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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.

Saturday 31 March 2012

Private Walker by Thomas Wood

Here is an image which may be familiar to some of you - it is a painting in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Painted by Thomas Wood and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1855, it shows Private Thomas Walker sewing a quilt. In 1855, while convalescing after a successful trepanning operation, he was seen by Queen Victoria during her visit to Fort Pitt Military Hospital. Walker sustained a head injury at the battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War, when a shell burst above his head. A silver plate was inserted in his skull. Here, he is shown sewing a military quilt as part of his recovery.

The painting is of interest because it shows the method of making military quilts very clearly. Lest the viewer be in any doubt, his details are written over the bed, and his regiment - the 95th Derbyshire Regiment - is shown by the uniform at the foot of the bed. Walker is sewing triangles of uniform wool together, the colours, red, black, gold and white, neatly reflecting the colours present in the uniform at the foot of the bed. A cloth cap perhaps suggests his head injury.

This painting has been called a "rare propaganda portrait" and was apparently designed to allay public concerns over hosptial conditions for soldiers during the Crimean War. Victoria's visit was probably another attempt to do the same. As you may be aware, Florence Nightengale and others were able to publicise the poor state of many field hospitals, and the need for cleanliness and more careful nursing of the wounded.

Military quilts were prevalent from about 1850 to 1900; at the later date khaki uniforms replaced the colourful wool uniforms and the materials used for the military quilts disappeared. Crimean quilts supposedly have darker, more sombre colurs, whilst the Indian military quilts are more colourful.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Military Throw - Yorkshire

Here is a military throw that I bought some time ago - it is one of my "Study projects" and is in rather poor condition. It came from a seller in London - he had it from a textile dealer some years ago. The throw origianally came from a sale at a large house in Yorkshire - unfortunately he had forgotten which house it was.

The quilt is rather elaborate and has a central piece surrounded by chequer board areas - some in red and black and others in a trip around the world pattern. The quilt is made from worsted and felted wools. These are not seamed together but over sewn at the back.

These quits are generally known as "Crimean War" quits but most are likely to be of Indian origin. In this case we know it is India as the central star is the "Star of India"(see below).

Another popular myth is that these quilts were made by soldiers recuperating from injuries or illness. This is certainly the case for some. But the V & A seems to think that many were made by Indian servants and not by the soldiers themselves. Certainly the style fits in with Indian textiles.

Some of the pieces are very small, especially the diamonds surrounding the central area.

The "Star of India". The throw is worn, faded and also stained. Some areas seem in better condition than ohters - I think that the fading is due to sun damage, and this has made some areas very brittle, especially the central areas. The stains have a dark cast, as if it were ink.

The words surrounding the centre star are "Heaven's light our guide". This is the motto of the order of chivalry known as the Star of India, founded by Queen Victoria in 1861. It has not been awarded since 1947 (partitioning of India and Pakistan) and has been a dormant order since 2009 (when the last member died). This order is associated with India, which fits in with the idea that many of these military quilts came from India. Whether the owner was part of this order is a question that begs further research. What a pity the name of the house or owner is not known.

It was originally decorated with felt circles and beads, many of which have now disappeared. You can see here the over sewing that holds the pieces together.

More decorations.....

Surrounding the central star is a monument....

An anchor....

On the right side the patches look rather gray and there are repairs where the patches have come apart...

..but on the reverse you can see that the colours were originally much brighter and included white, lavender and purples, greens, blues and beige plus a yellow. Some pf these pieces have been pieced from even smaller pieces. Evidently some colours were in limited supply. Red and Black are the predominant colours - these would reflect the use of these colours in the "Redcoat" military uniforms of the day.

To contrast the front and the back again - back is much more colourful...

The edging is a tape and a fringe - this has been sewn on by machine. Probably intended as a cover for a table or other piece of furniture.

I think that there is much more research to do with this item - one for my retirement?

Saturday 24 March 2012

Blue and Gold Quilt - Herefordshire

Here is a quilt which is made of gold and blue cotton sateen. It was bought from a seller in Nottingham - but may be from Herefordshire. In an article that I read recently, it stated that the dividing line for Welsh and Durham quilts is Nottingham - I do not know the source as it is not stated. I have never come across this theory before. But - this quilt does seem to be transitional - it has characteristics of both types of quilts.

