Basics of Quilting : 01 What is a quilt?

Today, I'm kicking off a new monthly series here. Basics of Quilting. This is the perfect series for someone who is a complete newbie to follow and teach themselves to quilt.

The best place to start when teaching quilting to a complete newbie is with what exactly is a quilt?

According to the dictionary, A quilt is a warm bed covering made of padding enclosed between layers of fabric and kept in place by lines of stitching, typically applied in a decorative design.

Origin of the word :
Middle English: from Old French cuilte, from Latin culcita ‘mattress, cushion’.
In India, quilts are known by many names. In Marathi (the language of my state) it is known as Dulai (It is a very soft quilt with high loft, lightweight, soft batting - usually loose cotton) or Godhadi (Usually made with layers of old clothes). In Hindi it is called Razai. In southern parts of India it is called Kawandi (Karnataka).
Basically, for our use, we can define quilt as three layers stitched together :
  1. Quilt Top - This is the topmost layer, which is usually made with a pattern either with pieces of fabric stitched together (pieced) or shapes of fabric cut and pasted (usually) to make a picture (applique).
  2. Batting - This is middle layer of the quilt. In the traditional quilts of India, usually, old clothes are used as batting. But now with the availability of woven and needle felted batting, it is highly used in making quilts as it is easier to work with. The loft (fluffiness) of the batting decides its thickness and warmth. 
  3. Backing - This is the lowermost layer of the quilt. A lot of people use a single fabric or piece together large pieces of fabric to make this layer. It is increasingly becoming a trend to have backings that are as beautiful or even more beautiful than the quilt tops. A lot of people also use fleece or flannel for the backing to make the quilt warmer.

The stitching which holds together all these layers is called Quilting. This can be done on a machine or by hand. Traditional quilting styles like Godhadis or Siddi Quilts in India and Amish Quilts in the US have used hand stitching. Since the popularity of sewing machines grew, more and more people, mostly women, started using them to make quilts.

Today quilts are also seen as an expression of art but historically, they have always been used as bed covers and this is still the predominant use for them.

Its interesting to see how the use of the word quilt has been over time 


Why do you want to start quilting? I would love to hear your story!
Next in the series will be 
Part 2 : Quilting tools and equipments (16th October)

1 comment

  • My first child was born in 1976, everyone was making a bicentennial quilt! I wanted to make one too but had no idea how to even start….this was way before googling everything for more info remember :0)… off I went to the library with my newborn strapped to my front and learned all I could about quilting. I have been sewing ever since and trying to get better with every quilt I make. Thank you for your interesting series and allowing me to join your newsletter. Happy Sewing, now I must order your book to continue my learning journey.


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