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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.

Friday 29 April 2016

Cot quilt from Sunderland

Here is a little cot quilt in "art silk". It measures 21 x 28 inches.

Cot quilts are not as common as they might be, as they get hard use and often don't survive.

This quilt comes from Sunderland where it was a family item.

The design is a simple one, a daisy, cross hatching and a simple zig zag outer border.

The edges are a bit worn, and have been finished by hand. I expected cotton wadding, but it is a bit springy, and may be polyester....which might mean that this is not such an old piece. I will have to examine under the microscope!

Friday 22 April 2016

1861 Quilt made by Katy Low

I bought this quilt recently.....not in good shape, but with some good history and dated, so very interesting to me from a fabric dating point of view.

The label reads, as best I can make it out - This quilt was made by Katy Low in 1861 under her Mother's (???direction??) for her great Grandmother. After her death it was given to her Grandmother who now gives it to her Katy Low. Dec 1867

This quilt is Welsh in origin, the sellers bought it at auction about 25 years ago.

Many of the fabrics have disintegrated. The seller thought that this was because they were silk dress fabrics, but it fact the rotting is due to a problem called tendering which is caused by the presence of iron oxide used in the printing process for cotton fabrics. The problem is at its worst with dark brown cotton fabrics. 

Barbara Brackman on page 99 of her book America's Printed Fabrics 1770-1890, says the following:
Madder style prints - Madder is  vegetable dye derived from......Rubia tinctorium. 
Cottons dyed with madder are among the most common fabrics in nineteenth-century was colorfast and inexpensive, yet versatile.....producing colors ranging from red-orange through purple, brown and almost black. 

Then on page 101 she states: Madder browns and near blacks have an unfortunate tendancy to deteriorate or "tender" fabric. Iron used in the mordanting process interacts with oxygen in the air, essentially rusting the fabric over time. Antique quilts are full of madder-style prints that have oxydised, leaving holes in calicoes and empty lines in stripes. The darker the brown, the more iron in the mordant, and the more likely the fabric is to rot over time.

Here, you can see that the thin border of dark brown has almost completely disappeared over time, exposing the woollen wadding.

This stripe in brown has also disappeared over time.

The backing of the quilt is in linen, common in quilts of this era.

Quilting patterns seen are chevrons in the border, while the blocks are outlined and then filled with a scale or clamshell pattern.

There is a variety of patterns to be seen. Phillip Sykas told us that most quilts seem to have a ten year spread of fabrics, although some quilts do seem to be made from scrap bags containing some much older fabrics.

In addition, bundles of fabric pieces were readily available at markets, along with tradesmens sample books which could  be also turned into patchwork. In this quilt, although the squares are varied, many have a twin, suggesting that the fabrics were bought in, or perhaps came from a seamstress' supply.

Larger amounts of fabrics were needed for the inner and outer borders.

This quilt is entirely hand pieced. The sewing machine was not available at the time this quilt was made...the stitches are tiny. This is especially evident on the binding, in which the backing linen is brought to the front and fixed with tiny stitches.

There are some attractive blue colours to be seen, probably Prussian Blue. The red and orange fabrics are all madder style, with no turkey red fabrics to be seen. The fabrics are mostly roller prints. Artificial fabric dyes did not exist at this time.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Pink and Yellow Stamped Quilt from Sunderland

This is a "stamped" quilt, that is, it was professionally marked, probably by an Allendale quilt designer.
This quilt comes from Sunderland, which seems to have been a hotbed of quilting. When the Allendale tin mines failed, many families moved to coastal towns such as Sunderland to take up jobs in the dockyards. Thus many Quilters must have made the journey. Church quilting groups seem to have been particularly important in Sunderland.

The light pink side is the top side, and faint traces of blue pencil are still to be seen. The reverse is light yellow.

This quilt must have been kept for "best" has a central rose surrounded by eight flat ironpetals, surrounded by fern and more roses. 

A swag border is topped by small roses and feathers.

The corner treatment echoes the centre, with feathers and curlicues.

The edges have a double line of machine sewing.

This quilt measures 76 x 92 inches.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Floral and Pink Welsh Wholecloth


Here is one of the nicer Welsh quilts that I have seen for some time.....nicely quilted with some lovely patterns.....with a nice flower or star outer border....

The centre is filled with double lines and this is echoed in the corner fans....spirals in leaves and the corner....all very Welsh designs....

Four leaves in the centre coin surrounded by star/flower motifs..

Another look at a corner....outer edge neatly sewn by hand.

The reverse is a pink and green floral print. The quilting shows well on this side, too...

The reverse...

This quilt measures 66 x 81". The fabric is cotton sateen, of course, and the wadding is lambs wool.

The seller was in Northamptonshire, and unfortunately had no history for this quilt. 

It is interesting to see how the quilting design has been manipulated to make the quilt rectangular and not square. New standardised bed sizes meant that quilts that were longer in one direction were needed to fit the more modern, larger beds. This trend towards rectangular was also seen in the Sanderson Star quilts that I examined.

You can see that the central panel has triangles at top and bottom on the photo, but not to the left or right. The two  outer borders remain the same width on all four sides, unifying the design.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Two Strippy Quilts - West Aukland

These two strippy quilts came from the same seller in Bishop Aukland, Durham - an area very well known for quilts and quilting. Neither quilt is terribly special in itself, but I still enjoy them. These are typical "club" quilts and were made to be used at home. Subscribers paid one or two shillings a week - about 5 or 10p - until the purchase price was paid. The cost of a quilt was too much to be paid in one fell swoop, so the subscription helped support a quilter and her family and also allowed the cost of the quilt to be spread over many weeks. A lottery decided who would receive their finished quilt in a particular week.

I should tell you that neither of these quilts was very expensive - both cost about £30 pounds each - about $50? When one considers the cost of todays fabrics, and also the cost of one's time to make and quilt such an item, this seems like a small price for something approaching 100 years of age.

This quilt is the more colourful, but more worn of the two. The online listing showed a photo with lurid colours - slate and purple - that I knew were unlikely to be real. It turned out to be a typical pink and white on the reverse and pink and cheddar orange on the front.

The other quilt was described as blue and cream, but is actually a blue green colour with yellow stripes. The reverse is solid blue green. This quilt is in better shape than the other quilt.

Typical patterns are seen daisies, twist and a flower in a square, all border patterns.

The orange and pink quilt has a running feather and an orange peel design.

You can see that the fabric here, especially the orange cloth, is very worn. There is also an obvious spot - perhaps of bleach or cologne that has caused colour loss.

But I like the fact that these quilts have been used and were once important possessions....

 These quilts were made rather quickly (in about a week or two) in a frame. Patterns had to be easy to mark and not so intricate - simple enough to cover the fabric effectively and yet look good. I think this was certainly achieved!

 These quilts both came from the same house clearance, a great aunt of the seller who lived in the mining village of Evenwood, where she was born in 1904. The mother of this great aunt came from the neighbouring village of West Aukland, and the seller thinks that these quilts might have come from there. The seller thought that these might have been made by the mother, but it is equally likely that they were made by a local quilter, of whom there would have been several.

You can see that the quilting is better in this quilt, perhaps because it has suffered less wear?

 The reverse of the quilt is plain. The size of this quilt is 78 x 95. The stripes would have run up and down the bed, not across.....the cloth is, of course, cotton sateen which has worn well and is very soft to the touch. I wonder if our modern and more expensive fabrics will wear as well - probably not....