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How an attribute of poverty turned into a glamorous piece of high style: The history of the patchwork quilt
How an attribute of poverty turned into a glamorous piece of high style: The history of the patchwork quilt

It was, perhaps, the easiest way to decorate a home, to make it elegant and cozy at the same time. However, why was it? Nowadays, patchwork is called the fashionable word "patchwork" and enjoys the well-deserved attention of interior designers and fashion designers. Associations with poverty are no longer traced - now creating something from scraps of fabric means appreciating your cultural traditions and adhering to the principles of sustainable consumption.

The history of patchwork

In the museums of the world, you cannot find a patchwork quilt of any respectable age - one thousand or at least five hundred years. But this is not because the art of creating products from scraps of fabric is young, on the contrary, it arose, most likely, at the same time when people learned to sew. But everything that was created as a result of attempts to give pieces of matter a second life was intensively used in everyday life, for which it was created.

Patchwork from Egypt, 16th century. Oxford Museum

But on the basis of the found ancient Egyptian images, it was possible to determine that the skills of such sewing from pieces of leather were possessed even during the time of the pharaohs, that is, the time of the emergence of this type of creativity is pushed back into the past at least until the fourth millennium BC. In Europe, the patchwork technique certainly appeared no later than the 5th century, but it became relatively widespread several centuries later, when crusader troops went to the Middle East. It is assumed that the patchwork sewing technique could have been brought to European countries precisely from Asia.

From the rags they sewed rather forcedly - from poverty

But there is another point of view - that every nation, quite independently of the others, came to the idea of ​​patchwork sewing simply because, with a lack of materials and funds for their acquisition, this was a reasonable way out of the situation. From the remnants of shabby clothing or from the scraps that remained after sewing, they made both blankets and new garments. The patches, selected so that a pattern was obtained, became an ornament for a shirt or skirt, often the only one.

Patchwork has been adopted by many peoples and cultures, including the Amish community

But with a fairly wide geography of patchwork sewing, it should be noted that this tradition was nevertheless brought to the New World from Europe. First, as colonists, who found it vital to keep warm with a minimum of resources, then as missionaries. The art of patchwork was adopted by the Native Americans and Indians, and only then they included patchwork products with their own, original patterns in the rituals of the tribes.

Making a large patchwork quilt sometimes required the work of several people

Composing a beautiful pattern from multi-colored pieces is the essence of the ancient mosaic art, and those who were engaged in patchwork, akin to mosaic, relied on the same techniques, alternating light and dark fragments of the pattern, achieving some optical effect. The colorful patchwork quilt also became an adornment of the Russian peasant house - it was certainly sewn as part of the bride's dowry, it decorated the house, and generally became a practical and popular product.

Patchwork techniques

A special heyday of patchwork occurred in the 19th century, when English calico fabrics began to be sold intensively. Previously, they used homespun cloth - it was about 40 centimeters wide, just for a shirt or towel. There were few scraps left. But the factory foreign calico turned out to be much wider - 75 - 80 centimeters: there were much more rags when sewing.

Patchwork option. Photo:

The patchwork technique could be very different, dictated both by the traditions of a particular area and by the skill of each craftswoman. They made a "Russian square", "corners", "chess", "a log hut". An interesting type of patchwork art was the “lyapochikha” style - this is how Kargopol wedding blankets were made.

Patchwork quilting in the "blooper" style

Russian rounds were like American yo-yos. In turn, the craftswomen of the New World depicted patterns from scraps called "sawtooth", "bear's paw", "Jacob's ladder". And also America gave birth to the amazing technique "crazy", that is, "crazy", invented in England during the Victorian period. In this case, the patches were sewn together without any regularity, the patterns were not repeated.

Crazy patchwork. Brooklyn museum

At the same time, the fabrics themselves were not simple - they used rags of silk, velvet and other expensive materials that remained after the creation of exquisite women's dresses. Crazy technique has become a hobby option for wealthy young ladies, and the products created in this way were designed to decorate the interior without pretending to be practical. This fashion trend emerged after the 1876 Philadelphia World's Fair.

Patchwork quilt. Photo:

If at the beginning of the 20th century patchwork quilts and other products made from scraps of fabric were still popular, then in the post-war years there was a cooling towards this old and "folk" type of creativity. Patchwork was now associated with poverty, even poverty, in many countries, recalling what was recently experienced, and therefore for some time patchwork techniques were supplanted by other experiments in the art of sewing.

Patchwork quilt. Photo:

Nowadays, the world is more than supportive of sewing from rags. The reason for this is both interest in the ethnographic heritage and the idea of ​​rational consumption.

How folk craft became part of avant-garde art

Arriving in any part of the world, you can get acquainted with the unique traditions of local patchwork sewing. Japanese-style patchwork, for example, is purely hand-made, while patches are scraps of silk fabrics.

Sonya Delaunay, artist

Democracy of this type of needlework has long been a thing of the past, now patchwork techniques have become an important component of haute couture. This is the merit, first of all, of the French artist originally from the Russian Empire, Sonia Delaunay, who found inspiration in the patterns that she saw since childhood. In 1911, she sewed a patchwork quilt herself - for her son Charles. And then she came up with a new technique of Cubism, reminiscent of such sewing, she was called "Simultanism" or "Orphism".

Such a blanket was sewn by Sonya to her son in 1911

And in 1920, Sonia Delaunay's atelier opened in Paris, selling haute couture clothes from patchwork fabrics. By the way, Sonia Delaunay - the first woman artist to be awarded a solo exhibition in her lifetime at the Louvre.

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