Sunday, 1 May 2011

Quilts 1700-2010 at the V & A

I haven't managed to blog much lately, due mainly to teaching, doing my C&G course work and teaching my DS who is twelve to free machine quilt.

I did take time out though yesterday to visit the V&A exhibition Quilts 1700-2010. I had a generous invitation to a preview afternoon and it was well worth the train journey down to London. I was not disappointed and was amazed at the range of quilts on display. I think the earliest quilt on display was a cot cover from 1690 right through to work from current artists. I love Jo Budds work and was pleased to see two of her quilts.
I had expected the quilts to be shown in chronological order but they were grouped into four main themes; The Domestic Landscape; Private Thoughts, Political Debates; Virtue and Virtuosity; Making a Living and Meeting the Past. Within each section there were a mix of old and new quilts, each with its own story to tell. To quote the press release, "the quilts document love, marriage, births, deaths, periods of patriotic fervour, regional and national identity and developments in taste and fashion".

There is a hexagonal quilt which was made in Changi Prison in 1943. I was privileged enough to meet a lady who actually remembers stitching the quilt when she was only ten. Changi Prison housed civilians following the Japanese invasion of Singapore. Cathy Miller (the singing quilter has written a song about this) This quilt was made inside the prison camp by a group of girls aged 8-16 for their Girl Guide Leader.

The one quilt I had looked forward to seeing was The Rajah Quilt made in 1841. This quilt has never been shown outside of Australia before, and probably will never be again. Just like the quilt made in Changi prison, it was made in very difficult circumstances aboard an over crowded convict ship yet, the colours and creativity are just amazing. Elizabeth Fry was greatly concerned about the 180 women prisoners travelling on the HMS Rajah and she provided them with fabric, sewing cotton, thimble, pins, scissors and needles. It is worth going to the exhibition for this quilt alone as unless you want to travel to Australia it may be the only chance you have to view it.
I am going back to see the exhibition in three weeks with my LQG and am looking forward to seeing it with friends. Even if you are not interested in quilts I think the exhibition would prove interesting as there is such a social history attached to all the pieces. It was much bigger than I thought and lots of the quilts are displayed on "beds" rather than all hung on walls. Like any exhibition there are the more controversial pieces but I will let you make your own minds up!
I succumbed to some retail therapy and bought the book "Quilts 1700-2010, Hidden Histories, Untold Stories", the excuse I had was that it was really valuable for my C&G course! There is a limited edition fabric range for sale as well which was tempting.
After the exhibition I meet up with a fellow blogger whom I hadn't met before. Sandra (who blogs as The Dyers Hand) and I had coffee and cake in the opulent tea rooms -

It was then time to brave the tube and travel round to King's Cross. After an hour on the train journey and an hours drive I made it home to flop into bad with my book! if you get a chance go see this exhibition, it starts on March 20th until July 4th 2010


  1. What a fabulous exhibition to visit- I think it would a fascinating show to see all those different period quilts -- and the stories - Wow - they are just amazing... Thanks for sharing your show experience.

  2. I can't wait to find a day to go! I saw a news clip of Olga with the Cahnghi Quilt, and was amaized at both the story and her! What a story it is! I Want to go NOW!

  3. That's a great description of the exhibition Angela. What's all this about you getting locked in? lol I'm hoping to go Easter week if my Mum is ok. I can't wait to see the Rajah quilt and Jo Budd's work. I'm hoping you can get fairly close without touching obviously.

  4. I so want to go to this, but two kids under 3 prevent me! Thankyou for posting about it.


Thank you so much for leaving me a comment. It is lovely to get feedback from anyone. I would love to reply to comments so keep checking back.