At first glance it seems more North Country - it has a large central daisy and some braids. But there are some very Welsh looking leaves and the quilt has a very Welsh feeling about it - it has a heavy woollen blanket as a filling and the style is mid way between strippy and frame. There are no separating lines as in a Welsh quilt.

Another look at the gold side. The borders are the same colour but the maker has carefully mitered the corners. The colour looks lighter, but this is because the grain of the sateen is reflecting light in a different direction.

The reverse is a dark blue colour.The edges are neatly hand stitched in the Welsh manner.

The interesting point is that there is a running feather to be seen - it is along a fold - but runs in the centre from the border to the daisy. So you have typical Welsh pattern - leaves - with a typical North Country pattern - running feather. Very transitional....

Another look at the leaves...

And the running feather....

This quilt supposedly dates from 1900's - the seller didn't know anything else apart from the fact that it may have come from Herefordshire. The quilt measures 70 x 87 inches.

The neatly made edge - it is quilted in gold thread and the gold side is the top side of the quilt.

The central daisy.

I am a bit puzzled by this quilt, it seems to have some elements of both quilt formats!

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Worn Pink Quilt from Pontardulais

This quilt arrived in a very sorry state! I was kindly given it by Enid Davies of Creigiau, via Nerys Horrocks (a quilter from Essex who I know through the Quilters Guild).

The quilt is very well used and had been sitting in a garage for some time. The first step was to wash it in tepid water and some Synthropol ( a mild detergent).

I then spun it to remove as much water as possible and laid it flat on polythene on the floor, turning as often as possible.

The quilt is similar pink cotton sateen on both sides. It has some typical patterns on it - a central medallion with a four lobed flower surrounded by spirals - more spirals - chevrons - triangles filled with spirals.

A closer look at the centre of the quilt.

You can see how worn it is at one end, where the worn white woollen blanket peeps through. The ends and corners of a quilt always receive the most wear.

Enid's mother lived with her grandmother who was named Mary Elizabeth Jones. Mary belonged to the Pontardulais group, near Swansea, who quilted commercially for the RIB (Rural Industries Board) in the Depression. Mary helped to make quilts for the Claridges order.

Both grandmother and mother went to classes in the 50's - taken by her aunt Eira Rees. Mostly small items such as cushions were made. Her father made the frames and took them to the classes.

The family still retains the nicest quilt. Other quilts and narrow loom blankets were sold to Jen Jones. This quilt had been in the garage for many months. It is old and the family doesn't really know who made it.

The quilt measures 64 x 78 inches and is of interest because it is very typical of the type of quilt that would have commonly been used on beds at the turn of the century. Many thanks to the family for giving me this quilt.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Red and White Welsh Strippy

Here is an older Welsh strippy in red and white (actually a white print with small flowers). The back is a plain white fabric. Again it is "Victorian" in age - I guess this means 1890-1900? The size is 78 x 72 inches. It is rubbed at one end and you can see a dark coloured woollen blanket inside.

You can see that the strips are much wider in Welsh strippies than their North Country counterparts. The quilting designs are pleasant and functional.

One design has squares infilled with spirals.

Another border has half circles - a form of Church Windows but without the overlaps...

Here you can see the blanket peeping through - this quilt has been well used...

Another photo of that border design of half circles....

There is a central medallion - it is a bit hard to see but it is a series of concentric circles which echo the border design. Some of the strips have crosshatching on them.

The quilting shows up well on the reverse.

This quilt amused me - the dealer, Geoff B from Brecfa, bought it at an auction and said of the quilt "it is a Cardiganshire one & very old. A lady had it over her legs in a very cold auction - as she was leaving a long time before me and I was perished to the bones I asked her if she wanted to sell and she stopped my knees knocking but not my teeth chattering...Cheers Geoff.

Later he also wrote "The lady I purchased it from was just in front of me with her husband and they were wrapped up in it - most people that day had blankets. It looked like a scene from a Russian outdoor prom, I stood from 9 am to 6 pm in a sub zero shed without any heat. When they got up to go I asked if they wanted to sell, ever the opportunist me. I would think that it was a local quilt - Carmarthen.

