Jane Austen Quilt Collection

Around 2002, I borrowed a book from the Campbelltown Quilters Guild called “Quilt Treasures of Great Britain, The Heritage Search of the Quilters’ Guild” with photographs by David Cripps, published by Rutledge Hill Press in 1995.  This book has recently been reissued.  It was the first book of antique quilts I had ever seen.  In that book on page 42 was a photograph of a quilt top made in the late eighteenth century.  I was absolutely stunned! 

The intricacy of the design (and the amount of work involved in making it) astounded me.  That photograph of that quilt haunted my thoughts for a long time!  I had to make my own interpretation of it.  The book included a small paragraph on how the unknown maker achieved her masterpiece.  I could not make head nor tail of the explanation!  Only more recently have I worked it out. 

The maker apparently drew a full scale drawing of her design on paper, including registration marks where pieces fitted together.  She then cut around every piece, every petal and leaf, every frame and scroll and hand basted fabric over every pattern piece of paper.  She then whip stitched every piece together.  Some leaves are completely inset within the background fabric. 

Now isn’t that the most extraordinary achievement in English paper piecing you have every heard of?

This quilt has been the subject of an article in The Journal of the British Quilt Study Group, Issue 10, 2009.  The article by Bridget Long called “Sibling, Cousin or Friend?” compares the coverlet that I loved from the British Quilt Heritage Project with another very similar fragmentary coverlet now in a private collection in the United Kingdom.

I decided I needed to make a quilt with a similar style to the beautiful coverlet I had seen in the book.  This quilt became “Pemberley”, probably my favourite of all the quilts I have made so far and the one which has given me the most enjoyment teaching. 

All of the quilts I had made up to this time to teach were my own original designs.  I was not sure whether my students would want to make a quilt based on an antique but I was making it just for me.  I drew up a design to scale on paper and commenced appliquing the centre medallion.  The original coverlet included a small rectangular basket on a mat and the major flower in the centre of the quilt was a giant sunflower.  I refined the urn and drew my own flowers based on the shapes used elsewhere in the quilt.  I appliquéd a row of scallops around the central oval which was outlined by a small “peeper”.  I also drew a rambling vine of flowers around the centre.  I made these symmetrical for the “asymmetrically challenged” and they form a larger curved shape around the centre.

I made the appliquéd “wavy” border and intended to stop there and make the quilt into a wall hanging.  My friend, Deborah Louie, always one to encourage me and spur me on to even more work, convinced me to keep going with the outside blocks. 

She is also responsible for the idea of adding 68 tiny circles in between the curves of the wavy border – thank you Deborah!

The original coverlet included three different appliquéd block designs in the outside border, surrounded by a complex arrangement of clam shells.  I felt the clam shells were too busy, so I eliminated them and set each block separately with a sash border between each one.

The quilt overall took me four years to complete (making other quilts in between of course).  When it was finished I was searching for a name for it.  I thought I would like to name it after a beautiful English grand estate so I toyed with different ideas like Chatsworth and Blenheim.  Then one evening I was rewatching a DVD of the 1995 BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice” and when Elizabeth toured Mr D’Arcy’s Derbyshire ancestral home of “Pemberley”, I knew I had the answer.  Who could resist any connection with Colin Firth!

Since making "Pemberley", I have discovered other quilters have made their own interpretation of the same beautiful coverlet.  Isn’t it amazing that a 200 year old work of art would inspire today’s needlewomen.

I entered "Pemberley" in the 2009 Quilters’ Guild of NSW Darling Harbour Show and it won 4th place in the Professional Predominately Applique category.  It also won 2nd Viewers Choice award at the Camden Country Quilters’ Guild Show that same year.

I have taught "Pemberley" numerous times and have been delighted with the response from my students.  The variety of colour interpretations has been amazing.  I have quite a few photographs of the different variations posted throughout my blog.

Because "Pemberley" proved so popular I decided to make a series of quilts and name each one after a property featured in Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice".  I have been an Austen fan from the time I was a little girl, rereading "P and P" many times while tucked up in bed.

Here is my quilt:







The next quilt was to be called “Netherfield”, the country estate leased by Mr Bingley at the beginning of the novel.  I decided to make this quilt in the style of the typical Engligh frame quilt, a style we more often call a medallion layout.

English frame quilts consisted of many pieced borders sewn around a centre square.  The square in the centre was usually placed square (unlike the American medallion quilt which turned the centre square on point to become a diamond shape in the middle).

Some of the frame quilts presented to the British Quilt Heritage Study Group contained many hundreds of scrap pieces from dress fabrics intricately pieced and appliquéd into many framed borders.  These quilts and coverlets were made to be displayed and used only for best.  Other quilts of the style were hurriedly made for everyday use, obviously with little planning or reliance on mathematics.  In fact a lot of these quilts appear to our eye to be poorly planned. 

