The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Friday, 19 September 2014

Not English?

I recently found this quilt online in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  I am delighted to say that I have actually visited this splendid museum which has an outstanding collection of textiles, sadly not on show, but at least they do have some of them on line.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I am very often irritated by museums, but occasionally something good does surface and we must savour the moment!

Since I pinned it on my Pinterest Board it seems to be regularly re-pinned so I know that it must appeal to lots of you out there.

I came across it by typing "English patchwork" into the museum's online search box.  This quilt was the only result with the following information - 

Patchwork quilt in four-patch combinations and variable star motifs of English printed cottons. Polychrome pattern on predominantly brown grounds. Backing of printed cotton with design of oak leaves and roses arranged in vertical stripes in shades of brown, red, black, white and blue. Embroidered on back in white thread "Nancy Richardson. Age 68. 1857" and "John Richardson."


"Nancy Richardson. Age 68. 1857." and "John Richardson" embroidered on back


Given to the Samson family of the North Shore, Massachussetts; to Dr. Herbert Harris; gift to MFA


Well it might have English fabrics but I don't think that it was made in England?   Even though the predominant star pattern is to be found in so many early British quilts it wasn't used in quite the same way.

I was recently reading a research paper written by a member of the British Quilt Study Group which explored the link between UK patchwork and the block patterns that developed in North America and it is fairly obvious that there is a very strong possibility that UK patterns were the forerunners of the American block.   Of course this star pattern is seen in so many other  guises, tiled floors being the most obvious?   It is regularly seen at the centre of Welsh quilts as well as some of our English 18th century coverlets, so it's been around a long time!  It really is an international pattern and no one country can claim it.  In this quilt I think it is used in a very American way.  I'm not sure of why I think this and would be interested in what you think?

It is true that early American quilts are very often similar in style to British quilts, in fact some may have crossed the Atlantic with their owners.  It's actually amazing how many objects have and still do cross the ocean, some several times.  Maybe someone brought English fabrics with them when they sailed to the New World, though it's far more likely that they were imported when trade bans existed!  Politics get into everything!  I prefer the first option because I like to think that someone carried their precious fabrics with them as they embarked on their journey to a new life!

Wouldn't it be nice to know? 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Edwardian Houses

I'm sorry to have been away so long!  I haven't been feeling like blogging and have been considering having a Facebook page instead!  Several friends have asked me why I haven't been writing here and there's no easy answer except that I couldn't think of anything to write about!  A writers block maybe?

I am having roof work done on this house which is quite unsettling, especially while typing this there is lots of banging going on just over my head!  A prior owner of this house, which is now 107 years old, had replaced the original slates with tiles and I have been having it re-slated in affordable stages.  We are on the last lap and I must say I am really pleased with the look and as slates are far lighter than tiles they are so much  kinder to the roof timbers of this old house.

Though I live in Wales and we are famous for our production of slate, I had to be content with Canadian slate because there is such a shortage of Welsh at the moment.  The resurgence of building after the economic downturn is being blamed and we had to wait in the slate queue quite a while!  It's absolute madness to think that I couldn't support my home country's slate industry but actually there is very little difference.  They look and cost the same as the Welsh, so it's our secret!  Annoying though, but thank you Canada for producing such good stuff!

When we first moved to this Edwardian house, I worked this sampler to celebrate it's 100th Birthday and I cheated a bit and gave it a slate roof because I always hoped that one day it would have one!  Now it has, so at least one dream has come true and it looks more like it's needlework depiction.  Sadly, Frank, my dear black cat, is no longer trotting up the path to the front door but is buried in the garden.  He is not forgotten even though I now have Bella and Wilfred!  

Since my marriage, I have only lived in two houses and both have been Edwardian, so I have become very fond of houses of that era.  I read somewhere that it was the high spot of building standards in the UK and I can quite believe it.  It was just before World War 1 and that was such a life changing four years for this country, things have never been the same since in so many ways! 

Edwardian houses were build to last and had high quality material, sadly though they are beginning to show their age and need a great deal of maintenance.  The good thing is that young people greatly appreciate them and I am surrounded by younger neighbours who have moved in and are busy restoring all the original features that were ripped out in the 60s and 70s.  Though everyone I know, who loves houses, seem to long for a Georgian house, Edwardian ones are perhaps more attainable and better build?

I have recently begun a board on Pinterest so if you would like to see and learn more, here is the link

Saturday, 21 June 2014

A temporary blip?

So sorry I have been absent for a few weeks.  I haven't been feeling at all creative, though I am trying to finish a few projects!

I think that's the trouble frankly.  The excitement for me is when I am designing, planning and sorting through fabrics.  At the moment I'm feel guilty about all the unfinished things that are piling up and every time a spark of an idea comes to me I feel I must stifle it. I know that if someone was telling me this about themselves I would tell them not to be so silly.  I would say that unfinished projects are not a sin and in the event of them not being finished by you, someone else may finish them for you!  However, I'm not in the mood for taking this on board and am feeling rather down!

It's not helped by warm weather!  I know we are all supposed to like hot, sunny weather, but I'm a true North European and I don't.  In fact my spirits tend to plummet when the temperature rises!

On a more cheerful note, I'm still deeply into EB and have had some lovely visits with EB friends and have acquired one or two new treasures!

Though I do buy new pieces from Stoke, I tend to buy older pieces on eBay.  The large cup and saucer on the right of the picture is a rare piece and was spotted on eBay by an eagle eyed friend, who bought it on my behalf. 

