How to Quilt
A handmade patchwork quilt is generally a bed covering made up of 3 layers: a quilt top, a layer of batting, plus a layer of fabric meant for backing. The layers are ordinarily combined using the technique of quilting. Quilting is the process of using a needle and thread to join 2 or more layers of fabric. This step could be just practical, otherwise more elaborate, for decoration and design.

Once upon a time a handmade patchwork quilt was made for necessity. Now creating quilts has become an art form. Gifted quilters are called fabric artists instead of the outdated seamstress or quilter. Not only are bed quilts all the rage, but quilted clothing and wall hangings are as well. A handmade patchwork quilt or even a quilt wall hanging may sell for hundreds of dollars and hang on museum walls, not just bed frames. Amish quilts from Pennsylvania in addition to Ohio are particularly sought after, as are vintage and antique quilts.

If you are blessed enough to have inherited or else bought such an heirloom, taking proper care of it can keep furthermore possibly add to its value.

  • Quilts should on no account be saved in plastic bags, cardboard boxes or wooden trunks.
  • A handmade patchwork quilt is supposed to be aired at least twice a year, however not in direct sunlight. Extremely old quilts should be aired level to prevent stressing the stitches. 
  • There is always a danger in washing old material. Spot test it first. If you are using a machine, launder in cold water with a mild detergent as well as a gentle cycle.
  • Dry your quilt resting on a even surface. Using a fan in addition to rotating it may hurry up the drying step.
Quilts all the way through history convey the tales of their period and makers. This is especially true throughout the depression as cloth was rare. Some historians still consider secret messages and codes had been hidden in handmade quilts at different times throughout history. One such tale relates to the Underground Railroad. A specific quilt pattern would signify it was safe for escaping slaves to carry on their journey. Not all historians have faith in this theory, however it is correct that signature quilts ended up being a common means of raising funds both prior along with subsequent to the Civil War. Signatures were added after a donation was made. These quilts are also identified as friendship quilts.

Whilst not all historians have the same opinion on this custom in the earlier period, it is becoming increasingly widespread nowadays. Memory quilts as well as t-shirt quilts are accepted and valued gifts. Technology has even made it achievable to put pictures to cloth. Quilts are still used to raise funds at raffles as well as charity events. Quilt guilds are being formed and are growing at a quick pace, preserving and passing on precious designs and techniques.

If you are a newbie, you can learn to quilt via simple quilt patterns that can easily be found to assist you in developing your own beloved heirloom to be. Quilts are great presents for the person who has the lot, they explain how much you genuinely care not only by what is on the quilt but the time and effort you have taken to create it.

Which hand quilted patterns were stitched into American quilts made in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Nine common patterns seen by this quilt historian are described here.

1. Clamshell is one of the earliest patterns. They were stitched allover the top on whole cloth and patchwork quilts or as the background between other quilting patterns.

2. Feathers were most common on pre-Civil War fancy and elaborate quilts which were used on special occasions, or given as a gift. The feather was not shaped like a bird's long pointed feathers; they were short like a flower petal, and rounded at the end. Feathered designs were stitched in a variety of motifs such as a garland, wreath, pineapple, and heart. Feathered designs were commonly used on red and green appliqué quilts made in the middle years of the 19th century and on Colonial Revival style appliqué quilts made in the 20th Century before the second World War.

3. Hanging diamonds were squares on point, often used in conjunction with feathered patterns. They could be large or small in size. They were stitched around appliquéd pieces to hold the batting on place and fill in the background areas of the quilt. After the Civil War the size of the handing diamond increased and it became the sole quilting pattern on some patchwork quilts. Larger size diamonds are found on vintage quilts.

4. Another common choice for an all over pattern patchwork and utilitarian quilts is
a square grid. As the allover pattern, the squares were large to larger in size. As the background pattern, they were smaller depending on the patchwork or appliquéd pattern. Here again, a special quilt received smaller grids, which filled the empty areas to hold the batting and layers together well.

5&6. Cables and chevrons were stitched into borders and sashing strips. Cables were connected curved "S" shapes running vertically down a border or sashing. Chevron's were straight lines forming "V's" filling the width of the border in a zigzag shape. One, two, and three lines decreasing in size formed the cables and chevrons. Both century's quilt makers used these two patterns.

7. Single and Double parallel lines were usually quilted on the diagonal across the entire quilt or just in the borders. Pre-Civil War quilts could have triple parallel lines, stitched close together in the background areas around appliqués and in the borders. In the late nineteenth century, women also quilted lines across the appliquéd pieces. Single and double lines, spaced further apart than earlier quilts, were stitched in vintage era quilts.

8. Fan quilting is also called elbow quilting because the quilter used the reach from her elbow to her fingers to make the arch or fan shape. Methodist Fan and Baptist Fan have been popular names for the fan too, because it was fast and easy pattern for a group of church women to stitch around a large quilting frame. In England the fan is called waves. The pattern was common later in the last quarter of the 19th and first half of 20th century quilts, and especially popular in the Southern and southern Midwestern states. The fan was mostly used on everyday quilts.

9. The one-quarter inch inside the seam stitching was sometimes referred to as "quilting by the piece" or "in the piece" reflecting exactly how it appeared. This pattern was used occasionally from the mid-nineteenth century on, never being a common pattern until the late 20th century.

