Quilted war helmet of Tipu Sultan, India, late 18th century Quilted war helmet of Tipu Sultan, India, late 18th century Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. 3518(IS).

Quilting is a sewing technique whereby two or more layers of cloth are sewn together to make a thicker structure, often called a quilt. Quilts usually, but not always, have a padding material (wadding or batting) of some kind in between two other layers.

Some modern quilters state that a quilted item has to be made out of a minimum of three layers of cloth. But this is a relatively new definition that appears to derive from North American practitioners. This ‘new’ definition should not be applied to all forms of historical and non-Western examples.

Examples of quilting can be found from the medieval period onwards. Quilted armour was worn in many countries, as far apart as Europe and Japan. During the Mamluk period (1250-1512) in Egypt, men’s caps were often quilted using two different forms: simple line quilting and padded quilting. During the medieval period and later, in northern Europe, decorative quilting was often applied to men’s caps and jackets, as well as to women’s garments, such as stomachers and petticoats.

Elaborate, but subtle quilting could be found in various countries. Persian (Iranian) men’s coats and jackets in the nineteenth century were often decorated with quilting. The basic designs to be quilted were stamped onto the garments with hot irons and then the outlines were followed using lines of running stitch. The summer versions of these garments were made from two layers of cloth, while the winter versions had three or more layers.

See also: cord quilting; kantha work.


  • HAYWARD, Maria and Lisa MONNAS (2012). 'Quilting and padding', in: Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth and Maria Hayward (eds.), Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, 450-1450. Leiden: Brill, pp. 439-440.
  • MARSH, Gail (2006). 18th Century Embroidery Techniques, Lewes: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications. Paperback edition 2012, pp. 84-109.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 9 July 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 30 January 2017 19:40
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