The Quilters’ Guild Museum Collection is fortunate to have a number of interesting and unusual pieces of patchwork and quilted clothing which date from the 18th and 19th centuries, including two pockets.
Although not immediately recognisable as a familiar item we would wear daily, in terms of practicality, pockets are something that are immensely useful, and probably served our ancestors better than they do us today! Pockets in female clothing are rarely big enough, and an additional bag is usually needed to carry all those portable essentials – car keys, house keys, purse (with too many loyalty cards), tissues (and these days a bottle of hand sanitiser), at the bare minimum.
The two pockets in our collection both date from the 1840s, and are an interesting insight into two variants of decoration even though they have a very similar shape. The one featured in the header image above is a recent acquisition, purchased for The Collection in 2019. At first glance it looks to be 18th century quilting, but on closer inspection this is a machine woven piece, known as a Marcella fabric. Marcella first emerged in the late 18th century as a woven imitation of the beautiful hand-quilted goods that were thought to originate in Marseilles. It was a sturdy fabric with figured patterns, and was ideal for use as household textiles and garments such as pockets, which needed to be strong and robust.
This patchwork pocket is made from printed cottons dating from the 1840s. It is well made, and contains three compartments, two accessed from the side seam and one smaller pocket located on the front of the pocket with a triangular fold over flap. The edge has been finished with very delicate and neat piping. This is a homemade item, most likely carefully made by the wearer from fabrics in her scrap bag which are dress cotton remnants.
Inspired by The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, 1660-1900 by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux, Yale University Press are asking members of The Quilters’ Guild and The Embroiderers’ Guild to enter an exclusive Winter Pocket Design Competition. The grand prize for this competition will be £100 worth of fashion and textile history books from Yale University Press!
Not yet a Guild member? Don’t worry, you can join here. For full competition details please see the Yale University Press document below, which you can print or save. Alternatively, you can view this document online.
At The Quilters’ Guild we wish you all the very best of luck. Happy designing!