The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Monday, 18 July 2016

British Traditions

British traditions and what we stand for are very much in our minds here in the UK at the moment, so perhaps this is a good time to think aloud about the traditions of patchwork and quilting in this country?

I am a traditional quilter, though I don't belong to the official group within the Quilters' Guild of the British Isles, because when I saw a display of their work at the Festival of Quilts what struck me then was though it certainly was traditional, it was predominantly American block patchwork traditional and reproduction fabrics were used extensively! You may well think that there is nothing wrong with that, as most of us start making blocks, but I was looking for something that celebrated the traditions of patchwork of this country, not that of the USA, which I feel has quite enough coverage already!

Because of our history of trading with the Far East and then our industrialisation of fabric manufacturing, we were a great and original influence in the world of patchwork and quilting.  Our fabrics and traditions of working were carried to the New World and developed there, only to return here as an American invention.  American Block patterns are great, they are practical, they were developed for ease of working in difficult circumstances, they are addictive and they have names, which is a brilliant marketing device in itself!  However, block patterns were used in quilts and coverlets made in this country many decades before they appeared in America.  You have only to study the Sundial Coverlet in the collection of the V&A, dated 1797, to see this?

The above picture is of a section of the Sundial Coverlet and  below are some images I have saved for reference.  I apologise for their quality, but think that they are of interest and as inspiration for updating the tradition?  The first two are quilts held by the National Trust and the others are from the Internet.  All display interesting formats and old techniques!

We in Britain of course are surrounded by so much history that we take it for granted - that is a fact which we all know and tend to dismiss.  We used to be the centre of an empire and so have been exposed to influences from all over the world.  We have excellent higher education art and design courses which encourage students to seek new and different ways of doing things and draw inspiration from world wide sources?  Perhaps these are some of the reasons why we neglect our own traditions or consider them not exciting enough?

Then of course there is the problem with books!  Unless traditions are recorded and promoted they die and though we have a very active publishing industry, it is highly commercial and needs to appeal worldwide and in patchwork and quilting terms, that means North America!  Anything British is considered too niche, so authors are encouraged to embrace many different design sources to appeal to the widest market.  Publishers are not interested in promoting their own country's traditions, that isn't considered commercial and they are probably right - they do actually sell more by widening the net, so British traditions are practically ignored, or if some do creep in they tend to fairly simple because again, books tend to be aimed at beginners, because that's the largest market and is also the easiest to cater for!

Now through the Internet it is very easy to follow trends all over the world and I am greatly encouraged to see that other countries, Australia being a prime example, are leading the way in exploring our British traditions.  It is wonderful to see how they are using, for example, English paper piecing, something I really thought had died a death and wasn't mourned by me, and producing the most exciting work in fabrics and colours that would blow the mind of Averil Colby, on whose books they seem to draw much inspiration.
I just wish there was similar original work being carried out here?  Perhaps there is and I am missing it?

Friday, 15 July 2016

Mary Lloyd - the quilting

As promised in my last post, this one is going into a bit more detail re the quilting methods and motifs.  I am sorry it has taken so long and do hope you haven't forgotten this wonderful quilt.

The quilt is large and almost square, measuring 261 x 264 cms. and as the quilting echoes the patchwork in the middle of the quilt, we who studied it, think that it would have been quilted on the patchwork side rather than on the reverse.

I have manipulated the original website image at the expense of the colour, in an attempt to show the quilting pattern more clearly and have heightened the contrast in the images I took myself to show some of the detailed quilted motifs.

In the main decorative part of the quilt which contains the central panel, surrounded by the leaves, bows and cornered by the four corner baskets, a large double circle filled with spirals is the main feature.  Inside this circle are leaves and berries, with the appliqued leaves outlined quilted, as are the border of triangles surrounding the central medallion.

 This very typical curved leave is quilted over the centre medallion -

 These are the outline leaves and filling motifs surrounding the leaves -

There is quite an area of cross hatching which isn't always present on earlier Welsh quilts, however I am wary of saying this as we really haven't that many to study to be definitive.

I am adding these other images in the hope that those of you who study Welsh quilting will gain inspiration from them.  I apologise for the quality of some, but I think they might be useful as you are still able to study the motifs.

You will see how intensive the quilting is, but I think that at the beginning there was simple plan and once the main areas were defined those were then filled in and surrounded by subsidiary motifs.