The History of Quilt Patterns and Traditions From All Around the World

traditional quilts display
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All over the globe, cultures draw on the world around them and translate these experiences into quilts. As a result, regions develop their own traditional quilting styles, patterns, and unique ways of sewing.

This is why traditional quilts feel like keepsakes: "Quilts remind me of someone else's happy childhood," says Spike Gillespie, author of Quilts Around the World. "It's the original weighted blanket." Beyond their tactile assets, quilts are aesthetically pleasing and often take on an emotional connection if you know the person who made them.

Like food, quilts can be artisanal, but also extremely functional, and often hold a special place in rituals—both religious and secular. "They reflect the culture—you can see it and know it came from a certain place," Gillepsie says. Ahead, learn more about regional quilts, patterns, and techniques from around the world.

01 of 10


Ralli quilts
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Mainly sewn by the women in the Sindh province of Pakistan and nearby, Ralli quilts are known for their diagonal placement of similar blocks of dyed cloth. They use thick thread stitches in straight lines sewing together the designed layer with the bottom layer of old shawls or similar, with some scraps or cotton in between.

02 of 10

United States

woman hand stitching Hawaiian quilts
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Hawaiian quilts use a lot of botanical patterns, made from a single big piece of cloth with a cut layer of fabric on top. Supposedly, the designs were originally based on how the sun makes certain patterns of the foliage on the lawn, where the artist would then trace and cut the textile.

03 of 10


japan sashiko quilt
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Sashiko embroidery in Japan was an old sewing technique to mend clothing, but has now been adapted to use the same running stitch in quilting. Specific needles and white cotton thread on blue indigo cloth form the traditional version, but red thread is sometimes used to make the classic geometric patterns, and modern quilters vary the fabric.

04 of 10


pojagi korean quilt
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Pojagi or Bojagi are Korean wrapping clothes—traditionally used to wrap gifts, but also to cover or store everyday items. They can be embroidered from a single large piece of cloth, or made from a patchwork of scraps. Traditionally, it uses hand-sewn flat fell seams, which remove any raw edges and makes them two-sided. Now, the same techniques and designs are worked into all types of textiles—wall-hangings, tablecloths, and even quilts.

05 of 10


fogo island quilt
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On remote Fogo Island off the edge of New Foundland on Canada's eastern coast, locals carry on their long traditions of quilting—including numerous styles and patterns. The quilt shown here demonstrates the decorative herringbone stitch.

06 of 10

Amish Country

amish quilt
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Travelers passing through Lancaster, Pa.—the heart of America's Amish country—will see may locally made quilts for sale. While not all of the quilts are hand-sewn, the Amish don't use electric sewing machines to make them. Typically, Amish quilts use patchwork to make patterns of swirls, diamonds, wreaths, and grids, as well as the eight-sided Star of Bethlehem pictured here.

07 of 10


laos hmong quilt
Leisa Tyler / Getty Images

The minority Hmong in Laos are known for their folk crafts, including many types of textiles. They are particularly known for intricate needlework, specifically a reverse appliqué called paj ntaub, meaning "flower cloth," and story cloths that depict life events. In Laos and the U.S., they have adapted these to quilt format to make them appealing for customers.

08 of 10


bangladesh kantha quilt
Cyndi Monaghan / Getty Images

These days, Bangladesh's textile industry is known more for fast fashion than quilting, but the stunning kantha quilts show the local tradition. They're made by repurposing worn out saris or sarongs in whole pieces sown together with a running stitch for a rippling effect. Kanthas are said to keep the user safe from harm.

09 of 10

Italy and Hungary

italy hungary bargello quilt
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Bargello quilts are stunning arrangements of strips of fabric sewn together, resulting in the illusion of motion. Though it is named after a palace in Florence, Italy, the technique of using offset vertical stitches to make the colorful geometric patterns are thought to originate from Hungary.

10 of 10


france provencal quilt
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These Provençal quilts are made from one big piece of cloth, then stitched with a stuffing—the literal meaning of the "boutis"—inside that gives them a three-dimensional effect.

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