Patchwork quilts have been around for centuries, well-loved and well-used household items that have been treasured by each generation then passed down to the next.

There is perhaps nothing more evocative of home and family than a beautiful, handmade, cosy patchwork quilt. Once painstakingly pieced and quilted by hand, such quilts can now be made much more quickly and easily with sewing machines and quick techniques such as rotary cutting and chain piecing.

Quilting does not require any advanced sewing skills; most quilts can be made by anyone with average sewing skills, and many are suitable for beginners. Most quilts are designed to be machine-pieced, but they can be hand-pieced if you prefer. Similarly, many of them are hand-quilted, but they can be quilted by machine if you wish.

Some people love the meditative nature of hand-sewing, and don't mind taking months or years to finish a quilt; others prefer the speed and ease of machine-sewing. Neither method is better than the other; they are simply different, so choose the method that suits your lifestyle and temperament and that you enjoy the most.

If you find that you like piecing but not quilting, there are commercial quilting services available; these are often advertised in the back of quilting magazines.

Your choice of quilt can be traditional or contemporary in design both in patchwork and whole-cloth quilts. If you like a particular design but are not keen on the fabrics in which it has been made, remember that the choice of fabric and colour can transform a traditional design into something modern looking, and vice versa.

If you are uncertain about the fabrics you intend to use for a particular quilt, buy a small amount at first and make a sample block to see if you like the effect. If not, try using the same fabrics, but arranging the components of the block in a different order. This can result in a very different effect. It is worth a little experimentation early on to avoid wasting time, money and effort on a finished quilt that doesn't meet your expectations.

The Parts of a quilt

Most quilts consists of three layers; the quilt top (the decorative part); the batting (the filling that gives the quilt extra warmth and also contributes to its padded look); and the quilt backing. The batting may be omitted if you want a very light quilt for summer, or if the fabrics that you have used in the quilt top and backing are heavy enough on their own. The edges of the quilt are generally finished with binding.

The quilt top

Often, a quilt top will consist of a central design or a series of blocks surrounded by one or more borders. The top of the quilt may be pieced (made of patchwork), appliqué (with designs sewn onto a background) or whole-cloth (made entirely of one fabric).

In whole-cloth quilts, the visual interest is created by the quilting alone, so these quilts are perfect for showing off a beautiful and intricate quilting pattern.


Also known as wadding, batting is the quilt's filling, or middle layer. It may be made of wool, cotton or polyester; each has different properties. Cotton and wool are easier to quilt than polyester, but polyester generally gives greater loft (thickness), although not usually greater warmth.


The quilt backing is usually made of one fabric, but there is nothing to stop you from making it wholly or partly from leftover patchwork blocks or strips of different fabrics. You will normally need to join two lengths of fabric to create a backing wide enough for anything larger than a cot or lap quilt.


This is a way of finishing the raw edges of all layers of the quilt by enclosing them in a thin strip of fabric. Binding is generally made from a double thickness of fabric for extra durability, as it is the edges of a quilt that will wear most quickly. Binding is usually the last thing to be done, once the quilting is finished.

Fabric for quilts

For most quilts, it is best to use pure cotton fabrics. These wash and iron well, are easy to sew, take a crease well and do not fray excessively. Generally, all fabrics used for a quilt should be of a similar weight and weave. Using fabrics of different weights may result in some areas of the quilt wearing more quickly than others.

It is possible to use other fabrics, such as velvets, silks and satins, for a more luxurious effect. If using such fabrics, do not wash them before use. If they need ironing, do so at a low heat setting on the wrong side of the fabric. Quilts made born such fabrics should be dry cleaned, not washed.

Fabric can be solid (a uniform colour, without a print or pattern); printed; tone-on-tone (having a background printed with a design of the same colour); or checked.

Printed fabrics are divided into four categories: small, medium, large and directional.

Small prints may look almost like solid fabrics from a distance.

Medium prints are more distinct and are often used to add visual texture.

Large pints have very distinct patterns that stand out from the background. These are often used in quilts as borders or feature prints.

Directional prints have a very distinct pattern that runs on one direction. Largedirectional prints, such as stripes, can be very effective when used in a border.

When choosing fabrics, give thought to both the balance of prints and plains as well as the tonal values of the fabrics; that is, the mixture of light, medium and dark fabrics. You will also find that the effect of a fabric may change according to the other fabrics surrounding it, with often surprising results. Experimenting with colour, tone and pattern is one of the pleasures of quilting.

Preparing fabrics

Many people prefer to wash, dry and iron cotton quilt fabrics before use. Wash each fabric separately in warm water with a scrap of white cotton fabric to test if the colour runs, If it does, the fabric should be discarded or used for another purpose. Otherwise, when the quilt is washed, the colour may run and ruin the quilt.

Washing pre-shrinks fabric and removes all finishes added by the manufacturer. Such finishes can make the fabric stiffer and easier to sew. if you wish to restore e stiffness, spray the fabric lightly with spray starch before sewing.

Before sewing, remove the tightly woven edges (selvages) from all fabrics. If left on and included in seams these may cause the fabric to pucker and bunch.


You should be able to source all your materials from a local haberdashery shop, or there are plenty of online alternatives.

There aren't that many small haberdashery shops left, but if you live in a big city, a lot of the large department stores will have their own haberdashery department.