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. 

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Georgian on my mind...

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays

(I'm sorry to post WOW late today, I've been offline with modem troubles
and am not savvy enough to WOW via my mobile in a cafe)
What a beautiful dress, and what an intriguing (era specific) colour.
These two things are very much on my mind today; colour and design.

I'm picking through color schemes and thinking about what it must have been like to be an English  woman of the Georgian era.

What did Georgian England look like? What interior colours dominated? Were popular? Were considered gaudy? Which greens and yellows predominated and how quickly can I find some suitable Denmark Chintz? Who made quilts in 1790? What would that woman's life have looked like? What did she wear?

Oh yes, I've got Georgian on my mind...can you guess why?

What's Your WOW?  

Wednesday 29 May 2013

WOW: Almost there...

WOW = WIPs On Wednesday
I've been making progress (I should really call it catching up) but still feel like the week has just rushed away. I didn't realise just how much I value the time I carve out for my quilting throughout the week and I've missed the time I usually spend on all these little habits I've created. It got me to thinking about how I allocate my time each day and I wonder, what about you? How much time each day do you commit to quilting or any other craft of yours? I'd love to know.
I'll admit I've been quite frustrated out going over my pattern work for the next BOM. I really dislike doing things twice and it also means that all my computer time has spent spent on this one task. The motivating news is that I'm nearly finished and excited all over again to share it with you...finally...
I missed out on my usual blog time and was looking forward to catching up with the WOW and already it's a week on.... oh well, I'm getting there and am looking forward to seeing what you're all up to...
What's Your WOW ?

Wednesday 22 May 2013

WOW: A Polygon ate my BOM

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
If any of you have faced this dreadful error message, you'll know just how I feel.
Weeks of work - gone. Erased in a few seconds.
I don't know what's worse: losing an entire quilt project in a split second? Or the fact that I didn't learn my lesson the first time around? You see, this exact thing happened to me last year with my last BOM, Forget Me Not. I ended up re-drafting that entire pattern by hand. I had no other choice. And I was determined not to make the same mistake. Why did I give it another go? I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking. I should have learnt my lesson, if I had I'd be sitting back with a coffee browsing through the WOWs. Somehow, however well intentioned, I always end up creating more work for myself. Why? I don't know. I do always start out with the intention of making things easier, faster, better. Hmmmm. Somewhere, amongst hundreds of drawn applique pieces there was a polygon that was no good, and this little polygon somehow had the power to wipe out my entire quilt.
Don't get me wrong: I don't want you to think I've given up, I simply can't. The upcoming BOM is perhaps the most intricate quilt I've worked on and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
What's Your WOW ?

Wednesday 15 May 2013

WOW: Creatively Organised...and other myths

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
I've done a lot of work to minimise my creative space in the last 6 months. It feels like I've spent years collecting items I thought would prove useful at some point, but it all became too much and I found that I was using just the same small 'kit' over and over. I wanted to reclaim more space. A lot of items went out. And what is left is on borrowed time - if it doesn't prove useful it won't stay. My aim is to get down to the minimum amount of tools required for the maximum output. It's all connected to my WOW resolution - to get my WIPs finished and have a big satisfied quilt pile to show for it.
But sometimes, when I see the last few cluttered patches of 'space' it's just too overwhelming, I need to escape my creativity and go lie down...
Take this lovely drawing nook, full of natural daylight, the perfect place to review my sketches....or store those last bits and pieces and oddments. I really should sort it out. Why is creativity so messy? Or is it just me? How do you manage your WIPs and household space? Do you stay in your sewing room or do you spread out and create creative nests on surfaces everywhere?
 What's your WOW ? 

Wednesday 8 May 2013

WOW: Wednesday again...already?

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
Is it just me, or has May arrived rather quickly this year?
Yesterday I unpacked my sewing machine - it's been packed away for months, I simply havent had the room to put it to use (or the motivation to create enough space for it). I know how unlikely this sounds, but I assure you, it's been sitting there and I've just been too overwhelmed with WIPs and tidying up my 'creative space' to give it any time or attention. Well it's out of the box now and I've decided on some sewing to get me back into the swing of things.
First up is adding a collar to the stripe top. I just think everything looks better with a collar but so many tops that are otherwise fine just don't have collars anymore... so I've dug out some black and white print fabrics to add my own.
And whilst I'm adding on a collar, I thought I might as well make myself a shirt from some floral print I love. Surely having as much fabric as I do means I get to wear some of it?? I'm planning on sewing it up this week, so I'll keep you posted.
I love this print and I wear so much green it will be a nice shake up for my wardrobe...
So I'm getting my domestic sewing out of the way because I have bigger WIPs on my mind: the new Free Bom. There will be 2x launched this month, both quite different. I'm really looking forward to these quilt designs seeing the light of day and can't wait to tell you more in the next few days
What's Your WOW ?  

Wednesday 1 May 2013

WOW: Playing with Greens

WOW = WIPs On Wednesday

It's nearly time to launch the next BOM so I've been going through my fabric stash and digging out the greens that are calling out to me. I'm also thinking of buying fabrics specifically for one of the quilts but want to make the most of my stash first if possible. You know that with any of my designs there'll be plenty of I'm thinking ahead.

On my last poll my BOM Group Members voted to see the next BOM before beginning the quilt, so it will not be a mystery. Well that's fine with me! I like a mystery but I understand how frustrating it can be, fabric wise.

This time around you'll have two BOMs to choose from and two very different quilts.

Stay tuned...

What's Your WOW ?
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