If your grandmother’s outdated quilt comes to mind when you think patchwork, think again. Patchwork is more on trend than ever before – just check out these Spring ’16 runway shots below. Its chic yet laid back vibe is exploding throughout the fashion industry. Let’s investigate why patchwork is seeing such a huge rise in popularity and explore some of the most exciting applications you can do right at home.
A Quick History of Patchwork
Patchwork is nothing new to sewing. It has been used by crafters and DIY enthusiasts since the 11th century – likely due to the brisk European climate and the need to use what was available to stay warm. Though this is the first hint of organised patchwork, fabrics with a design reminiscent of patchwork have been found in Egyptian tombs and Chinese artefacts from over 5000 years ago. Nonetheless, the 18th century saw the biggest explosion of patchwork with the help of paper templates. It was a welcome way for common folk to sew bits of expensive silk amongst more affordable cottons, improving the value of their quilts without spending a fortune.
What Is Patchwork?
At its very core, patchwork has historically referred to the sewing together of small bits to create a larger design. Often, this meant repetitive patterns and careful measurements duplicated over and over again. Though patchwork was once limited to basic geometric shapes, the possibilities have expanded with wide use of abstract shapes and more artistic patterns. The technique is often split between two methods: one in which the stitching is carefully hidden, and the other where it is exaggerated to the point of becoming decorative embroidery.
One aspect of patchwork that has remained unchanged is the ability to use blocks of any size. Though large blocks can be assembled more quickly, smaller patches make for more elaborate designs. Originally used to fashion quilts, patchwork is now being applied to decorative elements, clothing, upholstery and even handbags.
How Is Patchwork Eco-friendly?
Patchwork is really a great technique because it allows you to use all those small scraps you have lying around (or to pick up a bag of scraps on the cheap that you can make into something fabulous!). You know, the ones that are too beautiful to discard, but too tiny for a big project. That makes patchwork both eco-friendly, because you’re saving fabric from heading to the bin, and also cost-effective. You can also take worn out garments with holes or jagged edges and breathe new life into them with strategically placed patches. It’s the best way to upcycle your favourite old shirts, jeans, skirts, or sweaters, taking them from trash to couture. Patchwork is an eco-friendly way to reduce waste while creating something breathtaking and interesting.
This seems to be the consensus among a host of designers who have used patchwork and created some fabulous new ensembles. High fashion designers like Etoile Isabel Marant and Stella Jean have featured patchwork in delightful summer prints – you can check out all the other high end designers using patchwork here.
Unique Applications of Patchwork
Though patchwork is fabulous for clothing or handbags, its newfound popularity has led to some really creative applications with stunning results. For example, Draga Obradovic has designed a whole line of patchwork furniture for Anthropologie, including couches, chairs, and even tables.
To get the beautiful fabric matched look here, I’d start in our ethnic prints section!
If you are new to patchwork, you might want to start small with a simple table runner or throw pillow, and work your way up to intricate clothing or upholstery designs… and then to sofas! There is one caution I have to offer, however. Patchwork can require a lot of sewing. You can streamline the process a bit by preparing several bobbins (spools of thread) in advance. You can also save time by cutting, organising and stacking your fabric before you begin.
Speaking of fabric, patchwork is the best new way to think outside the box. Use a bounty of plaids, paisley, chevrons, or polka dots. Your blocks don’t even need to be square. Top designers like Derek Lam have boldly applied the technique with blocks of coloured suede and leather in a variety of shapes and colours. Though most opt for a single uniting theme, the fashion industry is quickly proving that there are absolutely no rules when it comes to patchwork.