Thursday, 16 August 2007

Quilting and embroidery

When does a quilt become an embroidery and does it matter?

It matters because in this country at least we the Quilters Guild had to fight to get Patchwork and Quilting recognized as an independent subject from embroidery for City and Guilds. (Prior to this, quilting was just a small part of the embroidery course).

I know when I see works in an exhibition which is which but I've been trying to sort out in my mind which is which.
Three layers held together by stitch? (Lets not think coverlets, crazy quilts, tied quilts etc for the moment). This sound good until you see embroideries done on three layers.
I've been talking this over with friends, mulling it over, arguing different attitudes.

In my own mind, a quilt is quilted and the purpose of this stitch is to hold the three layers together and to add dimension to the fabric of the quilt. Whilst the aim should be to have good stitches, it's the 'puff' that matters. (This doesn't apply to the stitch used through just the quilt top)

In embroidery, it might have three layers (or more) but the three layers provide a foundation for the stitch. And it is the stitch which is paramount. (and there are cases where the three layers are just to comply with quilt show restrictions)

Is it important?

Yes, very. It's not happening so much in the USA or Australia but over here quilts are becoming embroideries. I don't know if it's because quilting has become such a big thing and embroiderers are getting the work in through the back door. Even the judges over here can be names in this other skill. They (embroiderers) can and do produce stunning work but should it be in our (quilter's) shows?

Please let me know what you think? And where your skills are coming from.

Now off to do the last bits of packing and then to the school for exam results, then hopefully off to the FOQ.
I will try to blog from my hotel if not you'll here from me again on Monday.


  1. Sally this is a very interesting question that has been exercising my mind lately. I haven't formed any concluded views yet but I have raised some related issues on my blog at
    An Embroidered Tale

  2. I agree with your definition. I'm by far not an expert, just a self-taught quilter, but I would think embroidery would be when you decorate with thread where you would bringing attention to the thread and quilting would be when you use thread to enhance the puffiest of the wadding and drawing attention to the design in the "puff" of the quilt. Does that make sense?
    Hope you have a good time at the NEC. Can't wait to hear how your quilt does.

  3. And then there's the awkward people like me, who insist that they're doing neither, but rather making art... I don't care what people call it, as long as it's polite! Joking apart, though, when I stitch, I'm not looking to draw attention to either the texture OR the stitch itself, but rather to make a coherent whole. For me, stitch and 'puff' are important.

  4. I'm with Marion on this one..... I cannot tell the difference and really not worried by the definition, which always seem to be fraught by such complex rules. Art is Art ? Whether patched or stitched or embellished? Still unsure.....coherant whole is what we strive to express, hopefully.

    Best wishes


  5. I am a quilt designer and machine embroidery designer. I design many of my designs to be the actual quilting and holding together of the 3 layers so I think it can be both embroidery and quilting.