Handmade Elements at the Winter Olympic Games

We’ve got 2014 Olympic Winter Games fever at my house, and have been tuning in nightly to watch skiing, snowboarding, figure skating, and more. In addition to the high-caliber athletes and competitions, what has amazed me is seeing the influence of quilting and sewing stitches land on the slopes of Sochi.

The U.S. snowboarding team jackets.
Courtesy Burton.

Saturday night, I watched the men’s slopestyle snowboarding event. There’s something so fascinating about watching Olympic athletes compete, knowing they’ve been training for years. Their medal hopes are pinned to just a few runs down the mountain, and at the Olympics, there are no do-overs.

When an American rider started his run through the rails and jumps, I was astonished to catch my first glimpse of the U.S. snowboard team jacket. Was that a patchwork design I was seeing?

It was. The U.S. snowboarders are outfitted in Burton jackets with a patchwork screen-printed design. It all started with a quilt Burton found at an antiques show, according a press release. Burton designers deconstructed the quilt, and a Vermont quilt maker put the patchwork squares back together for printing on the jacket. Completed, the jacket appears as if the patchwork was hand-sewn.

As a quilter, I loved seeing sewing stitches show up in such an unexpected place. It affirms the handmade revolution in fashion is going strong. It certainly is at the Winter Olympic Games, where the handmade look also took center stage during the opening ceremonies where the American athletes donned Ralph Lauren cardigan sweaters.

I have to share one last observation. During the slopestyle finals, a woman working at the top of the course was knitting as she stood near the athletes, instructing them when to start their runs.

Quilting and knitting were the last things I expected to make a strong showing at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. I love every instance of it.

Do you want to learn how to infuse sewing stitches into your projects? Check out the Modern Embroidery Starter Kit, on sale in the Sew Daily Shop.

Did you notice the patchwork design on the snowboarders’ jackets? Or the sweaters the Americans wore to the opening ceremonies? What did you think of them? I can’t wait to hear. 


Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Hand Embroidery, Hand Sewing
Abby Kaufman

About Abby Kaufman

Abby Kaufman is assistant editor of Stitch magazine. When she's not scoping out new fabrics for her collection, Abby enjoys outdoor activities, and spending time with her husband and two dogs. 

20 thoughts on “Handmade Elements at the Winter Olympic Games

  1. Last night my husband and I discussed the snowboarders jackets but in addition the backgrounds at each of the venue has a quilted look which they also used in the ‘silks’ that the athletes wore with their numbers. The different venues have different color themes, i.e. ice skating is blues, snowboarding is oranges. Love the incorporation of the quilted look. The sweaters that the US team wore in opening ceremonies had a pieced looked to them as well but have to admit they were a bit busy for me.

  2. I had seen the jackets ahead of time and think they’re great. I also like the diamond pattern NBC is using in their coverage–it’s a transparent diamond image they’re showing that resembles part of a Lone Star quilt block.

    I appreciated the RL sweaters worn at the opening ceremonies but they were almost a little to kitschy for me. I loved the nod that the US team has given to the handmade movement at these games though.

  3. Yes, my colleague and I were talking this morning about the backdrops and athlete bibs and how they have a quilted look. It’s really neat to see it popping up at the Olympics.

  4. The opening ceremony sweaters were embarrasingly ugly…and looked more or less as though they were piecen together at the last moment from unrelated scraps of discarded design swatches.

  5. The theme of the Olympics is patchwork quilting. The fabric squares of the quilt are designed to represent folk art in the different parts of Russia. And so the sweaters were folksy piecework, and the jackets used the quilt image.

    Sochi games’ press release: ”The Olympic patchwork quilt, developed by Bosco’s creative department and given to the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee, will be the official Look of Russia’s first Winter Games.

    Our goal was to represent a diverse range of emotions and feelings, connecting concepts like Motherland, Family, Culture, Time, Olympism, Peace, Nobility, Friends, Memory, Honour, Dreams, Beauty, Freedom, Pride, Warmth, Happiness, Greatness, Reliability, Victory, Creativity, Hospitality, Creation, Future, Russia, Planet Earth.

    Every region in the world is proud of its unique origins, and it is no different in Russia. That is why there are so many different local traditions, songs and crafts that highlight the individuality of their creators, each valuable in its own right. Bosco had a wealth of choices to represent Russia’s rich diversity, but in the end we settled on something familiar, warm and welcoming: the patchwork quilt.

    In the concept design, every patch was infused with the history and personality of traditional crafts from each of Russia’s 89 regions: in a single tapestry we combined Uftyuzhskaya painting and Vologda lace, Gzhel and Zhostovo painting, Kubachi patterns and the flowers of Pavlo Posad shawls, Mezenskaya painting and Khokhloma, Yakutsk patterns, fabrics of Ivanovo and other distinctive Russian patterns. That is how we arrived at a modern, distinctive and unmistakeably Russian Look of the Games.”

