The term “quilt” comes from culcita, a Latin word that means stuffed sack. Today, the word quilt is used as both a noun and a verb. The act of quilting as we know it comes from necessity. In order to provide warm covers for the family’s beds and to block cold from entering through windows, people turned to making three-layer blankets. Americans can thank their early Dutch and English ancestors for the craft that we’ve come to know and love.
As far back as American colonization, women have been making art with cloth and thread. Unlike the beautiful quilts that came later, the earliest quilts were strictly utilitarian. The quilts of yesteryear were constructed by patching together worn blankets, old clothing and other discarded fabric. It wasn’t until fabric began to be produced in the colonies that we see a new intricacy in quilt design.
In the early 1700s, it wasn’t unusual for quilts to be made as a leisure activity, taking years to sew by hand. As more women began to take on the craft, more intricate designs and patterns began to emerge. The patchwork, Medallion and summer quilts became popular among sewers. As quilting became more commonplace and materials easier to obtain, the quilting bee was born. It wasn’t unheard of for neighboring women to come together to finish pieces in a single day that would previously have taken months to complete.
The making of quilts as a pastime has come back into the limelight. As men and women begin to realize that our early history can be seen through these thoughtfully pieced blankets, a new interest in the art form is taking shape. Whether you quilt on a machine or with your own two hands, you can create beautiful family heirlooms to pass down for generations.