Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children

Number 99

The History of Patchwork



Hello Everyone



On my bed l have a lovely, snuggly, warm quilt. ln the cold winter weather when the wind whips round my lighthouse at night l am really glad of it l can tell you.


lt is a beautiful, patchwork quilt with all the colours of the rainbow.


Lots of people have patchwork quilts on their beds.


You might have some patchwork in your house as well.


The history of patchwork goes back a long way. Let me tell you about it…


The earliest examples of patchwork were found in Egyptian tombs and also in China from about 5,000 years ago. Patchwork was also used as part of mediaeval armour to keep soldiers warm.


The soldiers would also wear a woollen, stuffed tunic called a gambeson if they could not afford a suit of armour. lt was like a quilt but shaped to cover their bodies.


Quilts began appearing on beds in 11th to 13th centuries as the climate of Europe became much colder at this time. They helped to keep people warm at night.


The fashion of making quilts was taken to the United States by pilgrims in the 17th century. They made quilts from scraps of material. Fabric like almost everything else had to be imported at that time and quilts were not terribly attractive, they were just used to keep people warm.


Patchwork is often quilted to created items with extra padding and, therefore, softness and warmth. Quilting in early America was a portable (you could carry it around) craft. Sewing could be done in travelling covered wagons or carried to a neighbour’s house for sociable get-togethers.


When the quilts became more designed and decorative, most were made of the geometric shapes that had been used since mediaeval times: squares, rectangles, hexagons. The choice of fabrics and colours and the way these shapes were put together is what made them unique (one of a kind).


Using appliquéd pictures added to the panels (that means extra pictures sewn on the top) can make a quilt meaningful because it tells the story of a family’s history and memories in symbols.


Soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars (early 19th century) were encouraged to make patchwork quilts to keep them occupied and away from bad habits such as gambling which caused them to argue and fight. Even today prisoners are encouraged to take up patchwork for the same reasons.


Patchwork became popular again in the United States in the Great Depression of the 1930’s when people had to be careful with their money and recycle what they had; it declined after WWll, but enjoyed a revival during the United States bicentennial celebrations in 1976. (That meant that The United States was 200 years old.)


The craft is fashionable today with many books and magazines dedicated to the craft, the latest trend being what are called ‘jelly roll quilts’. These are quilts of varied designs made from many different fabrics.


These fabrics are sold as strips which are rolled together into bundles to be sold; they are called jelly rolls. They are usually ever so colourful.


Modern quilts can depict scenes or be truly unusual works of modern art.


Patchwork is something that is not difficult to do, so children can do it as well as adults.


Next week is my 100th blog and to celebrate l have an idea for a really big project for you to do.



Bye bye everyone – don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!


Love and kisses



Salty Sam






Bill and Bob’s Joke of the Weekjokejoke


Bob: Can you give me a sentence with analyse?


Bill: My cousin Anna lies in bed all day – she is so lazy!




Salty Sam © Christina Sinclair 2015

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Picture Gallery


A covered wagon


image009 Soldiers in the Napoleonic wars were taught patchwork


image010 Each design has a name – this one is called grandmother’s garden because it looks like pathways between flowers


Jelly rolls


image012 Jelly roll quilt


image013 Appliqué means adding pictures to a fabric surface (See Blog Post 3)


Colours can be blended together 


Shapes can be simple


image017 Shapes can be simple and then the variety of colours used can add more interest 


‘Spaces’ can be put between shapes


image019 Stunning effects can be achieved with simple shapes


image020 This is patchwork embroidery 







Bill, Bob, Henry and Emily were really enjoying their maths lessons at school this week.



They were learning about tessellation.

Tessellation is the practice of fitting shapes together to create a solid mass.

These shapes can then be coloured to create wonderful effects.

Even shapes put together in the same way but then coloured in differently can look different. 


This would work in patchwork



This would not work in patchwork

If you ever want to make designs like this to change into patchwork designs, remember the shapes you use must fit together once made into fabric shapes.

They must not have too many angles on the outside and no angles going into the centre.

If you wanted to make a complicated shape like a T shape, you would have to make it up by using two blocks.

The picture below would not work as patchwork shapes.

But you could make arrows up in two parts by using a triangle and a square (without a curved corner).

