The Art of Quilting

xxxThe Art of Quilting


The art of quilting has been practised for at least a thousand years. The first quilts arose from necessity to keep the family warm; they were usually made from bits and pieces of discarded clothing, which is why the technique is called patchwork or “pieced work”.

A quilt consists of three layers, usually cotton, but wool and even silk have been used as well.

The quilt’s top layer determines its appearance. It can be made as patchwork, like most of the quilts on these pages. Today patchwork often consists of many small pieces of fabric pieced together and machine stitched, as in Stained Glass Star or Little Schoolhouse.

The top layer is made of a series of blocks. At right you can see five of the blocks in the form of houses in Little School House and a single block from the Stained Glass Star quilt.

All these different blocks – and there are hundreds of them – constitute a shared cultural heritage, primarily Scandinavian, American and Australian; it is this legacy that NB Quilt uses and transforms giving it a more contemporary look. For example, the Little Schoolhouse block is a completely traditional block but set in a new frame while the Stained Glass Star block is unusual, an NB Quilt refinement of the classic eight point star, and thus given a completely new twist.

The quilt’s top layer can also be appliquéd as in Flowerbed or Flora Danica, which combines appliqueing and patchwork. To appliqué means to add or sew a piece of fabric onto another so the pieces on top form a pattern, design or picture. The pieces may be sewn on either by hand or machine; all NB Quilt products are hand sewn with small buttonhole stitches.

When each of these lengthy, complex processes is completed the quilt’s top layer has to be joined to the rest. In the middle of the quilt there will generally be a layer of cotton batting or wadding and on the back another piece of fabric, either unicoloured or combining several colours from the quilt’s top layer. Joining the quilt’s three layers together was originally done by tying small knots all over the quilt, as in Rainbow or Broken Dishes.

Gradually, however, it became more common to sew through the three layers with tiny stitches thereby creating a relief effect. The smaller the stitches the more valuable the quilt is considered. Over time, as quilting patterns gradually grew more intricate and elegant, this was what increasingly came to constitute the quilt’s quality and value.

An NB Quilt is almost always hand quilted, as in Feathered Star, which means that the back can be decorative in itself.

A quilt can serve many purposes and to a greater or lesser extent draw attention to itself in a room. It can be thrown casually over the back of a chair or a sofa, adding colour and warmth, it can have a permanent location on the back of a sofa - although it shouldn’t be used to sit on – and it can be big enough to serve as a bedspread, like Bedspread or Little Schoolhouse. And of course you can also just curl up under it or hang it on the wall. If used as a wall hanging it will often call a great deal of attention to itself, like Starry Log Cabin, and should consequently be carefully matched to the surrounding colours.

The price and value of a quilt is primarily based on the amount of time necessary for its creation. The size of the quilt is of lesser importance. If a quilt has a patchwork pattern made of many small pieces of fabric and if it is also tightly hand quilted and contains many detailed patterns, it will lie in the most expensive price range. If, on the other hand it consists of larger patches of fabric, is loosely quilted or simply held together with knots it will be much cheaper.

In between are the quilts in which either the patchwork pattern or the quilting contains a lot of detail work. The aesthetic impression is important too, but is largely the result of the wealth of detail.

None of the quilts shown here is for sale; they are illustrative examples of the endless new possibilities within a beautiful, old tradition.

NB Quilt  • Dragør • Denmark