This year’s seminar was held in Burnley at Towneley Hall, a mansion dating back to the 1400s and now housing an art gallery and museum.
The weekend began on Friday with a visit to nearby Gawthorpe Hall to see the remarkable Gawthorpe Textiles Collection, put together initially by Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth (1886–1967). Here we discovered a treasure trove of textiles, encompassing embroidery, printed and woven cloth, patchwork and quilting, lace and many other textile crafts from around the world dating from the 17th to the 21st century. The highlight of the visit for many of us was a private viewing of quilts from the reserve collection. We were shown a selection of beautiful, mainly 19th century quilts and had the luxury of examining them at close quarters. Staff had prepared comprehensive study notes for us which added to our enjoyment.
On Saturday morning we made our way to Towneley Hall for the first paper, ‘West Kent Textiles in Wills, Inventories and Probate, 1550–1650', by Chris Burgess. Chris’s paper shed a fascinating light on the wool trade in England during the 16th and 17th centuries and also on household textiles, particularly clothing and bed linen which were common bequests made to relatives at this time.
The next paper, by Celia Eddy, ‘The Ogier Wedding Quilt’, discussed two related quilts: one, pieced and appliquéd in Ohio in 1842 and later sent back to the Ogier family in Guernsey in the Channel Islands, and another, similar in both design and quilting, dated 1846, by a Mary Ogier from Guernsey County, Ohio. As there is known to have been emigration from Guernsey to the USA from the middle of the 18th century this paper raised many interesting questions about the relationship between the two quilts, and Celia’s research is ongoing.
The third paper, ‘Patchwork: A Literary Tale’ by Ann Gibson, was a delightful excursion through some 20th century children’s books all of which had patchwork as a theme, as part of the story, or in illustrations. The talk and the accompanying slides brought back early memories for many of us.
A book stall and a quilt auction to raise much-needed funds added to the activities and a show and tell from members concluded the afternoon.
Back to Towneley Hall on Sunday morning to hear ‘A Tyneside Signature Quilt: A Passport to a Primitive Methodist Community in the 1890s?’ by Anne Jeater. The focus for this paper was a quilt in the Quilt Museum’s collection made by members of the Primitive Methodist Connexion in Jarrow and featuring 212 signatures. The background to the making of the quilt was discussed in detail, giving us a real insight into the social and economic conditions of the community in which it was produced and also a glimpse into the world of Primitive Methodism in the 19th century.
Lynn Setterington, a textile artist and senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, then gave a short presentation entitled ‘Signature Quilts Old and New’, describing her work on signature textiles from the International Quilt Study Center in Nebraska as well as some fascinating collaborative projects including one carried out in primary schools in Burnley, in which children from different cultures were encouraged to write and embroider their names on textiles.
The final paper of the seminar was a joint piece of research from Laurel Horton and Erin Beeston entitled ‘Bolton’s Cotton Counterpanes: Hand-weaving in the Industrial Age’. This paper looked at the distinctive hand-woven counterpanes known as ‘caddow’ or ‘caddy’ quilts produced in Bolton from the late 18th to early 20th century. These coverlets feature loops raised in the fabric to produce distinctive designs, often with a central motif and sometimes incorporating names and dates or a coat of arms. They constitute a significant part of the history of the Lancashire cotton industry.
All of the papers were both interesting and thought-provoking, representing an impressive amount of research by their authors. We were left us with much to think about and new areas of interest to explore.
The other important part of the weekend was the social side! We enjoyed coffee breaks, lunches and dinners together; everyone was very friendly and there was constant talking and laughter. I learnt a lot and made many new friends. What more can one ask?
Altogether it was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring weekend. Many thanks to the committee for their hard work and especially to Rachel Terry and Susan Levett for the care they took to ensure that everything ran smoothly and that everyone felt welcome within the group.
Hazel ConwayImages courtesy of Hilary Richardson