Want to take a quick trip? Grab your passport, let's jump on a virtual plane, and explore how quilting has evolved all around the world!
First stop: Great Britain -- Broderie Perse
In the year 1600, The East India Trade Company was formed and brought Indian chintz fabric to Western countries for the first time. This fabric with its bright colors and intricate illustrations was very different from the monochromatic fabric available in the rest of Europe at the time and soon became extremely popular.
Since the fabric was very expensive, quilters wanted to make the most of their yardage, so would surround small panels of the chintz fabric by lots of borders in a medallion style quilt, and started cutting the illustrations out to form their own compositions-- this technique is known as Broderie Perse and was the most popular style of applique in England and in the Americas in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Typically the chintz fabric had a white background, and quilters would cut out the chintz designs and applique them to another white fabric, that would then be used as a panel and often surrounded by lots of borders in a medallion format.
This is a great technique to fussy cut that beautiful fabric, that you can't bring yourself to slice up!
Now, back on the plane, we have a lot more to go!
Next Stop: Japan -- Sashiko
In the Winter, Japanese women and girls used to gather around the hearth and practice their needlework. Their running stitches came to be known as Sashiko, meaning "little stabs," and were said to resemble snow on the ground.
During the Edo era in Japan, commoners were banned from wearing brightly colored clothing and large patterns. Commoners were allowed to use indigo, so they wore hand woven and hand dyed indigo cloth embroidered and strengthened with sashiko stitches, stitched in small-scale patterns.
Fabric was revered in Japan and was even used as currency. Sashiko was commonly used in Futons, traditional sleeping mats, as well as garments, it was used to make clothing warmer and to strengthen cloth-- a thrifty measure to extend the life of fabric which was very valuable. But over the years, these practical stitches became more intricate, patterns emerged and were passed down from mother to daughter.
Sashiko stitches can be a beautiful addition to any quilt and doing these chunky, even stitches can be really meditative.
Okay, now put that "big stitch" project away, we need to head across the Pacific Ocean for our next trip!
Next Stop: Hawaii -- Hawaiian Applique
The Hawaiian Islands are the most remote set of islands on earth, placed right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, are believed to have been first settled around 400 AD by Polynesians sailers. Hawaii remained mostly isolated from the outside world until Captain James Cook landed on them in 1778. In the 1820s New England missionaries came to the islands and maintained schools on the island for much of the 19th century.
In America at the time, applique medallion quilts were very popular, and it is believed that the missionaries shared the craft of quilt making with the Islanders, though they had been working with cloth long before the missionaries arrived.
By the 1870s, the Hawaiians had developed a very unique and distinctive style. Typically 2 fabrics were used, one brightly colored fabric for the large applique piece and a white or cream fabric (usually made from a bedsheet) was used for the ground. Hawaii being so isolated, fabric was hard to come by, so their palettes remained quite simple. The applique piece fills the entire quilt top and is cut from a single piece of fabric similarly to how you’d cut out a paper snowflake.
The Hawaiians were inspired by the gorgeous flora around them as the motifs were typical of flowers, trees, and leaves. It is not surprising that the same paradise that draws travelers from all over the world inspired these remarkable and unique quilts.
I know you don't want to leave the beach, but put the sunscreen away, because we're headed to rainy England!
Next Stop: England -- English Paper Piecing
Paper Piecing became really popular in England in the second half of the 18th century. It came to be known as English Patchwork or Mosaic Patchwork, but is today frequently referred to as English Paper Piecing. At first, since the traditional manner is quite time consuming, this method was mostly practiced by women of the upper and middle class who had more leisure time but soon spread in popularity to the rest of society.
English Paper Piecing (or EPP) is done in 2 parts, first, you make your pieces, whether they are hexagons, diamonds, triangles or any number of other possible shapes, this is done with paper. The edges of the fabric are folded around the paper hexagon, for example, and either tacked down with basting stitches or glue.
Women would often use newspaper for these pieces and a lot of old quilt tops have been dated because of the newspaper still inside the pieces-- little bits of history literally sewn into the quilt top! So neat.
After you prepare all your pieces, then you sew them together. You then remove the paper and quilt the top however you like.
Okay, we have one more stop to go, and it's going to be a long flight, a perfect opportunity to sew those paper pieces together!
Last Stop: Cook Islands (New Zealand)-- Tivaevae
The Cook Islands are located between Hawaii and New Zealand with a Polynesian indigenous population. The women on these islands have over the last hundred plus years have developed a beautiful and unique quiltmaking style known as Tivaevae.
There is no written record as to when or how quilting began on the Cook Islands, though many believe it was introduced by missionaries in the late 1800s. However it began, these women have really made it their own.
Tivaevae making is a social activity with groups of women cutting and sewing the designs together while singing and chatting. The designs are inspired by their gorgeous tropical environment and are always vibrant in color. Tivaevaes are given as gifts to honored guests or at weddings and other public ceremonies and used as decorations at these ceremonies. Often Tivaevaes are handed down from generation to generation and only brought out for weddings, funerals, baptisms, the birth of a child, or hair cutting ceremonies.
Time to head home! What a trip!
There are MANY other stops we could make as quilts can be found throughout history, all over the world.
In the Meander Guild (an online guild made up of members from all over the world), we explore a new quilt-making style each month, learn the traditional method, as well as how to do it by machine, and other creative variations so that we can really make it our own. If you enjoyed this article and love learning new techniques, I think you'd LOVE Meander. Enrollment is open now, but only for a few days. Learn more/join Meander.
Leave a comment below-- have you explored any of these styles before? Which is your favorite?