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Part 23. Old Favourites Replaced

Part 23 - Old Favourites Replaced

The first book is a reprint; an updated and amended Quilt Treasures, The Quilters’ Guild Heritage Search, their study ofthe pre-1960 patchwork and quilted objects documented by the Quilters Guild during the Heritage Project, 1990-93. For those of you who do not own a copy I’ll give a brief outline: it is a substantial book, 224 pages with 194 illustrations- photographs and some line drawings. Each chapter is an essay covering the range of items seen, all written by experts. Thus:  Why Make a Quilt? and In the Frame (Janet Rae), Patterns in Abundance, plus Appliqué, Embellishments and Embroidery(Dinah Travis), Traditions of Quilting (Pauline Adams and Bridget Long), The Quiltmakers (Margaret Tucker), The Outsiders (Adams and Tucker) and Quilts with Special Associations (Rae and Tucker).

The last chapter, Reading a Quilt by Deryn O’Connor and Tina Fenwick Smith is a complete change. As the majority of the pieced quilts or bedcovers seen were made from printed cotton these authors outline the main developments in the production, dyeing and printing of cotton cloth. More information is presented in tables with colour illustrations to outline the weaves/designs/colours etc for the years 1780-1960. Though concise these thirty pages are almost our only guide to the dating of English printed cottons.

The book now ends with an extended one-page Glossary; End Notes, an updated Guide to Appreciation-one and a half pages, a one page Selected Reading, also updated, a four page Index and the updated Contributors. Quilt Care in the Home has been removed to allow these improvements.

Less has changed within the text; the headings are now in bold type and illustrations run numerically within each chapter rather than through the entire book so the layout has a more modern feel. The main change is in the colour photography; some you gain: Averil Colby, Fig1.3 is now coloured but the Land Army quilt p14, Fig 1.11which was yellow in the earlier edition (and at the V&A exhibition) is now white. More worrying are the colour oddities in Reading a Quilt: the lilacs Fig 9.17, blues Fig 9.24, page 210 plus Fig 9.43; these are of little consequence unless you use the book for matching fabrics.

This edition again begins with the same Acknowledgements, five- page Preface and a new two- page Moving On updating the Quilters Guilds’ achievements.

Do you need a copy? If you own one already, I wouldn’t buy another for the almost imperceptible updates but for those without this is an extremely pleasant paperback, a must for all BQSG members: a mine of scholarship and a burst of colour for only £20.00.

Classic Quilts from The American Museum in Britain by Laura Beresford and Katherine Herbert is a very welcome companion to Shiela Betterton’s two small volumes Quilts and Coverlets from the American Museum in Britain and More Quilts and Coverlets. Their book is attractively produced, illustrated in full colour and a pleasure to handle. It opens with a very brief Foreword by the Director followed by a two-page Preface by Shiela Betterton, written just before her death in 2008. Twelve pages then outline The Making of The American Museum in Britain and its Quilt Museum, interesting and well annotated. The remainder of the book describes fifty- five of their quilts in no discernable order, beginning with a wholecloth quilt of 1760 and finishing with one from Gees Bend of 1969. The book ends with one page for Glossary and Bibliography, another for the Index and a final page for Acknowledgements.

Each quilt has a two-page spread, comprising a photograph of the whole quilt and two/three close-ups with captions-no scale given. For each, the date, area of origin and size (metric and imperial) are given plus an accession number followed by its “catalogue” description in italics. The quilt then gets three or four paragraphs of “chat” and though I am no student of American quilt history, I was concerned by some details. Three examples: isn’t it a myth about having thirteen quilt tops before a girl could marry (p 33) fence-sitting re the Underground Railway (p58) and nine-patch over papers? (p33)

I do not want to be critical about such an attractive and welcome book but I feel it is a shame that, as this book will be the face of American Quilts in our country - I am sure it will deservedly be a best seller at the Museum – it is not more cutting edge, incorporating up-to-date quilt research and ideas. Do buy it but don’t discard Shiela’s books for they illustrate many quilts not included in the new volume. 

Finally, I cannot be the only BQSG reader who sniffed at Sue Pritchard’s book Patchwork for Beginners and passed it by. But I feel it has some interest for us. It is charmingly produced, the illustrations are the reason for recommending it; every other page has old fabric or a related item from the V&A’s collection shown, the whole book has the faded air of the 40’s. Indeed, History of Patchwork begins “patchwork is synonymous with the culture of ‘make do and mend’” so don’t expect cutting edge prose or ideas, she starts with hexagons. However ,for only the cost of a magazine there are some interesting fabrics illustrated so worth a second glance.


Classic Quilts from The American Museum in Britain by Laura Beresford and Katherine Hebert is published by Scala (London) 2009, ISBN 13 978 1 85759 598 7 at £19.95. (£13.70 on Amazon).Shiela Betterton’s books are also available there quite cheaply.

Quilt Treasures, the Quilters Guild Heritage Search published by The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9564789-0-0 at £19.95. Buy it at the Museum in York or by post from and there is a 5% off offer at the moment.

Patchwork for Beginners by Sue Pritchard is published by V&A Publishing (London) 2009, ISBN 978 1 85177 596 5 at £7.99 (or £4.52 on Amazon)

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2010

PLEASE NOTE - An indication is given of the availability and market price of the book at the time of writing and may not reflect today's availability and price.