A couple of year ago I was invited to the opening of a patchwork exhibition in the museum in Angra do Heroísmo in Terceira, the adjacent island to where I live in the Azores. The is a strong patchwork tradition in the Azores, but it is still regarded as a utilitarian craft rather than an art form.

 

Technically, the Azoreans do not make ‘quilts’ as very few of the pieces I have seen have wadding. Tops may be pieced, but they are used backed with old sheets or curtains, seldom having the top tied to the backing fabric. They are coverlets, not quilts.

The Azores are not wealthy, and the patchwork creations reflect that. Why buy new fabric when you have pieces from old curtains, dresses, suits etc? Suiting is often used as the background for a coverlet, with wide variations in fabric: satin may sit next to cotton, silk is seldom seen, the occasional sparkle may reveal a patch of a sequinned fabric, evidently a scrap from a dress.

The coverlets are frequently finished with an edging of prairie points.

Small pompoms are often used to adorn the centres of flower blocks, while long pompoms provide the petals for larger leaves. Some are made by hand, others by machine, but all have a charm which is difficult to define.

Crazy patchwork was – and still is – a popular form, with herringbone stitch, feather stitch and chain stitch used over the edges of the patches appliquéd flowers in red and yellow.

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