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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quilting through the Ages

Upper Hutt City is celebrating “Seniors Week, with activities for seniors to celebrate the golden years”.  I went along to Expressions Gallery today to watch a visual presentation from well known textile artist Katherine Morrison,  who is also a member of my quilt club.  The audience was made up of a sprinkling of club members, together with many interested locals. 

Katherine started her talk with commenting that quilted clothing was being made as early as 5000 BC, and knights heading off to the Crusades wore quilted garments under their armour.  She slowed slides of very early quilts from the 16th century, some of them tattered after all this time, up to modern times.  A photo from 1863 showed an intricate woollen quilt stitched by a soldier as therapy as he recovered from his war wounds.  After being out of favour for many years, the quilt revival in the 1930s brought quilting to the fore again.  The slide show covered quilts from the Gees Bend quilters, who were geographically isolated from the influences modern quilting ideas for many years, and developed their own distinctive style, finishing with slides of contemporary quilt makers. 

Slides of Katherine’s work showing her quilts made from recycled woollen blankets followed.  While working as “Artist in Residence” in Perth, Australia, she then fashioned a series  of beautiful tailored coats from recycled blankets.  Katherine’s creativity flows down from early family members who included potters and artists, she says.

A mini quilt show followed with several early quilts from the collection of Ann Scott, editor of New Zealand Quilter magazine.  First shown was a 19th century green and white Irish Chain quilt, pieced by hand and hand quilted.

DSCF2854  Irish Chain quilt

Next we were shown a woollen quilt from 1910.  The coloured pieces have been stitched onto the dark background with a variety of herringbone and other similar stitches.

DSCF2855 Wool quilt from 1910

Everyone recognized the pattern of this 1950s Grandmother’s Garden hexagon quilt, with several of the ladies murmuring that they have made one of these in their time.  Hexagon’s are very  much in fashion at the moment, as they are a very portable style of stitching, something that can be slipped into a bag and taken anywhere.

DSCF2856 1950s hexagon quilt

Was the next quilt the catalyst to make Katherine switch to working with wool, I wondered.  She related that when the family bought a bach (holiday house) some years ago, this quilt and another similar one was left behind in the building.  Made with a mixture of assorted wool fabrics, it is backed with an old tablecloth, now tattered and torn.   It really couldn’t have found a more appreciative owner!

DSCF2857 Katherine’s “found” woollen quilt

The last in our mini show was “Memories” a whole cloth quilt made by Heather Harding.  This apricot and cream  beauty was entered in the World Quilt Exhibition in Paducah, USA, and won “Second in the World for Traditional Bed Quilt”.  What an amazing accomplishment!  It then joined a travelling exhibition and travelled to three countries before finally coming back home.  The cream sateen used in this quilt was “rescued fabric”.  The fabric came from the workshop of a tailor who had passed away several years ago, and the family finally decided to clear out his storeroom. 
DSCF2858 “Memories”, by Heather Harding

The audience all enjoyed the presentation and the quilt show, and several had questions to ask at the end.  Many then took the opportunity to look around the quilt exhibition.  Special thanks to Katherine and Expressions Gallery for arranging this very interesting and informative event.   Light refreshments were provided so I joined a table of ladies to sip my coffee and chat about our interesting morning.


Lis said...

That sounds as if it was a fascinating talk - how I wish someone had left quilts behind in my bach!! Was the speaker the lady who had such success with the red cross on blanket quilt?

Jenny said...

Yes indeed, Katherine is well known for her "blanket quilts" and has featured several times in New Quilter magazine.