Craft of stitching together layers of padding and fabric in a composed pattern. A universally practiced technique, its origins remain uncertain but may trace back to China or ancient Egypt around 3500–3400 BCE. The craft made its way to Europe and eventually arrived in the United States by the late sixteenth century. Contrary to popular opinion, the earliest American quilts did not grow out of scarcity and need, but were products of wealth and leisure. One needed free time to quilt and financial means to procure manufactured materials, two luxuries in an agrarian economy.
The tradition of quilting is widespread. It has roots across a large variety of cultures and regional communities, each with their own favored patterns and design elements yet all developed from the same vocabulary: cloth, color, stitch. At dosa, we use quilting as a canvas for deconstructing and melding culturally traditional elements into a new multicultural visual language. For a project in 2004, we sent boxes of fabric scraps saved from several seasons to African-American improvisational quilter Laverne Brackens. In her hands, the fabrics were visually transformed, creatively recomposed in unexpected color combinations, producing an entirely new color palette. These were then passed on to Shuktara, where they were backed and quilted with used saris by women outside Kolkata who do kantha work. See also kantha, Shuktara