You would stitch your squares in rows and your triangular heads in rows then stitch the rows together making sure that the corners were matching together well.


If you find a pattern that you really like, but it wouldn’t work in patchwork, you could think about using it as appliqué shapes instead, or even using it as a basis for an embroidered design. There are plenty of tessellations on the Internet and in books to give you inspiration.



Sometimes pictures put together can create a really clever tessellation. These are kangaroos with maps of Australia.


Tessellations of animals printable












Quick Quiz 


What are these colours?


  1. cyan
  2. saffron
  3. terracotta
  4. sage
  5. magenta
  6. navy
  7. maroon
  8. cerise
  9. emerald
  10. ochre
  11. port
  12. sapphire
  13. puce
  14. jade
  15. rose
  16. tan
  17. lime
  18. apricot
  19. burgundy
  20. moss








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lt’s the Weekend!





These are for hand-sewn patchwork. Machining is quicker, but only suitable for some shapes such as squares and rectangles. You also have to be careful that the shapes fit together properly and do not slip when you are machining.



  1. You need 2 templates; one for your papers and one for your fabric. You can buy them or you can make them yourself out of card but you have to measure them very carefully.
  2. Cut papers that will be the shape and size of the finished squares.
  3. The larger template is for the fabric pieces so it needs to include a seam allowance.
  4. When you have cut out your fabric pieces, pin the fabric around the papers at the corners and the along sides.
  5. Tack using back stitch or running stitch to keep shape secure but do not sew into the paper.
  6. Sew shapes together using a running stitch working from behind.




7. The papers can be removed from the patchwork when you have finished sewing your shapes together.

8. It is better for patchwork newbies to start with very simple shapes like squares.




9. If you feel competent enough, you can edge your cushion with piping – but this can be a bit fiddly and there is no need to do it. Bias-binding is so-called because it is fabric cut on the bias of fabric (diagonally) so that it keeps its shape well. It can be used to wrap around cord in order to create piping – or piping can be bought ready-made.




10. Place your piping around the edge of the completed front facing inwards.  Stitch into place then put the back of the cushion on top. Butt the ends of the cord together, overlap the bias binding and make a neat join wherever you need to. (Make sure that all your corners are the same shape.)



(Right side of cushion) 


11. Put your backing fabric onto the top right sides together. Sew around the back leaving a gap for the cover to be turned right sides out. Then turn your cushion right sides out and the piping will be sandwiched between the front and back covers. Press your work if you want before you start stuffing the cushion.



12. Stuff through the hole that you left and close the gap using catch stitch.





Any shape can be used as long as they tessellate. This means shapes that can fit together without any gaps like squares and triangles. Some shapes can be used alone such as hexagons and some have to be used with others such as octagons with squares. You might have learnt about tessellation in your maths lessons at school like Bill and Bob and Emily did.

Using graph paper and colouring pencils you can make your own designs. Graph paper doesn’t have to be squared.



Templates can be bought in craft shops – metal for paper and plastic for fabric. These are sturdy and will keep their shape when used over and over again.

You can buy fat quarters but it is cheaper to buy strips off a roll of fabric or use fabric left over from dressmaking – try and use fabrics that are all the same thickness and have the same washing requirements. Cutting boards and cutting wheels are available to make the job of cutting out shapes easier if you go into patchwork big time.

If you want to cover a bought cushion pad, make the cover to fit the pad don’t try and buy a pad once you have made your cover.





Please note that the material on this blog is for personal use and for use in classrooms only.

It is a copyright infringement and, therefore, illegal under international law to sell items made with these patterns.

Use of the toys and projects is at your own risk.

©Christina Sinclair Designs 2015sand




Quick Quiz Answers


  1. cyan – blue
  2. saffron – yellow
  3. terracotta – brown
  4. sage – green
  5. magenta – red
  6. navy – blue
  7. maroon – red
  8. cerise – pink
  9. emerald – green
  10. ochre – yellow
  11. port – red
  12. sapphire – blue
  13. puce – purple
  14. jade – green
  15. rose – pink
  16. tan – brown
  17. lime – green
  18. apricot – orange
  19. burgundy – red
  20. moss – green


Terracotta pots


image061 Moss green


  • Alane says:

    You are a great writer!

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