The Tentmakers of Cairo


They’re handcrafted—colorful cotton fabric in complex patterns painstakingly appliquéd to a soft canvas backing. Although there is no batting per se, the appliqué  stitches go completely through to the backing, catching just a thread or two for stability. Are they quilts? Are they art? No matter what niche you care to put these appliquéd fiber pieces in, they’re extraordinary, and they’re a big hit here at the AQS Quilt Show & Contest in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


These gorgeous appliqued pieces are made by talented tentmakers of Egypt, most of whom are men. (You can read more about this in the January 2013 issue of American Quilter magazine.) Two of the men stitchers are working continuously on new pieces during the show, so you can observe their unique technique in  real time. The men use very large scissors and a large needle, and rather than cutting the appliqué motifs with a small seam allowance, they rough cut the  pieces with their large scissors before applying it to the background. And they work with remarkable speed!




AQS is the exclusive United States representative for the display and sale of these wonderful works of art. Ninety-five pieces made by the most talented tentmakers are on display (and available for sale) at the show, so if you’re anywhere within driving distance, don’t miss this exhibit. Can’t make it this year? Next year’s Grand Rapids show dates are August 14-17, 2013.

Christine N. Brown, American Quilter magazine Editor-in-Chief

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Truly stunning exhibit and demonstration. These men are amazing. I wish I could hand sew the way they do. Their designs are even more wonderful!!! Thanks for showing them and I’m glad you had a great show and sale. Can’t wait for next year!

I was so blessed to be able to visit and purchase from these men in Cairo! What an amazing art! I have one large piece hanging in my bedroom.