Sunday 9 June 2013

Love Entwined, What Do We Know?

What do we know about this quilt?
We don’t know much about the original historic quilt known only as ‘a fine marriage coverlet’ in Averil Colby’s book “Patchwork’ published in 1956. If it is featured in any other publications, I don’t know about it and haven’t been able to source it.

I must admit that there is a part of me which hopes someone out there will recognise it and that this might lead me towards seeing a more detailed image of this beautiful Georgian quilt. I hope it is waiting somewhere, safely archived until being re-discovered as the fine work of beauty it most certainly is.
The following extracts are from Averil Colby’s book ‘Patchwork’ printed in 1956 (ISBN 07134 0392 6). All quotes are mentioned here to provide context for quilters interested in creating the quilt featured in this publication only. If you can source this difficult to find book I strongly suggest you do so. It contains a wealth of information regarding the progression of quilting (many quilts, the reference to this quilt is minor) as well as discussing the importance and value of numerous style elements. It is a treasury for quilters and one of my most loved quilting books.
Here’s what Averil Colby had to say about this quilt: “a fine marriage coverlet with applique patterns of early wood-block cotton prints in red, pink, rose, blue and white patterns on dark grounds of purple, madder brown or black. C. 1790”

Regarding the use of template patterns, she remarked that it consisted of ‘an unusual star pattern in finely pointed diamonds’

Of the zig zag border work she advised “A good border pattern is illustrated in an applique coverlet (104) in which rhomboid patches are joined in alternate light and dark colours for the two borders”

This is vital information given that the image of the quilt is in grey scale. Significantly, she discusses it in context of applied work and remarks on it as “The earliest example which has come to light so far is also one of the best “

As I had to work from limited information, I stayed as faithful to the design as possible. But questions remain – such as the fabric choices and story behind the elements and details used throughout the design.

What we know:
This quilt is mentioned in “Patchwork” and is an important illustration of applied work. Permission to photograph this quilt for the publication is referenced to a Mrs Erith, of Dedham, England.

It is believed this quilt is most likely dated 1790
The zig zag border is worked up in dark and shady cotton prints
The printed fabrics are early wood block prints on fine unbleached linen
The colours mentioned are red, pink, rose, blue and white patterns on dark grounds of purple, madder brown or black
Despite so much foliage appearing in the quilt, no mention of green is made

The Features of this Quilt:
Four flower arrangements in two kinds of vase patterns in the centre block
An unusual star pattern of finely pointed diamonds in the centre ‘compass’
Rhomboid shaped, joined and applied in straight rows zig zag border (in contrasting light and dark prints)
The original size of this quilt is not mentioned.

What we can only guess:

Who made this quilt?

It’s unlikely that a working class woman would have had the time or resources to create such a quilt in 1790. Does this indicate the maker’s wealth and status? Who was she? What age did she marry? Who did she marry? Was she influenced by the popular and rival French fashion of the time? How much income did she spend on fabrics to make this quilt?

How long did it take her?

This quilt is executed with much intensity and thought and love of detail and embellishment: there appears to be flourishes between and around much of the applique shapes and perhaps also embroidery or broderie perse and or fussy cutting (the photo does not have enough clarity to be certain which it is.)
Given this design fact I was surprised to noticed that despite her attention to detail, at certain points (such as the triangle border) it appears the she ran out of space as each corner is fixed differently.
Given the planning required to cut the fabrics for this quilt and the maths required to create the symmetry which is evident in the design, are these ‘errors’ her own? Did she have servants work on certain stages of the quilt? Was it made between a group of women? Or was it simply an error of calculation (as unlikely as this seems)?
 It has taken me months to recreate the pattern, so I wonder where her source for the design elements came from? Were influenced by? Was it made intensely during a period of engagement or over an extended period of time?

Did she make it alone or did she have assistance?
There simply isn’t enough detailed information to know if the workmanship is consistent throughout or if it has differences which indicate lapses of time or shared workmanship. The triangle border mentioned above is a cause for question.

Was it her own original design / pattern?
There isn’t any evidence that I know of to indicate that quilts were drafted and shared in a pattern or template form in 1790. However, this quilt certainly does keep in with popular style elements of the time. So did she cut the templates herself or follow a guide? I’ve been thoroughly perplexed by this question – having worked on the quilt, I am sure that it’s design did not just happen. It contains much planning and drafting. But whose?

Was she a wealthy woman?
This is a large coverlet containing numerous fabrics and is totally appliqued! Even the zig zag borders! The design and flourishes appear to indicate a wealth of available time and dedication.

What kind of education did she have? Did it include mathematics?

There are elements in this quilt that appear so easy, yet I had to really think and draft in order to make them work as effortlessly as they appear. I am referring in particular to the wreath borders which look so easy but caused me a lot of trouble to turn on the same line with leaves of the same shape.

Where did she live?

Was the quilt handed down as an inheritance or by some other means?

Where is this quilt now?

Is it still in its splendour, or has it faded?

So many questions, so few answers. What I am sure of is that this quilt, if it survives someplace, deserves to be shown and known in the quilting community. It deserves to be regarded for its elements of style and place in history. If at some point it does again emerge and can be referenced, then it will be a pleasure to have created this ode to its legacy in quilting. If it cannot be found, then it deserves to be celebrated and remembered.

