Source: Snowdrifts, Being The Extra Christmas Number of The Girl’s Own Paper, 1884
I consider that patchwork is one of the most amusing occupations, in its present form, that can be presented to the invalid and the old, as well as to those who have an artistic eye and enjoy the arrangement of colour and the forming of pretty and original designs. The new ideas of patchwork approach more nearly to appliqué, than to the old ideas of sewing tiny diamond-shaped forms together on the wrong side to make a sort of tessellated pavement arrangement, when all was completed. It was not particularly pretty, but as long as it was considered fashionable everyone did it and tried to think it repaid the trouble of making it. For teaching little children to sew, this old kind of patchwork still affords the very best method, as they see a speedy result to their efforts, and are encouraged to persevere while amused in their work. Anyone who has tried to make some wretched child work its weary way down a long seam will recognize the truth of my idea.
The new departures in patchwork are all of them distinguished by being made on a foundation of cotton or muslin; I prefer the old cotton that has been worn, as it is easier to get the needle through it—a matter of some consequence when the patches are of silk. It ought really to be called appliqué patchwork, as it is more of the nature of appliqué than of patchwork, though it is made with patches; and the art embroidery applied to some patterns quite lifts it to the level of a fine art industry. The cotton or muslin foundation is usually cut into squares of various sizes, as needed for each design. This makes the work easier to accomplish, and less heavy to hold. It also relieves the mental strain of the work, as one has not to stop and think of each piece, but when a number of squares are finished, one can place the whole on a large table and judge of the general effect, and decide exactly where each square should go, to produce the best effect of colour and design.
The first two designs have been given already in the series of articles on the “Occupations for Invalids,” but I repeat them again, as they are not much known and are yet sufficiently novel.
The first is called the “Canadian Loghouse Quilt” design, and is of Canadian origin. It is extremely handsome when made with silk and cashmere, and the colours can be so arranged as to form quite a rich and most oriental-looking covering. The square of cotton provided in this case is from five to six inches square, and the patchwork of the square is begun by tacking a small patch, an inch and a quarter square, in the very centre, and in doing this it must be borne in mind that the comfort of the whole square and its appearance depends on finding the exact centre of the squares of both the cotton foundation and the small patch.
This patch in the centre gives the tone to the whole square, for it may be either light or dark. If dark, the tone of the whole square must be kept dark and rich, with no very light washed-out shades in the light half. The long pieces are three-quarters of an inch wide, and must be accurately measured, as on the one side they overlap and on the other they go under. If the centre be plain, the next row may be figured— a plain and a figured or striped row alternately. All plain and figured materials will answer, and all kinds of textiles; but in every style of patchwork cotton should be put with cotton and wool and silk together, or all wool and all silk. The squares when finished are put together with the light sides against the light, or else so that they look like the old-fashioned box-pattern, with the dark sides arranged to touch the light. The pieces are run on upon the wrong side, turned over, and carefully tacked down flat, the next strip being then run on over them. Neatness, taste, and care are all that are requisite to make this patchwork most handsome.
The next pattern is what is called called “puzzle” sometimes, and otherwise appliqué. In this pattern the pieces are laid on flat upon a foundation lining in the manner shown, and the raw edges are worked over in herringbone stitch, with brightly coloured silks; some people prefer using old-colour or yellow throughout for this purpose, but silk of the same colour as the patch is often used. Of course it will be easily seen that no plan for putting down the pieces can be given, but that figured and plain patches must be used carefully so as to produce the best effect.
Velvet mixed with woollen pieces produce a very handsome effect, and so does silk and satin used together with velvet. I need hardly say that this design for patchwork is not suitable for cotton, as it will not wash, owing to the raw edges, though it will clean very well, as the herringbone stitches, if put in carefully and firmly, and the ends of silk be firmly finished off at the back, will keep the edges quite neat, and only a few stitches will be required after the cleaning to make it nice again.
The next design for patchwork is that embroidered in crewel or filoselle silks, each patch having its own small separate design either outlined or fully worked in crewel or in chain stitch, which may be used as a variety. This kind of work is extremely effective as a border to a mantelpiece, to brackets, or a large cloth for a table. The size of the piece is usually four inches and a half in width, by five inches long, and they are joined together plainly, or else the join is worked over with some fancy stitch. If intended for a mantel border, the edge is finished with a handsome fringe, but if preferred the patches may be pointed or shaped like church windows, so as to hang down in a vallance round the mantel board. Some of the patterns may be appliqué to the border instead of being worked. Cloth or cashmere is the usual foundation for this work, and each embroidered patch must have a lining, as I have before described. This patchwork is also very rich and ornamental, and gives free scope to originality and skill; for this reason, that it forms delightful work for those who are good enough workers to create, and not merely to act as copyists. Some of the work that I have seen done in this manner was most amusing, as well as original.
The American “crazy patchwork” is a compound of the last two that I have described, the pieces being smaller, and every imaginable fancy stitch being brought into use, with every shade of coloured silk. The more fantastic the shape of the pieces the more “crazy” the quilt, of course. This, like the other patchwork, needs a foundation of cotton, and is generally made on squares of that material sixteen inches each way. The edges of the patches are all turned in, not left raw, as in the appliqué patchwork already described, and here and there on each square a piece should be left overlapping the edge of the square, so that when the squares are united they may not show the joins and the work may look like one large complete article, without visibly stitched connections. The pieces are all tacked on one square first before you begin to use any ornamentations, and when all are finished it seems to me that you just collect your silks and set to work to be as original as you can. Work fancy stitches round every patch and funny designs on each, more especially little skeleton people, in black silk, if you know how to make them. Little fans, birds, butterflies made of black velvet, a little landscape traced in silk, a tree in the middle of a patch, or a flower, an obelisk, an elephant, a catshead, shells, in both outlines and appliqué, flies, etc., are some of the objects one see; but it is impossible to recall half the things. Plush, satin, silk, and velvet, with broché and brocade, are all used in this style of work, and all pieces, small and large, can be utilised, and all shapes as well.
The edge of a “crazy quilt” looks best (to my taste) when finished with a handsome silk ball fringe, with a good deal of black, yellow, and red in it. They are never large in size, and of course are only meant to be in the centre of the bed by day as an ornamental addition to the room, and very effective and handsome they look. Of course they are lined with silk of some light colour, and may be wadded if really intended for use; a very little wadding gives them a certain degree of firmness and a substance which they might otherwise lack. The edges may be trimmed with lace also, coloured silk lace being pretty, or one of the new coloured laces, which are known by different names. But the great thing is to consider where our quilt is to be used; if in the country, we need not fear making it beautiful.