There are two techniques used to make most quilts - applique and piecework (or patchwork).
Applique quilts are made by sewing a fabric over a background material to create a design. Below is a close up of Center Medallion Applique Quilt with Lovebirds: Circa 1880; Pennsylvania
For more information about these types of quilts, I go into more detail at the following link- Center Medallion Applique Quilts
Patchwork quilts are created by abutting pieces of fabric next to each other, creating a new surface of material. The image below shows a close up of our Thousand Pyramids Quilt: Circa 1870; Pennsylvania featuring a whopping 8,640 well-pieced triangles.
Some people think that, by definition, applique quilts are better than pieced. This is not the case. It is true that many of the finest quilts are done by applique, but pieced quilts can also be elaborate and finely done. One technique is not necessarily better than the other.
Many quilts actually combine the two techniques. These are the two most commonly used techniques for making quilts, but not the only ones.
Embroidery can be used either as the primary decoration or it can be combined with other techniques. Crazy quilts usually combine piecework with other forms of decoration, including painting and even photographs.
Often times, messages were embroidered onto quilts making them particularly unique.
Below is a close up example from Cotton Crazy Crib Quilt with Embroidered Message: Dated 1885