Introducing Quilting to South Africa

Posted by Quiltsew Staff Kotze on

As we have all been taught, Quilting has been introduced by the Swedish culture. Originating in Sweden in the fifteenth century, quilts were made and offered to the very wealthy, created by silk, wool and felt, heavily stitched and beautifully created by what is now famously known as appliqué work. 

Much like today, quilts were created for the intent of decoration, it was commonly found in churches and in the homes of nobility. Over the years, Quilting has found its way across the world, typically featuring in the history of many cultures, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. 

We all know that quilting holds some type of history in almost every continent. Quilting has made a name for itself in America, Asia, Europe, Australasia and Africa. There is much to learn about Quilting and the history behind it, but like every South African Quilter, we want to know just how the art of Quilting came about in South Africa.

In 1997, Marsha Mcdowell attended a historical cultural heritage centre in the Eastern Cape. She was urged to start an investigation centering around the history and state of quilting making within our country. Early in her investigation, she confidently found that Quilt-making in South Africa was rooted in the rich, diverse cultures and histories of the country. Over the years, research has shown that the people of South Africa used grasswork, hides and trade cloth for all their textile needs. One of the very first examples of Quilts in South Africa appear to be affiliated with the Dutch, French and British settlers, some of the historical quilts were brought to South Africa by Western European immigrants. They are held in both public and private collections till this day. 

At first, Quilt-making in South Africa was not an easy art to explore due to the restrictions in the twentieth century, therefore the interest in quilt-making could not grow. It all started with only a few who had access to periodicals, like the Quilters Newsletter or How-to Books. 

It was only after the apartheid era that communications and channels began to open up and South Africa had gained access to new materials and information about Quilt-making worldwide. The internet has also brought much information and knowledge to and from South Africa about the Quilting industry. 

The South African Quilters Guild was founded in 1989 and now stands at five thousand members and counting, in twelve affiliated regional Guilds. Today, this remains the driving force in expanding the interests and appreciation of Quilt-making in South Africa. 

This article was written by: Nikara Chellan (QUILTSEW)


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