Unusual quilting designs have increasingly become popular as decorative textiles. As industrial sewing technology has become more precise and flexible, quilting using exotic fabrics and embroidery began to appear in home furnishings in the early 21st century.
Quilting is the term given to the process of joining a minimum of three layers of fabric together either through stitching manually by hand using a needle and thread, or mechanically with a sewing machine or specialised longarm quilting system. An array of stitches is passed through all layers of the fabric to create a three dimensional padded surface. The three layers are typically referred to as the top fabric or quilt top, batting or insulating material and the backing.
Quilting varies from a purely functional fabric joinery technique to highly elaborate, decorative three dimensional surface treatments. A wide variety of textile products are traditionally associated with quilting that includes bed coverings, soft home furnishings, garments and costumes, wall hangings, artistic objects and cultural artefacts.
A wide range of effects can be employed by the quilter that contribute to the final surface quality and utility of the quilted material. The quilter controls these effects through the manipulation of elements such as material type and thickness, stitch length and style, pattern design, piecing and cutting. Two dimensional effects such as optical illusions can be achieved through aesthetic choices regarding colour, texture and print. Three dimensional and sculptural components of quilted material can be manipulated and enhanced with further embellishment which may include appliqué, embroidery techniques such as shisha mirror work, and the inclusion of other objects or elements such as pearls, beads, buttons, sequins. Some quilters dye or create their own fabrics. In contemporary artistic quilting, new and experimental materials such as plastics, paper, naturally occurring fibres and plants amongst a diverse array of other materials have been used.
Sewing machines can be used in the process of piecing together a quilt top. Some quilters also use a home sewing machine for quilting together the layers of the quilt, as well as binding the final product. While most home sewing machines can be used to quilt layers together, having a wide throat (the space to the right of the needle mechanism) is useful to manipulate a bulky quilt through the machine when the throat is both high and long.
Fabric markers can be used to mark where cuts should be made in the fabric. Marks from specialist fabric marker wash out of fabrics.
Quilting rulers are usually square or rectangular measuring instruments with length measurement and degree angle markings along multiple edges.
Longarm quilting machines can be used to make larger quilts. Larger machines can be leveraged so that the quilter does not have to hold the fabric. Some specialist quilt shops offer longarm services.
Machine quilting needles are very sharp in order to readily pierce layers of quilt and properly sew together the quilt top, batting and backing.
Hand quilting needles are traditionally called betweens and are generally smaller and stronger than normal sewing needles. They have a very small eye which prevents any extra bump at the head of the needles when you are pulling through the thread.
Pins can be used in many different combinations to achieve similar results.
Thimbles provide protection to fingertips.
Specialist quilting threads come in many types, including different weights of thread and different materials. Cotton, polyester, and nylon threads are used in different forms of quilting.
Rotary cutters revolutionized quilt-making when they appeared in the late 1970s. Rotary cutters simplify the process of cutting even slices of fabric.
Quilting templates/patterns come in many varieties and are generally considered the basis of the structure of the quilt, like a blueprint for a house.