Quilting fabrics run the gamut from the luxurious to the mundane. What’s so very interesting about quilts is that, while the choice of fabrics is certainly important, it’s the quality of the work itself that provides the true beauty of the piece.
Throughout the ages, people everywhere have gleaned raw materials from their environment to fashion into tools and supplies for everyday use as well as to create the sacred, ceremonial, and special items that define one culture from the next. Quilts illustrate that point very effectively.
In ancient Egypt, some of the quilting fabrics used were cotton, linen, and fabrics made from soaked and pounded tree barks. In ancient China, silk was a fabric of choice, for quilts, clothes, and many other things. Each culture used natural resources native to the area and these natural resources helped define the individual cultures.
Quilting fabrics have frequently been a reflection of status within one culture, too. Certain quilting fabrics were reserved for the aristocracy and clergy while the common man (or, more likely, woman) used an entirely different selection of fabrics from which to make quilts for their own use.
In another example of quilting fabrics defining a culture, Hawaiian quilts often feature solid-colored pieces of fabric in vividly bold colors that represent the dazzling colors of these tropical islands. Looking at one of them brings the islands and the lush abundance of nature to mind.
On the other hand, a quilt made from tartan plaid represents Scotland so thoroughly that it’s almost possible to hear bag-pipes playing through one’s thoughts. Tartans use color and the design of the plaid to represent association with specific regions or clans and they’ve done so since the time of the ancient Celts.
Today’s modern textile manufacturing processes make it possible to produce reasonable facsimiles of fabrics used all around the world, making it less possible to define a culture by the quilting fabrics used. The abundance of fabrics available today, however, means there are almost endless possibilities when it comes to choosing quilting fabrics, even though the choices made may not define a culture with the same precision it once did.