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Stitching, Sewing and Quilting - Oh my!

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

When I am out and about and people find out that I quilt, a question that I am often asked is "What is the difference between sewing and quilting? Aren't they the same?" Well, the answer is yes and no - which generally leads to a lengthy conversation about the process of quiltmaking and I can go on and on for hours. Almost as bad as when someone asks me the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. Buckle up, Buttercup, 'cause I'm about to tell you.

Stitches are the basic components of sewing. Stitching, or creating stitches, is the process of looping thread or yarn together to secure something or create decoration. Stitches are not unique to sewing: knitting, crochet, cross stitch and needlepoint, and embroidery are all examples of stitching. There are many more but I don't want your eyes to glaze over by listing them all. You get the drift. Below is a garter-stitch knitting project that I'm working on:

Sewing is when two objects are secured with stitches. In my world, this is most commonly done with fabric. Garments, home decor, upholstery and QUILTS are made by sewing fabric together. The 'right' sides of the fabric (with the print or finish) are stitched together using a pre-determined measurement called a seam allowance and then turned right side out. The seams are on the inside and pressed open or to one side and they aren't seen.

Quilting is taking two layers of fabric and inserting a material - batting - in between them and making a "Quilt Sandwich" (side note: many quilting terms relate to food. Another reason that I love it). The layers are then stitched together and a binding stitched around the perimeter. The act of stitching the layers is the actual quilting. Quilts can be thick or thin, depending on the batting.

Quilts can be one big piece of fabric (called Wholecloth quilts) or Patchwork Quilts. The OED defines patchwork as "Needlework in which small pieces of cloth in different designs, colors, or textures are sewn together." Patchwork is the first sewing process of quilting, when the top layer of the quilt sandwich is made. Patches are sewn into blocks or strips and then into the quilt top. There are a blue million different quilt blocks and ways to construct them. But I will save that for another day!

Most traditional quilts are made of 100% cotton fabrics, but others can be used as well. I made my husband a memory quilt from his mother's hairdresser's smocks which are polyester. Sometimes the fabric has to be altered in some way for it to work in a quilt. For example, knit fabrics are really stretchy. When you are making a T-shirt quilt out of jersey knits, they have to have interfacing material applied to them to make them behave like a woven cotton material.

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into stitching, sewing and quilting. Come back soon!

Happy Stitching,


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