  6. Those opening ceremonies sweaters certainly could have been finalists in an ugly sweater contest…but the rest of the “comfort” styling is wonderful.

    The knitting during periods of “unavoidable delay” is the best! Kudos to the lady starting the athletes. I carry mine just about everywhere, including supervising my middle schoolers in their lunchroom. Some are quite curious, which is a bonus.

  7. I noticed the Jacket and Sweaters right away. Do you know where I could get a look at that quilt? I’d be the greatest “Great Aunt” ever with a jacket like that.

  8. The Snowboarding team jacket is awesome. I wouldn’t mind finding some fabric and make one for myself. But, RL should never be allowed to make Olympic uniforms ever again. Those sweaters were awful.

  9. I’m obsessed with that jacket! I posted about it on Facebook, along with the press release, plus contacted Burton asking if I could buy one. They said they’re not available for purchase but they’d pass along my suggestion. I’m thinking of recreating it myself in wool felt. Old thrifted suits would be fun to use too.
    This is also a fun article about the symbol of quilts in the Olympics http://resources.quiltwoman.com/blog/patchwork-quilt-2014-olympic-winter-games-official-look/

  10. There is one group that is knitting an afghan to gift to the following Olympics Team in their sport. They are doing this during their off time. What a wonderful way to relax, yet think of others.
    Those Ralph Lauren sweaters were all knit from wool from my 2nd cousins ranch in Oregon. It was great seeing what a family member has worked so hard to do being worn at the Olympics!

  11. I was under the impression that the knitter (coach) was a man…they did a short story on him. Might be somewhat difficult to knit with gloves on! He certainly wasn’t doing a cable.

  12. I noticed the backdrop of the figure skating “kiss and cry area” and was thinking quilting blocks.

    Anyone catch the comments on the pants worn by Norway’s mens curling team, 3 different pairs that I’ve seen.

  13. I LOVE the skier’s jackets and noticed them right away! I wondered if there would be talk of them in the sewing and quilting worlds–and here it is! Burton is missing a huge boat by not making them for commercial sale. And I agree with others–I’d like to see some yardage available!

  14. I LOVE the skier’s jackets and noticed them right away! I wondered if there would be talk of them in the sewing and quilting worlds–and here it is! Burton is missing a huge boat by not making them for commercial sale. And I agree with others–I’d like to see some yardage available!

  15. I had to laugh at all the comments about those sweaters. Did anyone see the German outfits at the opening? Yikes! But I do like the idea that the outfits are really “costumes” and they show the group as “one”, together in Russia as a unit.. Plus they are easy to pick out among all the other groups. And the handmade factor is especially nice too …. assuming the coats and sweaters were made in the US and not that other country that seems to make everything sold in the US.

  16. First, and foremost, both the Burton jacket /pants and the Ralph Lauren ensemble with their respective accessories are great. Both were made in the spirit of the patchwork concept of the many varied Russian people, their traditions, their art, etc. Think “melting pot” of America. Although Mr. Burton may issue a similar jacket or fabric in the future for sale to the general public, he cannot sell a Sochi Olympic jacket without permission from the USA Olympic Committee. Prior to these games, both Mr. Burton and Mr. Lauren and their talented graphic designers, textile artists, artists, etc. worked very hard to put these ensembles together and present them to the USA Olympic Committee and, probably, to the International Olympic Committee. Think proprietary law, contracts, etc. Be a curious quilter, like myself, and read about the many different Russian people and their art/craft. Maybe you can compare them to similar ones in the USA that were bought here from another country. Needlework, including quilting, is not just about needle and thread. Run to your nearest library and check out as many past issues of Piecework Magazine as you are allowed. After a cup of hot coffee or tea and falling in love with this magazine, treat yourself to your very own subscription. Use your imagination and make your own patchwork jacket. I had a great one during my days at LSU made out of squares and rectangles of bright double knit . My cousin, a bored and lonely Army wife on a remote base, made it for me. I wore it for many years and always received compliments and offers to buy it.
    Yes, it was the early 70`s. I may still have it!!

  17. The article states that the jacket started with a quilt Burton found at an antique show. Can we just get a look at the quilt?? And, I thought the sweaters were cute. They reminded me of the “Mary Maxim” sweaters that were very popular about 50 years ago. I made one with a mallard duck, complete with marsh for my brother. I still have it. Try knitting something with 10 different balls of yarn hanging off the back. You’ll have a lot more respect for those “ugly sweaters”.