Reference Library: Patchwork
Patchwork or "pieced work" is a form of needlework that involves sewing together pieces of fabric into a larger design. The larger design is usually based on repeat patterns built up with the different colored shapes. These shapes are carefully measured and cut straight-sided, basic geometric shapes which facilitates piecing them together. Precise joining makes for patchwork that lies flat without puckers. When used to make a quilt, this larger patchwork or pieced design becomes the "top" of a three layered quilt, the middle layer being the batting, and the bottom layer the backing. To keep the batting from shifting and wadding, a patchwork or pieced quilt is often quilted by hand or machine using a running stitch which can outline the individual shapes that comprise the pieced top, or the quilting stitches can be random or highly ordered overall patterns that contrast with the patchwork composition. (Specialized, long-arm quilting machines can be programmed to quilt particular quilting patterns over any type of quilt.) Or, instead of quilting, the layers can be tied together at regular intervals with pieces of yarn, a practice known as tying.
There are three traditional structures used to construct a patchwork or pieced composition: 1) block, 2)overall, and 3) strip piecing. Traditional patchwork has identifying names based on the arrangement of colors and shapes.
1)Patchwork blocks are pieced squares made up of colored shapes that repeat specific shapes to create patterns within the square or block, of, say, light and dark, or contrasting colors. The blocks can all repeat the same pattern, or blocks can be comprised of several different patterns . The patchwork blocks are typically around 8"-10" square. They are sewn together in stacked rows to make a larger composition. Often strips of contrasting fabric forming a lattice separates the patchwork blocks from each other. Some common patchwork block names are Log Cabin, Drunkard's Path, Bear's Paw, Tulip, Nine Patch, etc. A unique form of patchwork block quilt is the crazy quilt, popular during the Victorian era (mid to late nineteenth century).The crazy block is comprised of random shapes of luxurious, fabric such as velvets, silks, brocades. The patchwork blocks are stitched together forming "crazy" or non-repeat, asymmetric compositions. Fancy embroidery embellishes the seam lines between the individual, pieced shapes and between the blocks.
2)Overall patchwork designs are incrementally pieced geometric shapes stitched together to form a larger random or composed design. The colored shapes can be randomly pieced or follow a strict order to create a specific effect, say of value (light to dark) progressions, or checkerboard effects, etc. Names such as Hit or Miss, Clamshell, and Starburst identify some overall patchwork structures.
3)Strip piecing involves stitching together pieces of fabric in repeat patterns into long strips and then stitching the strips together lengthwise. The patchwork strips can be alternated with strips of contrasting colors. A typical strip patchwork quilt is the Flying Geese pattern.
Patchwork enjoyed a widespread revival during the Great Depression because it was a way to recycle worn clothing into warm quilts. Even very small and worn pieces of material are suitable for use in patchwork, although crafters today more often use specially bought patchwork material as the basis for their designs, especially 100% cotton.
Patchwork declined after World War II, but was again revived during the American bicentennial.
Patchwork is most often used to make quilts, but it can also be used to make bags, wall-hangings, warm jackets, skirts and other items of clothing. Some textile artists work with patchwork, often combining it with embroidery and other forms of stitchery.
Patchwork and quilting are both enjoying a huge resurgence in popularity around the world, particularly in the United States and Japan. A survey in America identified Quilting as a multi-million dollar industry. International quilting exhibitions attract thousands of visitors from around the globe, while countless smaller exhibitions are held every weekend in local regions. Active cyber-quilting communities abound on the web, books and magazines on the subject are published in the hundreds every year, and there are many active local quilting guilds and shops in different countries. 'Quilt Art' is established as a legitimate artistic medium, with quilted works of art selling for thousands of dollars to corporate buyers and galleries. Quilt historians and Quilt appraisers are re-evaluating the heritage of traditional quilting and antique quilts, while superb examples of antique quilts are purchased for large sums by collectors and museums.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Patchwork".