WorkingsRaw Materials: Protein fibresRaw Materials: Cellulosic fibresRaw Materials: Synthetic fibresMaking textiles without threads: felt and bark clothMaking Thread: combing, carding and spinningAdding ColourMaking textiles without looms: braiding, knitting, knottingLaceMaking textiles with loomsTextiles to clothe the worldPutting the pieces together: piecing and quiltingEmbroiderySurface PrintingResist Patterning: batik, plangi, ikatMaking Baskets


The word “quilt” comes from the Latin culcita, meaning a bed, mattress or cushion. In North America it has become the name for a bedcovering made of layers of cloth sewn together. In many parts of the world, including India and China, quilted cloth is made into garments that have characteristics similar to bed quilts – they are soft and warm by virtue of their air-trapping layers.

Where was this textile created?

World map preview image

Putting the pieces together: piecing and quilting

Asia: East Asia, China; Miao people
Late 20th century
Cotton, gold strips, woven and embroidered
28 cm x 10 cm
Gift of Max Allen
T04.25.1a-b Textile Museum of Canada

The sole of each of these slippers contains perhaps 20 layers of cotton cloth, stitched together with thick cotton thread to make a strong, stiff base for the decorated upper. This technique, called “thousand layers,” highlights cloth’s ability to be recycled and fitted to many uses, often through strategies like piecing and layering. We usually picture a pieced and quilted textile as something akin to a bed quilt, with pieces juxtaposed on a plane, whereas the pieces of these slippers have been stacked on top of one another.

How was the maker of these soles able to pierce so many layers of coarse cotton fabric so many times? A very sharp needle may have helped. The resulting quilted fabric is very hard, tight and durable.

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