Back in Time at the Quilt Museum

Detail from a recently acquired 19th century bed hanging

Back in Time: British Patchwork and Quilting will explore the changes in development and approach to patchwork and quilting in Britain over the last three centuries and will include works from The Quilters' Guild Collection not previously exhibited, as well as new acquisitions.

It will showcase the range of styles, designs and techniques in the history of British patchwork and quilting from the highly sophisticated fussy cutting of bed hangings; to the folk art of Welsh quilt motifs; the use of furnishing fabrics in the cotton chintz; and the commercial, through the 1930s Northern Industries Workroom quilts and the “Fraserburgh Frillies”.

Visitors will have the opportunity to see new acquisitions which have never been exhibited before including an unusual appliquéd 1860s Welsh quilt which features a multitude of richly coloured wool  hearts, stars and leaves appliquéd against a cream wool background. The quilt displays so many endearing qualities from its complex and varied quilting designs, the charming fussy cut paisley motifs and not least, its vibrant blue borders with pops of red making it as fresh and vibrant today as it was over 150 years ago.  

Curator Danielle Sprecher is also thrilled with the acquisition of two pieces of late 18th and early 19th century patchwork bed hangings. “These exquisite pieces are not dissimilar to the bed hangings in the V&A’s Collection and are rare survivors of 18th century needlework. They contain a variety of printed cotton chintzes including a striking owl print making these exceptional additions to our Collection and of great interest to textile enthusiasts. Today’s quilters will also appreciate the clever piecing incorporating hexagons, diamonds and triangles.”

Patchwork quilts are hugely evocative emblems of our domestic past. With no two quite the same, they hint both at the story of the particular household in which they were produced and at a larger piece of social history. But quilting is by no means only historical, with the craft seeing a great revival in popularity in recent years and items that were once made for purely utilitarian and practical reasons now being produced and appreciated for the connection they afford us to a rich vein of heritage and nostalgia.

Back in Time: British Patchwork and Quilting will run concurrently with the Quilt Art Dialogues exhibition. “It’s a rare and exciting opportunity for visitors to see such excellent examples of traditional and contemporary quilts sharing the same space. Visitors will be able to see and appreciate how function, design, materials and techniques have evolved over the last few centuries”, said Museum Manager, Shirley Collier.