The effective juxtaposition of light and dark fabrics is often jumbled and patchwork designs do not turn the corners neatly.  It would appear that such frame quilts were worked in strips of pieced patchwork until such time as a seamstress had enough frames to put together around a central square to make a quilt.

There are many beautiful examples of English frame quilts still in existence and even the most humble version offers some inspiration for different shapes and layout ideas.  The centre square was often a printed commemorative or floral panel popular at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

I combined several of my favourite shapes in the framework of borders on my Netherfield quilt.  The quilt originally included a centre square of a toile fabric in deep reds and greens featuring a regal peacock.  I began showing the half finished piece to several of my quilting friends who unanimously agreed they liked the idea of the frame quilt but they all hated the bird!  The bird had to go! 

Even though I had pieced several borders around it, I decided to unpick the centre square and replace it with an appliqué design.  The inspiration for the design came from a block pictured in Jinny Beyer’s book “The Quilter’s Album of Blocks and Borders”.  There it is called Cog Wheels from the Ladies Art Company catalogue of 1898.

The pieced borders of half square triangles, sixty degree triangles and flying geese were added to the centre with what I call “fudge factor” borders in between.  Having taught for ten years I have realised that not everyone sews the same quarter inch seam.  The borders in between the pieced sections can be adjusted in width to accommodate any differences in the pieced borders.  Much less stress for my students as well as for myself!

Netherfield also included an appliqué vine border of hexagon flowers and buds and a large outside border of hexagon lozenges turned on their sides. T

"Netherfield" was magnificently quilted by my dear friend Veronica Appleyard of Minto Heights.  The quilt won us a first place ribbon in the 2010 Darling Harbour Quilt Show.  Very exciting!





The third quilt in the series was to be called “Longbourne” after the house where the five Bennett sisters lived with their parents.  I wanted this quilt to have a pretty appearance to represent the sisters.

The centre appliqué rectangle contains an urn of flowers.  This is surrounded by several appliqué borders of my beloved 1 inch hexagons, frames of English paper piecing using the same shapes as the Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses and the clam shells I had seen on the coverlet which inspired Pemberley.

I wanted the centre to be reminiscent of Elizabethan crewel wool embroidery.  To draw the urn I “googled” on the internet for images of English urns and drew up my design.  Those embroideries often included plaited and twisted vines in profusion so I included a central stem like a cable design.  The flower at the top is the Tudor rose, representative of the English throne.  The pomegranate represents fertility and the tulips represent perfect love in herbal folk lore.

The quilt also included my usual mechanism of fudge factor borders in a soft pink stripe.  The quilt has a romantic effect in a palette of pink, chocolate, blue and gold.  A lot of the reproduction fabrics have been “fussy cut” where one motif is deliberately cut and featured in the appliqué, especially in my ⅜ inch hexagons.

This quilt is an extravaganza of hand applique, beautifully quilted again by Veronica Appleyard.  The quilt won a ribbon for "Best Original Design" at the 2011 Camden Country Quilters' Guild Annual Show.








The fourth quilt was to be named “Rosings” after the magnificent residence in Kent of Lady Catherine de Burgh, the esteemed patroness of the Bennetts’ cousin, Mr Collins.  This had to be an even more elaborate quilt than the previous ones.  No pressure!

I completed the appliqué on Rosings in January 2012 and it has just been quilted by my dear friend Veronica Appleyard.

The centre circular block is called “Georgetown Circle”.  This block was also named and catalogued in the Ladies Art Company Catalogue of 1897. I thought it reminiscent of the floor tiling of cathedrals and stately homes. This is surrounded by a heavily appliquéd panel of corner urns containing a profusion of flowers.  The use of the chocolate brown background with the appliqué in golds and reds give the quilt a rich appearance.

The pieced dogtooth border gives the eye a rest and borders the heavy appliqué.  I then devised a border of English paper pieced octagons and squares.  The final border was a magnificent border print of urns of flowers designed by Judie Rothermel for Marcus Brothers fabrics called “A Journey Through Time”.  

I was very excited that the first four quilts in the series were featured as part of the Quilt Exhibition associated with the Australasian Quilt Convention held in Melbourne in April 2012. 









The  fifth quilt in the series is "Hunsford", named after Mr Collins' parsonage on the edge of the "Rosings" estate.  This quilt is in a colour scheme of black, red and cream with lots of geometric patterns.  I wanted it to have a more masculine look than the previous quilts so there are no flowers on it.  It was quilted by Veronica Appleyard.

Here is a peak of  "Hunsford" on the quilting machine.  It was one of my entries in the 2013 Darling Harbour Quilt Show of the NSW Quilters' Guild.

                                            



Here it is, hanging at Darling Harbour:





I have just completed (April 2014) the sixth quilt called "Meryton" after the town the sisters walk to from Longbourne to go ribbon shopping.  If you are an Austen fan, this is where they meet Mr Wickham.  This quilt is very feminine in a colour scheme of pink and green.


If you would like to make any of these quilts in class, please consult my teaching schedule or email me at Katina.H@three.com.au.