I visited with this same friend last week and here is her lovely lunch table filled with assorted EB - she apologises for the trailer in the picture but if we had cropped that we would have lost the beautiful view - she lives in the midst of wonderful Welsh countryside.

Sunny days are delightful on times and this was such a day!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Three little Welsh Quilts

I came across this photograph in my files, it must have been taken one September judging by the garden?  Not sure which year though?

These three little quilts had been on exhibition and I was giving them an airing before storing them away in the quilt cupboard.

The cow quilt is my version of a wonderful folk art one belonging to Ron Simpson which is presently forming the central part of the current exhibition at the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter.

and in the picture below, at the top, second from the left, is the original Ceredigion basket quilt which inspired my little basket quilt also on the line, together with a doll sized basket quilt from my book LITTLE WELSH QUILTS.  This  can be ordered from my publisher from the link at the side of this blog.  It can be downloaded in seconds from anywhere in the world and stored on your iPad or other tablet.  It's then just like a book, only a moving one as there are videos of me demonstrating my way of doing things, especially the way I mark out quilting patterns.

On the right hand side of the above picture is a Welsh wool version of Mariner's Compass blocks!  I have seen one of these before and have a picture somewhere, but can't find it at the moment.  However, if there are two surviving there must have been a few made?  Of course we use the name Mariner's Compass now, but this pattern is to be found in many early British quilts, so not new, just re-invented, given a name and marketed?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Pretty, flowery quilts!

The Chelsea Flower Show is upon us and as usual I'm in my annual gardening mood.  I'm not a proper gardener, but I love visiting gardens and am interested in garden design which links in well with designing quilts. So this time of the year I like working on something pretty and flowery and putting aside the richer, bolder colours of winter. 

Usually I have an ongoing project as most of my quilts take several summers to complete and I find inspiration from studying old English quilts.  I say English, they may actually have been made anywhere in the British Isles as the same fabrics were available to all, so let's say made in the English style?

I have been searching through my Pinterest boards to show you what inspires me.  The original source of many of the pictures are difficult to credit, but many were from auction catalogues and others from museums.

As you know, I enjoy doing Broderie Perse applique, though I do find it time consuming because I do it using herringbone stitch, one of the traditional ways of attaching the cut pieces.  Of course I could machine it, but I like the process of hand sewing and rarely use my sewing machine.

This week I have returned to a piece I started last year, which I showed you then.  It was to be a teaching aid for my class at the Welsh Quilt Centre, but sadly we had to cancel through lack of students, so obviously it isn't that inspiring as I thought!

In this last picture I am auditioning fabrics which may form the outer borders and corner pieces, but there will be quite a bit of applique on the striped inner border which I have yet to decide upon!

Ah well onwards and upwards!  It's certainly easier to do than working in the garden!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Keep Patching!

Have you heard of Boro?  I had vaguely and now there's been an exhibition at Somerset House in London all the great and the good will be now be fully aware of them?  It was also a selling exhibition with pieces starting at £5,000, so probably too late to start a little collection?

These are the pictures that first caught my eye and encouraged me to follow up the many links in search  of something new to me in textiles - maybe they will spark your interest too?

Boro can be translated into English as ‘rags’ and is the collective name for items, usually clothing and bed covers,  made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so.

If you are as interested in this as I have become, here are two really good videos that explain and show examples -

I would like to think that the trend for re-cyling fabric grows and becomes fashionable, because, apart from it's green credentials, it seems to draw people to the craft.  It's a very appealing concept, but newcomers then come up against the commercial might of the fabric, gadget and machine manufacturers and cannot always find their way to like minded folk.

I myself feel very out of step these days. I won't bore you again with my opinions, but it was inspiring to learn how old, distressed, but still beautiful things are so appreciated.  I only wish that our own Welsh quilts were so venerated and granted an exhibition at Somerset House! 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Miss Anne Pritchard's Patchwork Bedspread

Sorry it has taken so long to keep my promise of more pictures of the early 19th century bedspread which I posted a little while ago.  I was hoping to have done a bit more research, but sadly I have been caught up in other things.  However, I will tell you what I know.

I was wrong calling it a coverlet.  It has been described as a bedspread and though it has some outline quilting, which you can see in some of the close-ups, it looks like just two layers, so not a quilt?

As these pictures came from several sources, there are some repeats of certain interesting bits, but I thought I would include them as they show different surrounding fabrics.

I greatly enjoyed looking at the fabrics and though I am no expert on old fabrics, they looked like a mixture of soft furnishing rather than dress fabrics?  I was pleased by this  because I use many such fabrics in my work and can't understand why they are considered unsuitable.   I love the fact that they introduce a larger scale of pattern to the patchwork, which I think makes it more interesting?

Though the sewing was competent, it wasn't highly skilled, as you will be able to see in the close-ups of the patches. Like much of the patchwork of that era, fabrics either had been sewn together to make a patch or cut from a previous incarnation.

This bedspread was given to the Museum in 1962.   The records simply say that it was a patchwork bedspread made of cotton prints, both glazed and plain with a linen backing.  It was thought to have been made by Miss Anne Pritchard of Collena "about 150 years ago"  (1812 by this calculation).

The Pritchard family lived in Collena House, Tonyrefail, a three story mansion originally built in 1093, which overlooks the village.   In the early 19th century it would have been an important house and the major one in this area which eventually was surrounded by industrial South Wales.  My next task is to find out if it is still there and do a bit more digging!

I know some of you reading this are experts at dating fabrics, so please do comment and give us the benefit of your knowledge!