a long tradition

Leaving Africa, ancient humanoids entered what was then a cooler new world that was caught in the last of the ice ages. 

For thousands of years, when winter came, they would tie the pelts of animals together and cover themselves with animal skins to stay warm. That still left body parts that were hard to keep covered exposed to the cold. The hairy chests that many of the descendants of these northern hunters still wear today bear witness to millennia of bringing home the bacon in chilly climes before needle and thread.   

Then came sewing—real stitching, with horse hair and bone needles—for clothing, bedding and shelter.  This single invention, one that is at least as important as the wheel, opened up seventy-five percent of the earth’s surface to human habitation. God gets the credit, according to the Hebrew Scriptures. In the third chapter of Genesis, as humans left the garden for the dangerous new world, God graciously sewed the skins of animals together to cover them and protect them. Good for humans. The animals? Maybe not so much. 

The things that humans have been sewing together, at least until the Industrial Revolution, have been expensive. Hides and pelts were costly, especially for the animals involved.  But plants were also not easily coaxed into becoming fabric. The things humans sewed together have been valuable. So scraps were salvaged and reworked into new projects. This form of needlework, called patchwork, where smaller pieces of material are conserved and sewn together to make a larger new piece, became one of the earliest art forms. 

Quilting began when two pieces of fabric with some type of insulation between them were held together with stitching so things didn't shift around with use or washing. The earliest examples of quilting were in clothing, but the making of bed covers was not far behind. The needle work of quilting became an art in itself.