Wholecloth quilts have no patchwork – they just rely on the beauty of their elaborate quilting patterns.
There are several included in the current exhibition of North Country Quilts at the Bowes Museum in County Durham, which I would thoroughly recommend if you can arrange to go in the remaining months of 2021.
The quilt on the cover of the accompanying catalogue was made relatively late compared to the heyday of North Country quilting, but is absolutely typical in its quilting design, if not in the green rayon fabric chosen.
It has a huge design at the centre, incorporating Roses, Flat Irons, Ferns and Leaf motifs.
The corners include scrolling sworls and feathers motifs, assembled together skilfully:
Made by Elizabeth Henderson as a wedding gift for her nephew in 1938, it is unlikely that she planned and drew out the quilting design herself. These designs were the speciality of quilt stampers in the North Pennine Dales, (particularly Allenheads), trained professionals who marked out quilting designs onto fabric sent to them by customers.
The exhibition includes an unquilted, marked quilt top, which clearly shows the blue pencil lines:
Sara Jane Dickinson, who lived in Allendale, marked out this quilt top in about 1880.
She also marked and stitched a completed white quilt displayed in the exhibition.
This photo shows the confident swirls, feather and roses of the central section.
The motifs are beautifully drawn, with some distinctive variations on the usual motifs:
As the blue pencil marks are still very evident, this quilt has probably never been washed.
Some quilters marked out the design using chalk:
This quilt top was marked out by the renowned Weardale quilter, Amy Emms for one of her pupils, who never had time to quilt it.
Quilters would have built up their own collection of templates to mark out their favourite motifs.
Another professionally made quilt was a small green silk one, made in 1933 in the Northern Industries Workroom (a business started in Barnard Castle by Beatrice Headlam (the wife of the local MP) to provide work during the Depression years, in a similar way to the better known Rural Industries Bureau.)
Rather stiff in style compared to the more flowing Allendale designs, it is however, very skilfully and evenly stitched
The double lining around the petals on the central star makes the motif very crisp.
One element which is particularly impressive is the way the designer has planned the cable border so that it sweeps evenly and identically around all four corners.
The exhibition finishes with a few quilts made more recently which build on the heritage of the local quilting tradition.
This is a wholecloth made in 1996 by Leila Anderson. Called Lindisfarne Line, it uses Celtic knotwork designs inspired by those in the Lindisfarne Gospels.
This is the final part of three blogs showing some of the highlights of this wonderful exhibition.
The other two are about: