The Collection piece we have chosen to share with you to represent the second decade of The Guild is the Jubilee Quilt. This marvel of silks and velvets was donated to The Guild in 1992. It was not made by the donor’s family, but was given to the owner’s grandfather, William Machell, in lieu of rent. The quilt was made in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1887.
The quilt came from the small mining town of Crook, 10 miles from Durham. Census evidence has shown the piece to have been made in the house of the tailor & draper, Mr Thomas Mills. The use of strip patchwork in the pattern motifs suggest that the fabrics may have been off-cuts from dressmaking or small quantities taken from a roll of material. Both the construction and ornamentation show the work of a clever, competent and inventive needlewoman or needlewomen, most likely Ann Mills and her mother, Lydia Taylor.
The extensive embellishment and embroidery exhibit an encyclopaedia of stitches and the detail on the fan shapes show intricate flower designs as well as details of the period – including policemen and soldiers, children playing, oriental buildings and people of all creeds and walks of life. Transfer marks are visible in some places suggesting that the maker(s) may have used commercial patterns as inspiration for their embroidery.
The quilt has a frame layout with a large flower centre surrounded by four complex borders. It is entirely hand stitched and embroidered. Although similar strip pieced flowers have been seen in cotton patchwork of the period, no other such intricate silk and velvet quilts have been found. It is possible, although not substantiated, that the quilt was made for display at a Jubilee exhibition or other venue and that this ‘added value’ may have persuaded Machell to accept it as a rental payment. The very survival of this quilt gives a unique and wonderful record of a royal Jubilee as well as an insight into social history of the late 1800s.
If you have read our ‘Birthday Presents!’ article this issue, you will be aware that we are giving away a birthday present to one of our newsletter readers each quarter. Each gift will has a connection to a piece from The Guild Collection, collected during one of the four decades of our existence. The birthday present for the second quarter is Embroidery: A Maker’s Guide, published by Thames & Hudson in association with the Victoria & Albert Museum, and links to the marvellous Jubilee Quilt.
The book features 15 embroidery projects inspired by the V&A Collection alongside sumptuous full colour images of the original pieces. The winner will be drawn at random at the end of April 2019. As long as you are subscribed to receive the newsletter, you will have an entry, so feel free to tell your friends they can subscribe here!