Quilts 1700-2010, Hidden Histories, Untold Stories

Liberty print quilt

As previously mentioned I was invited by the Victoria and Albert Museum to a preview of Quilts exhibition which opened today to the public. It was a great privilege, for the first time I could stroll easily through the rooms and have a good look at the exhibits. Usually V&A is packed with visitors and I hear that this exhibition has already got 8000 tickets pre-booked, hotels round South Kensington are booked up as visitors from as far as Japan, Australia and USA flood to London to see this unique show.

The quilts are hung on walls or laid on beds, there are also all kind of objects to do with quilt making as well as reference materials, diaries and letters.

We start with The Domestic Landscape where we go back to the 18th century bed hangings made of 6500 individual pieces, royal bed quilt supposedly used by Charles II (the myth was later dismissed by experts) and sweet silk and ribbon baby cot quilt along with the maker’s diary.

Priscilla Redding’s baby cot cover, 17th-18th century.

Baby gifts, 18th century.

Map of England and Wales, detail.

Private Thoughts; Political Debates is a section dedicated to coronations, military victories and political events. The most impressive quilt is a large wall hanging the George III Reviewing the Troops.

George III Reviewing the Troops, center with Sun and Moon.

Ann Randoll’s coverlet from the early 19th century.

Joanna Southcott’s coverlet from 1808. Joanna was a bit of a controversial figure, she announced she was pregnant with the Messiah which resulted in banning her from the court of George III. She did the central inscription with her own hair cursing the king with every single stitch.

Sara Impey’s Punctuation piece from 2009.

Bed cover in ‘strippy’ from Cardigan in Wales made in the 19th century.

Virtue and Virtuosity explores patchwork and intrasia (inlaid patchwork) quilts with extreme attention to detail. The works are wonderful to look at, kudos to the quilt makers for such painstaking works.

Patchwork with Garden Eden by Ann West, 1820.

Alphabet of Love and Courtship, see the wonderful detail.

Grayson Perry’s Right of Life, 1993.

Military quilt made by a soldier, needlework was a sort of therapy for injured soldiers in 19th century.

Caren Garfen’s How Many Times Do I Have To Repeat Myself, 2009. This piece shows beautifully handstitched humorous commentaries on women’s modern lives.

Patchwork with the Menai Bridge from 1850s by James Williams.

We move on to Making a Living section which shows Welsh flannel and wool quilts, Irish utility quilts and communal activity clubs like the Woman’s Institute. This is my favorite part of the exhibition with much simpler domestic designs.

One of the most exciting pieces in the exhibition for me was the Pyjama coverlet from the 1940s from Belfast, made by Annie O’Hare with local fabrics.

Quilt made for Claridge’s Hotel under guidance of the Rural Industries Bureau from 1930s.

Sanderson Star bed cover from the turn of the last century by Elizabeth Sanderson – a prolific quilt maker.

A Victorian wedding quilt by Miss Nixon, proprietress of a quilting club.

A bedcover which inspired a lot of modern designs.

Meeting the Past ends the show.

The HMP Wandsworth Quilt from 2009 made by all-male quilting group of the same name in collaboration with Fine Cell Work charity which teaches prisoners needlework.

Canadian Red Cross Cover from 1930s/40s was given to a family in Bromley who lost everything in an air raid.

The final work is Tracey Emin’s To Meet My Past from 2002. The artist expresses her sorrows and painful memories by embroidering cushions, bed throws and curtains.

The exhibition is one of its kind, it was such a great experience to look closely at some exquisite works and learn the history of quilts. From domestic bed covers and wall hanging to modern artwork quilt making is an amazing craft.

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2 Responses to “Quilts 1700-2010, Hidden Histories, Untold Stories”

  1. if jane 22 March, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    gorgeous gorgeous!

  2. The Sneaky Magpie 22 March, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    oh, it was, I never knew I would enjoy it so much!

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