Quilts – old & new

This post is for Alphabe-Thursday over at Jenny Matlock’s wonderful blog. Today’s letter is Q.

What, if anything, does the phrase ‘patchwork quilt’ bring to mind?- Grandma? School needlework lessons? Childhood bed covers? Women’s Institute? A recent visit to the exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London showed they were all these things but so much more!

The exhibition, spanning 1700 – 2010 opened with beautiful examples of quilts as we know them. Tessellating patches squares put together to form tumbling blocks, triangles forming magnificent diamonds. My own youthful favourite were hexagonal shapes, here blossoming into beautiful flower designs.

Scraps of material somehow colour matched together to tell a story or make a statement-‘They are repositories of memory’-the publicity tells us. The stories they told were of the great & the good, of battles won & lost. They presented the history of kings, queens & the changing fortunes of industry & commerce. They also told the tales of everyday life, the hardship & joys. This one is an alphabet of love for a newly married couple.

The exhibition detailed the rise & subsequent fall of quilt making as a means of earning a living during periods of economic depression. However, contemporary quilt makers, present patchwork & quilting as art forms which explore ‘uncomfortable truths’ .Below is an amazing piece put together by Grayson Perry, called The Right to Life’ the subject is clear to see.

This one was made of Chinese bank notes called A Chinese Dream (you may be able to see the United Kingdom). This was a political statement of the importance of China to the global trade network.

One quilt that really made an impression was this one made by male inmates of Wandsworth Prison. A short video accompanied the quilt in which the men explained how this traditionally female craft has helped them come to terms with their situation.

 This item, details the role that quilting has played in the rehabilitation of those incarcerated with pieces linked to Elizabeth Fry, The Rajah Quilt, the Tenko Quilt

The company that one meets in such an exhibition tells its own story. There was a group of quilters immersed in the handiwork but for one of their members the quilt of triangles could not to be looked at. The story here was that she was in the process of putting together a large quilt all of triangles! I was fascinated eavesdropping on the detailed conversations that peppered the exhibition of women looking at the stitchwork, colours & designs who marvelled at the skills shown hoping they could  go some way to replicate them carrying on this wonderful craft.

Are you a quilter? Do you follow a craft that goes back in time?

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  • I love quilts! I love all handmade quilts, vintage quilts and new creations, but specially if I know who created them or know a little about the story behind them…

    Thank you for sharing this neat exhibit!

    Blessings & Aloha!
    Thank you for stopping by and come back any time :o)

  • mub

    I really enjoy the histories behind quilts. My mom, grandma, and great aunt made my wedding quilt and I know I’ll just treasure it forever!

    You might enjoy this book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0874807921

    One of my neighbors in Utah inherited a half-quilt and the book is about her journey finding the history of the women that made it and why it was in two pieces *L*

  • Heather

    Quilting to me means agony that I can’t do it myself – I tried once when I was a teenager but was so disappointed I gave up!! May be I should try again now I’m all grown up!!

  • Such wonderfully detailed quilts…great post…love it! Peace and blessings

  • I am a quilter……it lets me express myself, especially when I do art quilts…..

  • Julia, what a wonderful post. I love the stories you told wrapped around the exhibition. They made it real and vivid for me.

    I make rag quilts (in fact I wrote a little strange book about it) and I love doing that. It does make me think of my Grandma because she was also a determined, although not wonderful, quilter. None of her points ever matched up … so I definitely had a good swim in that particular genetic pool.

    I am really glad you are part of Alphabe-Thursday! You make it so diverse and interesting!


  • I wish I was able to create these beautiful things but I am terrible at sewing. I will just admire your quilts from afar!

    Best wishes,

  • Lovely! I have made a few quilts, but it’s just not my thing.

  • Quilts hold a special place in my heart. My mom is a quilter, owned a quilting store and does amazing work. I loved your post.

  • I will be making one, maxi has asked for one nad we now have the fabric and all that we need, I just need to pluck up the courage to start cutting, once we finailise our pattern. I will make one for each of the boys and then one for us.

  • Thanks for telling about these quilts. This is exactly what fascinates me about quilt making especially the older ones. A lot of them have unique stories and these were very interesting ones. Thanks for sharing these with us. In my blog I said I wished I could quilt. I do some knitting which I would say is a pretty old craft but I’m not very good at it but I do make dish clothes for family members for Christmas which they seem to appreciate.

  • Jo

    loved your post on the history and memories inherent in quilts … I used to quilt … i have serveral projects that have languished unfinished for quite a while

  • as i said on another blog wish i could blog

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