In determining textiles' meaning within their native cultures, historian Beverly Gordon suggests three primary lenses through which to examine them: myth, metaphor, and language; daily use; and "the way the culture positions cloth at steps along the mortal journey." These steps include universal moments such as birth, marriage, and death, but also culturally specific events such as bar and bat mitzvahs and baptisms. People all over the world have celebrated these major life events through the creation and use of special, meaningful textiles, such as christening gowns, wedding apparel, and death shrouds. In the United States, quilts often have been the vehicle for commemorating marriages, deaths, and friendships.
In Central Asia, patchwork and quilts function similarly, giving makers the opportunity to mark a life transition while also protecting the recipient and her home environment from malignant forces. Weddings are one rite of passage within which patchwork has played a pivotal role—with pieced textiles even decorating the animals that carry or pull the bride to the ceremony. Prior to marriage, a young woman and her family members prepared for her new life by creating a dowry, including numerous patchwork and quilted bedcovers, wall hangings, and articles of clothing. Following her marriage, a woman's childbearing has also been an occasion for making patchwork, especially in the creation of garments that will protect the baby during his/her first vulnerable years. In Central Asia, fabric used in patchwork was traditionally so valued that it was sometimes even presented as gifts at a funeral for someone who had lived an especially long time.