Patchwork Quilting: Yesterday's Tradition, Today's Pastime

By Sherri McConnell

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Patchwork quilting has been a much loved pastime of quilters for centuries. Patchwork quilts are quilts created from a variety of pieces of fabric sewn together to create a quilt top. The pieces of fabric are often sewn in a specific pattern or arrangement; however, the placement of the fabrics can also be intentionally random. The patchwork-pieced quilt top is then placed on top of a piece of batting and backing fabric, and quilted or sewn together to create a patchwork quilt. The edges of this quilt top are most often finished with a prepared fabric binding.


In the earliest patchwork quilts, the fabric pieces used for quiltmaking were often leftover scraps of fabric from family clothing and other household items. It is common to see pieces of flour bags or feedsacks combined with fabric scraps from women's dresses and aprons and men's shirts, all in the same patchwork quilt created in the 1800's and 1900's. Patchwork quilting is also popular today; however, the patchwork pieces are now often cut from new fabrics specifically purchased for quiltmaking.

Patchwork Quilting

Some of the simplest designs used in patchwork quilting are also among the most beautiful. Using simple squares cut to the same size is one of the most popular techniques used in patchwork quilts. Today's popular pre-cut fabric Charm Squares (5" x 5" squares) and Layer Cake squares (10" x 10" squares) are perfect for creating patchwork quilting projects. While simple designs are perfect for patchwork quilting, more complicated patchwork quilting patterns are also plentiful.

Aside from collecting scraps and pieces of fabrics to use in patchwork quilting projects, early quilters often collected patchwork quilting patterns. Women's magazines and even newspapers in the early part of the twentieth century often included block patterns. Today's quilter has an incredible variety of patchwork quilting patterns to choose from. Ideas for patchwork quilting blocks can be found in online resources, in block encyclopedias such as The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman and 501 Rotary Cut Quilt Blocks by Judy Hopkins, in computer programs such as Electric Quilt and in individual designers' published patterns. Did you know that there are over 4,000 quilting patterns available on Craftsy? Finding a pattern to use for patchwork quilting projects is definitely not a challenge for anyone wanting to begin this wonderful pastime.

Beautiful Patchwork Quilting

Craftsy also offers wonderful opportunities to learn to create beautiful patchwork quilting projects. Craftsy patchwork quilting classes are perfect for anyone wanting to learn from the experts. One patchwork quilting class is Scrap Quilting with Pepper Cory; another wonderful option for patchwork quilting is the course Re-piecing the Past: Civil War Blocks Then and Now with Kaye England.

What type of patchwork quilting project would you like to work on first?

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