted jackets and pants. Crusaders copied it from the Arabs to better protect themselves from the chafing of their armor’s mail. At home, they became elaborate bed covers, curtains, and canopies. The technique went further West and looped the round-the-world loop when the British and Dutch pilgrims landed in North America.
Eight-pointed Star Quilt in the French Alps, Spring 1997
Used to a weather tempered by the Gulf Stream, they were not prepared for the freezing cold of the North American continent, which became one of the main cause of death in the colonies. For a good century, there was simply not enough cloth as they were forbidden to manufacture them by a British metropolis protecting its textile industry. And it took a long time before they were able to bring cotton from the Caribbean or produce it in the South’s plantations. Meanwhile, with all the available material going for clothes, the pilgrims had to make do with any leftover pieces to mend the worn and torn bed covers they had brought from the Old Continent with them. The result was crazy-looking patched quilts with irregular size of patches and combinations of colors and fabrics.
Here, in sheer necessity, lies the origin of the American quilt tradition which combines two techniques. Patchwork: one layer of cotton, wool or synthetic filler, sandwiched between two layers of cotton fabric, the top one made of patches–or blocks–of various sizes and colors. Quilting: the three layers are then sewn together according to graceful patterns. As time passed and the standard of life rose in the colonies, some patched quilts became, through perfection and harmony of colors and shapes, true objects of arts, now exhibited in many museums across the United States.
Monkey Wrench Quilt
Now, you can have your own piece of art by choosing colors, fabrics, and designs from hundreds of blocks, each of which has its own name and history. While some are of royal descent, like Prince’s Feather which came from the coat of arms of Edward II of England, most were inspired from everyday life, like this Magnolia Bud, and all were inherited from mother to daughter, each adding its own variation up to date. The result is an infinite range of quilts, suiting every imaginable taste and making each of them a unique piece.