English patchwork does not have to be “quilting”. It is usually simple and therefore less robust. Patchwork and quilting were common occupations in most societies until manufactured quilts and covers were generally available. They then come to be associated with poor people who cannot afford finished goods and finished pieces. This link between patchwork and poverty continued until social patterns changed after World War II, with more women leaving home to work.Certain areas of the British Isles have particularly strong patchwork and quilting traditions.
They produce their own distinctive pieces and styles of quilting and are the places where the popularity of patchwork and quilting has been least affected by the social changes of this century. The most striking examples are Wales and the northern regions (Northumberland, Durham and by extension, Cumbria). Elaborate and dense quilting in traditional patterns is characteristic of both regions. The pattern is produced entirely by quilting design. You will find them described as “North Country Quilts” or “Durham Quilts”.
Typical Welsh quilts feature large patchwork designs on richly colored fabrics in dark tones. The result is often heavy and lively. In the past, the layers of these quilts were usually made of sheep’s wool or scrap sheets. In North America, patchwork and quilting were part of the social scene, particularly in rural areas where they had been practiced since colonial times. For women who often lived in isolated places and moving from place to place, patchwork and quilting were simultaneously a survival tool, a social outlet, and often the only form of creative expression. A social outlet due to the cooperation in assembling large items that was a reason to invite neighbors to join in for some conversation, pleasure and mutual sympathy while using their needles.
The American characteristic of working in blocks certainly developed for simple and practical reasons. Blocks were easy to carry around when the family moved and they could be worked on during idle hours both during moving periods and in small spaces. Only when all the blocks were complete was it necessary to find space to assemble and complete them by adding borders and quilting. Of course, settlers from different origins brought styles and practices from their locations. Characteristics that are visible in today’s work. The “Penylvania Deutsch” (erroneously called Dutch) quiltis, for example, retain strong characteristics of their German past, using appliqués of popular motifs similar to those painted on their furniture and houses.
It is American quilting that has had a huge influence in recent years around the world, particularly in places like Australia and Japan. In the 1970s, students in popular professions began to collect traditional patchwork quilts. They not only collected them, but hung them on walls, causing people to admire and appreciate them in part for their resemblance to certain modern paintings. When textile artists began to take an interest in quilts and made them for display on walls rather than on beds, the art of quilting was born. There are many reasons for making a quilt, as well as for the people who make them. They can simply be something to keep people warm. They can be nice copies of old quilts, celebrating the past, or innovative interpretations of them, both as a tribute to the skills of the past and one of the achievements of the present. They can play with patterns and textures for sheer pleasure, for exercise, and for the beauty of the result. Why does it remain so popular? Precisely because of its versatility, patchwork and quilting is one of the few areas of expression that has the strength to unite and satisfy those who love the wearable and those who love beauty, those who love the past and those who look to the future. And long may it continue like this!
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