Quilted fabrics are composed of three distinct layers: the top layer, the middle layer used for insulation, and the bottom or back layer. When these three layers are sewn together, a quilted fabric is created. Today, quilted fabrics are used for a variety of applications, including clothing, bedding, and upholstery. Prior to the availability of abundant resources and mechanical sewing techniques, however, quilted fabrics were used for different purposes.
Historians have found evidence of quilted fabrics that existed as long ago as 3400 BC. This type of three-layered material did not become popular in Western European garments, however, until about the end of the 1200s, when soldiers returning from the Crusades brought not only Egyptian cotton but also Egyptian ideas about style, function, and comfort.
Some of the earliest uses of quilted fabrics were by soldiers and knights, who wore them under their armor for warmth or over their armor for protection from the elements.
Later, in colonial America, quilts became a popular way to extend the usefulness of worn out clothing: the scraps in the best condition could be used to create quilt blocks. Often, wool was used as the insulating layer, though in some cases, worn out quilts were used to insulate newer quilts, thus prolonging their lives even further.
Today, most fabric stores offer pre-quilted fabrics crafters can purchase. These often consist of cotton or cotton-blend outer layers with an inner layer (also known as “batting,” “wadding,” and “filler”), typically made of cotton, polyester, wool, or some blend of those. Individuals interested in purchasing quilted fabrics can use them to make a variety of crafts, from blankets to handbags to jackets.
Outside craft stores, quilted fabrics are used in many contexts in 21st century fashion. The designer, Vera Bradley, popularized quilted handbags with bright, floral prints, and many diaper bags are made with quilted fabrics. In addition, quilted fabrics are still frequently used in bedspreads and comforters.
In most cases, quilted fabrics are easy to care for, and can be machine-washed and -dried without causing damage. Quilted fabrics that include hand stitching, however, are more delicate and require either hand washing or line drying.
Storing quilted fabrics in well-ventilated areas kept at a moderately cool temperature helps them maintain their texture. Also, ensuring that no one area of the fabric is under strain or stress helps maintain the shape.