Handmade quilt as an economic activity is an interesting study in this competitive world of globalization. Quilt making is a traditional art form that is restricted to certain communities and geographical regions. Quilts have many uses ranging from bed covers and furnishings to pet clothes and rugs. Handmade varieties have to face a tough competition not only among themselves but also with machine made varieties.
Quilt making which started off as a necessity gradually became a profession and then a fine art. After man started agriculture and began a settled life they stopped migrating from one place to another in search of food. They grew settlements and started staying in groups. With settlements new professions evolved like weaving, knitting, cattle rearing, fishing, pottery, metallurgy and so on. Division of trade was established with a few families specializing in a particular trade. This was the common trend in all early civilizations.
Weavers and knitters were such specialized craftsmen. Their specialty lay is creating marvels in cloth. The art and technique of weaving, knitting and quilt making were taught by ancestors to their descendants keeping the trade within the family. Different techniques developed with passing generations. In addition to weaving and knitting of quilts, variations were created in forms of appliqué and stitching. Each one of these types has its own distinctive features. Master weavers combined all these techniques together to create wonders in cloth.
Handmade quilts took a long time to be completed. The more intricate a design the longer was the time required to finish it. Often an entire family got involved in making a bed quilt. It was a painstaking and creative process. Being labor intensive it offered employment opportunity to a large group. There were communities where weaving and quilt making was the main occupation.
After industrial revolution a drastic change came over the weaving and knitting industry. Power looms made the process of spinning yarn unimaginably faster. Invention of knitting machines revolutionized knitting techniques. What could be done by 50 heads could be done by one machine and at much cheaper rates. The competition gradually became tougher for hand weavers and knitters. The more well off weavers bought their own brass bush
weaving machines to survive, or perhaps to participate in this competition between man and machine.
The invention of machine was inevitable because of the rising demand of products across nations. With use of machines production cost got minimized which in turn brought down the price of commodities. Hand based industries had to innovate ideas to remain in this competition. Hand weavers also adapted their weaving techniques to suit current demand.
From producing quilts of mass consumption they gradually shifted to making exclusive designs using the best fabrics. They have shifted to customized patterns for which charges are always at a premium. Many of the weavers who were scattered have organized themselves into associations. Trade shows and exhibitions are arranged by these associations to encourage weavers and new entrants into this trade. Governments and art colleges across nations organize conventions and shows to promote hand weavers and quilt makers.
With all such activities taking place in different countries the cause of quilt makers are being highlighted regularly. Consequently the art of handmade quilts has survived the test of times and is here to stay for more generations.