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Published: 23 June 2018

By Andy Ross

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Quilting soldiers

In the 19th Century, soldiers involved in the conflicts of the day made patchwork and embroidered quilts but the reasons why they did this are obscure. 

A recent article in Atlas Obscura relates how the quilts were always thought to be made from the clothes of fallen comrades but this story seems to be apocryphal. None of the quilts that we know about today show signs of conflict, stains or gunfire. 

It is possible that military personnel were encouraged to sew and embroider in order to keep boredom at bay, and to stop alcohol abuse and gambling. Here in Shetland there used to be a saying which I misquote - "Takk dy sock and let's haud wis oot o languor". This was said between women and meant "Bring along your knitting and let's keep ourselves from boredom". It seems men were not exempt from that same complaint!

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(Picture courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum)