The Original Sustainable Recycling/Upcycling –THE PATCHWORK QUILT!

Frances Harder – Fashion for Profit Consulting

The history of the Patchwork Quilt, or at times referred to as simply quilting can be found in many cultures going back to ancient Egypt, ancient and medieval India, and Chinese civilization among many other cultures. The word “quilt – can be linked to the Latin word “culita”, meaning a type of cushion that seems to have been first used in England in the 13th century. There are many examples of this very sustainable artistic form of upcycled expressionist. The patchwork tradition is found in many different cultures that go way back to ancient times and have derived in many separate forms of expressionism in these very remote cultures. Bedouin women joined fabrics strips together to make tents. West Africa patchwork can be found made into umbrella and ceremonial clothing for festive occasions. Patchwork quilts were also made to be included in the trousseau of Indian brides and battle dress of North Africa warriors.

Although the many forms of patchwork art is global, the American pioneer women of the 19th Century have won the fame of achieving its place as maybe having the honor of being the richest. But there are many other cultures that have also created their own patchwork art form. My big favorite is the Mole– reverse applique from Cuna Indians, San Blas Islands. The Bottle top quilts are also amazing examples of the intricate art of recycling fabrics.

1.      Traditional Patchwork: This involves sewing together fabric pieces to create geometric patterns or designs. Common techniques include piecing squares, triangles, and rectangles together to form blocks, which are then assembled into a quilt top.

2.      Crazy Quilting: Originating in the Victorian era, crazy quilting involves stitching together irregularly shaped fabric pieces in a random or asymmetrical manner. Embellishments such as embroidery, lace, beads, and ribbons are often added to enhance the design.

3.      Appliqué: In appliqué patchwork, fabric shapes are cut out and stitched onto a background fabric to create decorative motifs or designs. Appliqué can be done by hand or machine and allows for endless creativity in incorporating various fabrics and shapes.

4.      English Paper Piecing: This technique involves basting fabric around paper templates and then hand-sewing the pieces together along their edges. It’s commonly used for intricate designs with small pieces, such as hexagons or diamonds. (Bottle Top uses this technique)

5.      Foundation Piecing: Also known as paper piecing or flip and sew, this method involves sewing fabric pieces onto a paper or fabric foundation. It’s particularly useful for achieving precise angles and complex designs.

6.      Improv Patchwork: Improvisational patchwork encourages free-form design and spontaneous piecing without the use of patterns or templates. It allows for experimentation with color, texture, and shape, resulting in unique and modern quilt designs.

7.      Quilt-As-You-Go: This technique involves quilting individual blocks or sections separately and then joining them together. It’s a great option for quilters who prefer to quilt smaller sections at a time or want to simplify the quilting process. This method is often used in knitted patchwork. Crochet quilts can also be created through this method.

8.      Strip Piecing: In strip piecing, fabric strips are sewn together to create larger units, which are then cut and rearranged to form blocks or quilt tops. It’s an efficient method for creating quilts with repeating patterns or designs.

9.      Fusible Appliqué: Similar to traditional appliqué, fusible appliqué involves adhering fabric shapes to a background fabric using fusible web instead of stitching. It’s a quicker alternative that’s often used for appliqué projects with simple shapes.

10.    Patchwork Embellishments: Beyond traditional patchwork techniques, embellishments such as fabric painting, stamping, or stenciling can be incorporated to add unique details and textures to patchwork projects.

Each type of patchwork offers its own set of techniques, challenges, and opportunities for creative expression, allowing quilters and crafters to explore a wide range of artistic styles and aesthetics.

Many retailers are working to include recycling and to eliminate plastic waste with non-plastic use. One of the newest retailers to embrace this in-depth topic is IKEA, who is collaborating to promote Eco use of recycling/upcycling with Nigel Xavier who has designed and created patchwork clothing and patchwork coverings for chairs and other furniture.  Then Nasim Lahbichi, who created plant-based IKEA dishes. So, we are entering another period of the art of patchwork.

These are some of the very exciting and innovating actions being introduced to try and prevent the massive textile and clothing waste that is discarded Globally. The results of which are not only polluting our earth but the amount of plastic waste that is discarded and then the billions of plastic particles are poisoning our fish and livestock, plus causing all types of cancer in humans. Hopefully, things will change for the better!

Here are a few of my own patchwork quilts in my possession. I have to say my big favorite at the Moles from the Cuna Indians from the San Blas Islands. Incredible hand work that are sewn by these native Indians using reverse Applica. Cutting a design and sewing contrast fabric below. I fell in love with their amazing work when sailing around their islands. I could not stop myself from investing in quite a few of which I have framed some and made cushions from others.

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