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I am a quilter living in Woodbridge, Suffolk who has made quilts since I was a teenager. I also ring bells! Both are great British traditions....I will try to feature some of my antique Welsh and Durham quilts, the quilts I make myself, my quilting activities and also some of my bellringing achievements. Plus as many photos as I can manage. NB: Double click on the photos to see greater detail, then use back button to return to the main page.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Green and Gold wholecloth Welsh Quilt

Welsh wholecloth - Green and gold - Edith Jones - Victorian in age

Here is a beautiful whole cloth that shows the true skill of the Welsh quilter. It is one of my personal favourites. The colours are much nicer in reality than in the photos. - a fairly typical and popular avocado and rich gold combination, in cotton sateen with a thick welsh blanket as a wadding. Wales had a great number of woollen mills and a worn woollen blanket was a common filling for a quilt. The quilts are very heavy, very stiff and very warm!! And it has been said, tongue in cheek, that they acted as a natural birth control - as you couldn’t move very much once underneath.

This quilt was bought from a favourite dealer from Cardiff, and is the same dealer that sold me the Margaret Williams quilt. The size is a generous 74 x 86”. The lengths of cloth are sewn together by machine although the edges are neatly finished off by hand. This quilt, although a bit sun faded along fold lines (the dark fabrics seem prone to this) seems unused so must have been kept for best - or - considered old-fashioned and not used?

The quilting has been done in a stout green thread to match the top side (you can tell the top side as the quilt is flatter and the stitches more even than the reverse). This quilt was made by a professional quilter in a frame. I am told that due to the thickness, a thick thread like carpet thread was used, and also a stout darning needle, not a tiny quilting needle. I tried a sample of quilting with a blanket and I did not find it an easy task to sew although the effect was not bad.

The quilting patterns are nice and well set out. Evidently the fields were marked out with chalk as well as the larger motifs, and the rest was either marked with chalk or sewn freehand. The quilter was working swiftly so if she ran out of space ,she improvised. I have traced this quilt, and you can see this in the spirals around the central motif - in one place where there was no space left for a double spiral, the quilter has put in a single spiral. The style is called “Boxy Carmarthenshire” and there are many geometric patterns, including chevrons, double diamonds and triangles. There are many spirals and spiral rams horns. The centre is a large square of double diamonds made up to a circle by means of half moons, then surrounded by a band of spirals. Note how the corner motifs echo the central motif.

Also to be seen in one corner of the edge is a name tape “Edith Jones” - probably the quilter - but possibly - the owner of the quilt. I have a Durham whole cloth with a similar name tape so evidently they were not unusual. Amy Emms had similar tapes made up in the 1960’s, however it seems that she only used them for larger items. Some of my cottage quilts have embroidered initials, however, signing a quilt in any way seems the exception rather than the rule.

The quilting on this quilt illustrates the sculptural quality of the Welsh whole cloth quilts - I love it.


  1. I am enjoying very much the quilts you share as well as defining the styles and history. Can you share a bit about the quilt edges? I never noticed before, but this one seems to have the edges turned inward and stitched.

  2. Can you share more about the phrase "victorian in age"? What does that mean in terms of time period?

  3. Hi Lynn - I think this is one of the dealers' "catch all" phrases -used when they are not sure but embodying older in age. Strictly speacking, Victorian encompasses the years 1837-1901. With these wholecloth quilts, dating is rather difficult. The dates that cotton sateen was manufactures gives a broad clue; sometimes the lable can give a clue with its typeface. But here, I would imagine that the quilt dates from 1880 to 1900 but of course it is hard to tell for sure. These quilting patterns were traditional and used over many years. Any other opinions welcome.Pippa

  4. Hi Pippa!
    The reason I asked, is because I have a small crib quilt that was also referred to as being made in the victorian time--or maybe it was Edwardian time, now that I think of it. So what would be Edwardian time? It's light yellow silk and was marketed as a Durham quilt. But the more I read of the differences between Durham and Welsh quilts--well, I'm not sure which. The center has the rosette and some cross-hatching, then surrounded by a band of cabelled-feathers. Then double framed with stitching, some blank areas to the borders. The edges are folded and stitched by hand. The quilter made the quilt through 3 layers, top silk, batting, and then a gauze. Lastly the 4th layer is silk (only hidden catch stiches to the other 3 layers). The hand quilting through the top is with a glossy-like perle thread, back stitches and chain stiches. Have you ever seen anything like this?

  5. Dear Lynn,the Edwardian period covers 1901-1910. This sounds like a Durham quilt if it has feather cables on it. Welsh quilts as a rule do not use feathers - at least I have never seen an example. It is unusual to have chain and backstitching. The only quilt I have with backstitching is the Inidan quilt that was pictured in Mrs Hakes book. Backstitich however was more used in earlier periods so not unknown! As I understand it, in the late Victorian period, ladies magazines did publish sewing and knitting patterns. Patchwork and quilting was considered "plain sewing" and suitable for the lower classes, so only mentioned in connection with missionary work or charity projects. Your baby quilt sounds as if it was "fancy" work - victorians did like to prepare gifts for a new arrival and this sounds like that sort of gift. Perhaps a pram blanket?? Pippa

  6. Very interesting post - I enjoyed seeing this quilt when it toured with Grosvenor Shows three years ago, and have been comparing a few pics I took of it with those on your blog. Loved the bold design of this one.