If I lived in Wales it would be fun to go to these auctions....

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Lively Paisley and Plain Pink Welsh Quilt

This Welsh quilt has a lively paisley print on one side and a plain pink fabric on the other. The quilting is well executed with some nice patterns to be seen.

The central motif is a flower? or lovers knot??, this is surrounded by double diamonds. I am constantly surprised by the variety of patterns seen in Welsh quilts!

The outer border is of circles with a design which might be orange peel or might be beech leaves - hard to tell. I was also surprised to see - plumes or feathers. I had, up to now, thought that there were no feathers to be found on my Welsh quilts - but have a look - pairs of plumes at either end of the quilt---

A closer look at the pair of plumes - or are they supposed to be ferns?? I thought feathers had rounded edges whilst leaves had pointy ends which would make these feathers....

The pair of plumes at the far end of the quilt - very handsome but seemingly not double outlined like the last pair. Quilters worked quickly across the frame - by the time they reached the far side of the quilt, the first side was wrapped onto the poles and quilters could forget exactly what they had quilted - so motifs often are slightly different on either side...

A close up of the paisley print which has quite a lot of yellowy-green and blue colours against a pink background - quite different from the reproduction fabrics that we get today!

The quilting is not very visible on the paisley side but it is cheerful on the bed. I have a "comfy" quilt on my bed and usually have just the paisley side showing - as I prefer the effect - looks nice and warm in the winter!

A close up of the central design.

This quilt was bought from a seller in Epsom and had no provenance.

Monday 12 March 2012

Ringing Outing to Norfolk

On Saturday, Mike and I went to Norfolk to help Paul Norris and his band of learners from Brooke, on their spring ringing outing. Of course it is much easier for the learners if they have experienced ringers around them. And sometimes there is another person "standing behind" to give advice and help.

The first tower is one that I have a great affinity for - St Mary's Redenhall. Mother's maiden name is Fuller - there are many in the US! Samuel Fuller and his brother Edward were passengers on the Mayflower and came from Redenhall. Their father Robert was a well-to-do Butcher in Redenhall, and was one of the subscribers who donated money for the 6th bell. So I feel a real connection here. Not only ancestors, but an ancestor that liked the bells and possibly was a ringer.

The second stop was Starston with six bells. More Fullers lived here, also
Samuel's first wife (it seems he went through several).

Then we went on to Pulham St Mary - I had to stop in the local shop Bossy Boots for a snack here, as I was getting hungry! Eight bells here. The stairs caused alarm among some ....but we managed to ring Grandsire, Cambridge and Stedman .

Lunch was at the Crown in Pulham Market.

Ringing at Pulham Market after lunch - these bells will be out of action this summer as work starts on the tower and also the bells. Most church congregations have to work hard to raise money for costly repairs to mediaeval buildings....

Then on the Forncett St Peter - a round tower. These are characteristic of Norfolk, although there are a few to be found in Suffolk. This one had four old bells and two new ones. A sonic bat repeller did not seem to work, the bats had returned and the alter was covered with a protective cloth. Bats are of course protected by law as endangered animals so cannot be directly interferred with although they do make a mess.

The last tower was Carleton Rode, six light bells here. A church mouse was spotted here...

Spring is on its way and there were wildflowers to be seen in the churchyard including Celandine...

..... and Primroses.

Next Saturday, I hope to go to the quilt study day organised by Region 9 at Swaffam Prior near Cambridge. I'll try to take some photos to share.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Dark Paisley Welsh Quilt

Here is a very traditional Welsh quilt - not a "best" quilt, but one that would be used on the bed. The fabrics used are the dark paisley prints that the Welsh seemed to favour, and the filling is a wool blanket.

This quilt measures 80 x84 inches. Each side has a different paisley print with a dark background. The quilting is a simple diamond crosshatching.

A closer view of the diamond quilting.

Closer view of the print - more of a floral than a paisley, I guess.

You can see that the other side is a different fabric. Although this quilt was sold as "unused" I think that the fabrics are faded and would originally been much more colourful, as they would have had brighter reds and greens in them.

No provenance on this quilt, although the seller was from Swansea.

Closer view - oh yes, some paisley shapes visible on this side! The edge is a neatly handsewn knife or butt edge.