What I am certain of, what we can know for sure, is that this is a Georgian quilt. It’s unapologetic flourishes, its fussiness, its dedication to the beauty of the domestic.

Would you like to make this quilt? I have created Love Entwined: 1790 Marriage Coverlet to be released as a free, 18 month historic BOM. Everyone is welcome to make it, including groups. The pattern will be available for free (limited to the block each month)download via the Esther Aliu Yahoo BOM Group only, after launching. Membership is, and always will be, free. Why not join us today?
Call To All Quilters!

And so, I would like to call on all quilters, especially in the UK where this quilt was made, to look into your guild archives and groups and associations and find this beautiful, historic quilt. It must be somewhere. It's last reference is it's owner ( Mrs. Erith of Dedham) who granted permission for it to be included in the book 'Patchwork. It's important enough to have been featured in Averil Colby's book - so we know it has significance, but where is it?

Have you seen this quilt? Please let me know anything you know and hopefully we can solve this mystery. 

Update: Feb 2016
Dear Members, if you're reading this post for the first time in 2016 I can tell you that this quilt was indeed found in the UK and is in private ownership. The owner has decided not to exhibit or release images of the quilt - a disappointing fact but one which we have no option but to respect. It is my hope that one day, the owner will realize that this quilt isn't just ' a quilt' it is an article of historic importance of women's textiles in the Georgian period. 

Naturally I'm very disappointed that the owner would not release images to the public of this quilt and that they have denied professionals to at least document the textile in it's current state for reference. It's my feeling that as time goes on, the understanding and appreciation regarding the importance this quilt has will increase. I hope by the time this happens, it will not be too late for the quilt itself. Simply washing it at this age would destroy much of it's historic value. This quilt belongs in a textile museum. 

It was my aim to revive interest in this quilt by reviving its legacy at a time when it was lost and forgotten. I released this pattern and it was available completely for free for over 18 months. In that time, the quilt was found and I feel that I have done all I can, as one person, to keep alive it's importance and value.

Know that when you make your own LE, you are playing your own role in a long, historic story which will one day result in appreciation and acknowledgement of the original. 


  1. I really hope you will get some answers.. this quilt is a stunning piece of art! Good luck on your quest!


  2. Esther - what an awesome undertaking!

  3. I will ask the British Quilt History group. Good luck.

  4. Oh my you are so amazing. I am looking forward to this journey with you. Thanks so much.
    Hugs Bunny

  5. This quilt is truly stunning. I look forward to joining you on this journey!

  6. This looks like fun. I'm back in the loop. Let's see if I'm better about following directions this time. ;)

  7. I am embarrassed to admit that when I went to pull out a couple reference books from my bookshelf, they were all strictly American Quilts.

    This one looks VERY interesting. I may HAVE to do more than just lurk and follow along on this one :-)

  8. Very intense, what a job you´ve chosen--such a beautiful piece of history you´ve got for us Esther--I can´t wait to see your recreation come to life!
    Hugs, Bobbi

  9. Fascinating story and can't wait to see your version of this quilt. I have joined the Yahoo group and follow your blog...looking forward to being a part of this odyssey.


    For an article by a lady who has a pice made by Averil Colbey

  11. Esther this is a very lovely quilt...hope you find out the information you are looking for...what does the book cover look like?

  12. Esther, I found a website that is by Erith family and one member was an artist and draftsman then architect. There is a phone number given on the webpage. They are in Dedham and have been there for years. Might be worth making a call.

  13. When I read the post of May 29th and saw the sheet on the table, I wondered if that could be the new BOM. Nah, I said. Then I thought: Well, maybe? Then Wendy pointed out the two names listed on the BOM list and changed that maybe to WOW! As to the tracking down the quilt, I wonder if there is a quilter that lives in or near to Debham who could go to the church and ask it there was an Erith family in the area in the 50's. First step to tracking it down. I'm in California and I can't do it, LOL.

  14. What a stunning quilt! Thank you for sharing your talent and expertise! All I can think is that you are an extraordinarily talented person to recreate this pattern. It is a marvelously intricate and detailed pattern from the looks of it. I haven't finished any applique project yet (blocks end in handbags or pillows) and this promises to be quite the daunting task for sure.


  15. I found a copy of the book soon after I started quilting and it is the one which stops me turning pages every time. Hope you find more information about the quilt.

  16. so I need to join the yahoo group in order to make this free bom? I have not done one of yours before so need to know the rules :)

  17. Hi Esther,

    I have just spoken to a lady in Dedham whose mother and great aunt was a Mrs Erith. she has the book by Avril Colby and is going to try to find out if the quilt is still in the family. If so, I will be able to go there and take a photograph for you.

  18. I wonder if she was inspired by the chintz and palimpores that were imported from India at the time. Many of them were very elaborate designs such as might be used on a quilt like this.

  19. There is a sample of Averil's work in The Quilt Museum in York, England.

    Here is the link:-




Thank you so much for commenting. I moderate comments to block spam so don't worry if your comment doesn't appear instantly.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...