Everything today is made by machines - cold, impersonal, identical. Fifteen thousand other people are wearing the exact same shirt that you just bought from the Gap. Think about it: you'd probably be a lot happier if everything you owned were handmade specifically for you. If we don't fight this mechanization of society, humans will eventually become slaves to machines (although that is what keeps this site in business…)

With visions of apocalyptic terror now running through your head, you can ease your pain by learning how to make a personal, homemade quilt. The art of quilting has seen a resurgence in recent years, and making a quilt not only allows you to participate in artistry, but also gives you a comfy warm blanket as an end result.

Quilting is not that tough. Those pioneer women did it in the 1800s, and they didn't even have electricity. So hold on to your saddles, buckaroos, and (in bad Western accent), "let's larn us some quiltin'."

A note: Look, we're realistic. It would be impossible to teach you how to quilt through just one article. It takes practice, trial-and-error, and many people take classes. But after reading this SYW, you'll at least understand the process. So please, save the angry letters. In fact, make a quilt with them!

But if you are in a hurry to join that knitting circle of friends, skip the tutorial and take a look at this quilting video. It will have you on pins and needles.



Before you start quilting, it's helpful to know what it means. A quilt is basically a bunch of squares (or "blocks") of fabric all sewn together to make a big rectangular blanket. Each square is made individually, and then the finished squares are sewn together at the end. As a result, it's possible to keep making quilts larger and larger by adding squares (as we are constantly doing to the AIDS quilt).

Each block has three layers that are stitched together. The outside layers are the pretty cloth that we look at, and the inside layer is padding (to make the quilt soft). Presently, quilt styles are separated broadly in two categories: 1) Traditional quilts; and 2) Contemporary or Art quilts.

Traditional quilts

Traditional quilts have styles that have been around since the days of covered wagons. Traditional quilt blocks are made up of pieces of cloth cut into different geometric shapes that end up fitting in a square. You can have different types of triangles, rectangles or small squares comprise a particular block design, or you can just have one big square. As long as it ends up square, you can do whatever floats your boat.

Contemporary/art quilts

Contemporary or art quilts take their name from a movement that started in the 1960s and 1970s when artists began to toy with the structure of the traditional quilt to turn it into an art form. For the purposes of this SYW, all you have to know is that contemporary quilts have intricate, difficult structures (not always blocks), and they have intricate, difficult stitching techniques. It's definitely not for the first-time quilter, but if you want to impress people, it's nice to know that they're out there. If you want to really impress people, toss around the names Nancy Crow and Michael James, two prominent quilt artists.