Traditional patchwork consists of small pieces, or patches, of new or recycled fabric sewn together to create new fabric that is then used to stitch items such as quilts and clothing. It wasn't until textile manufacturing became factory based that pieced quilting became popular. Women created sampler blocks to share patterns because, unlike today, there were no pattern books. During the Victorian period, women made crazy quilts using patches of lavish fabrics.
Modern fibre artists use patchwork to create realistic and abstract pictures with their quilts and wall hangings. Art quilts, both large and small, explore line, movement, colour, shapes and rhythm with patchwork fabric. Sometimes, the patchwork explodes out of the traditional square or rectangular shape and onto the wall with only tenuous attachments. Some artists re-envision the traditional patchwork block with sinuous lines or optical illusions. Because each is truly one of a kind, there are no instructions for this kind of patchwork. Use pictures of art quilts for inspiration in creating your own. Or take a digital photo and use the pixels as a guide to make patches.
Although there are thousands of traditional patchwork quilt block patterns, new fabrics and ways to recycle existing materials make patchwork seem fresh to even seasoned quilters. For example, some quilters are creating fabric from drink pouches or crisp bags. Other ideas for creating recycled patchwork include film negatives, wallpaper, fabric tape measures, zippers and upholstery fabrics. Look for instructions in books, magazines and online.
Découpage or Collage
Use up small bits of fabric, especially those too small to sew together, with découpage and collage. For example, recycle containers, such as drink crystals or oatmeal containers, by decorating with découpage patchwork. Just remove any label from the container and glue the fabric to the exterior. Overlap the fabric a bit as you go. Draw small faux stitch lines with markers. Or, include tiny snips of fabric arranged with tweezers into a patchwork pattern in a collage artwork.
Patchwork colouring projects introduce children to the craft of patchwork or allow quilters to play with shapes and colours before beginning a quilting project. To make a crazy quilt colouring, draw an irregular shape on paper with a marker and colour in the shape. Use other markers to add patterns to the patch that simulate printed fabric, for example dots or hearts. Repeat this process, making one patch at a time. Use one side of a previous patch as a beginning edge for the next one. Keep adding patches until you've achieved the look you want. Add "stitches" to the borders of patches to finish the quilt.