The Early Quilt
Through this series we will explore the origins of quilts and learn more about the forms of quilting through time and look at the evolution of quilts. We will also take a look at popular types of quilting. Part 1 is a brief history about the quilt.
A Long History
The quilting has long been favored around the world as a way to decorate clothing, homes, and special places. The art of quilting has been used to decorate garments, make coverlets for beds, and art for walls. While quilting's true foundation and start is unknown, an early example of quilted clothing dates back to approximately 3400 B.C. This was a quilted garment found on a carved ivory likeness of an Egyptian Pharaoh. In 1924 a linen quilted floor covering was discovered in a Mongolian cave by archaeologists. It is believed this floor covering was dated back to somewhere between the first century B.C. to the second century A.D.
It is believed that quilting can be traced back to China and Egypt. The original quilts were two layers of fabric with a center of padding (like a batting) stitched together. The stitching, or tying, was to to prevent the center from sliding or lumping. According to historians, quilting was brought to Europe during the Crusades in the late 11th century. Quilted garments were popular in the Middle Ages and knights would were these under their armor for comfort. Some used the early quilted garments to protect their armor from weather elements. The quilted garments later became doublets--a snug fitting garment.
The earliest known bed quilt still in existence is from Sicily and dates somewhere toward the end of the fourteenth century. This quilt was made from linen padded with wool and measured 122" by 106". The quilt design contained scenes depicting the legend of Tristan. In Southern France during the 17th century in southern France quilting was used to make decorative petticoats and other clothing. These were a popular folk art.
Why Quilts Matter
Through the ages quilts have told a story of how people lived and about textile resources available over time. They have been used to express political opinions; given as gifts; worn as garments; created as art forms; and sometimes considered the mainstay of a home. Quilts have been made from exquisite textiles, created to make quilts, down to a way to recycle pieces of fabric. The art of quilting is found around the world in Asia, Europe, India and the Americas.
Regardless of how quilts began they art of quilt making remains alive and very present in many cultures today. In our future series for this History of Quilts we will look at the types of quilting and explore the evolution of quilts through the ages.