Moving away from my usual posts, I thought that this one may interest those of you who are interested in Patchwork Quilts. This subject has a long history which I found most interesting. I hope you will too.
Heritage thrives when there is continuity between the past and the present, and that exactly describes The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, which combines the curation of a large and important historic collection with the promotion of quilt making as a living contemporary art form.
Founded in 1979, the Guild has collected quilts since its inception. In 1990 it embarked on the British Heritage Quilt Project, which documented examples of patchwork and quilted heritage. Soon the Guild found itself receiving gifts from well-wishers and the collection has since grown into the Quilt Museum in St Anthony’s Hall.York. This fine medieval guildhall houses the premier museum in the U.K. dedicated to patchwork and quilting, with a collection of more than 800 quilts, coverlets, quilted costume and domestic items ranging in date from the early 1700s to the present day.
The museum’s pride and joy is the 1718 Silk Patchwork coverlet, which is the earliest dated patchwork coverlet in Britain (the initials E.H. and the date 1718 are worked into the central block), which is made up of 120 different silk fabric designs, including one dating to the 1640s. Another treasure is the Ladies Work Society coverlet, an example of work that was commissioned for sale by the Ladies Work Society in London, from gentlemen ‘who found themselves in financial hardship’ and could not work as a governess or companion without loss of social standing.
Detail of the 1718 Silk Patchwork Coverlet showing the initials ‘E H’ and date 1718.
Visitors to the museum, or the excellent Guild and museum websites, are left in no doubt, that this is not a backwards-looking enterprise: heritage and contemporary textile arts are promoted side by side, through exhibitions, workshops, social sessions and behind-the-scenes tours. The Guild’s conference, regional events, exhibitions and summer schools are all well supported, and it publishes a well-regarded journal.
The Quilt Museum and Art Gallery York
One of the Quilts at the Museum York
A beautiful Quilt at the York Exhibition
I love this one.
The Guild’s membership is now 7,000 and rising, including over 450 young quilters and almost 400 affiliated groups. What is it about quilting that inspires such commitment and enthusiasm? Liz Whitehouse, Chief Executive of the Quilters Guild, says ‘ Quilting combines sociable companionship, a creative activity that exercises the brain and a sense of being part of a tradition that reaches back centuries. It has a lasting appeal to creative people worldwide.’
The Quilters Guild at work.
The 1718 Coverlet Book.