An Unusual Welsh Quilt
This quilt was on display at Diss Quilters’ Exhibition in September 2018 and the owner has given permission to share here. Details with the quilt were –
“Margaret found this example of a wholecloth Welsh Quilt underneath the mattress of one of the beds in her father’s childhood home...sadly we will never know who made the quilt, who it was made for or when it was made.”
The quilt is made from cotton sateen fabric both sides – a plain mauve on the front and a lovely black and white stripe covered with flowers on the back. (Plain cotton sateen was available from 1880 to 1930 in many colours). The top is made of three lengths of fabric machine-stitched together. The filling (wadding) is most probably wool as is usual in Wales.
All the quilting including the edges has been handstitched. The quilt has quite unusual quilting patterns especially down the centre of the quilt – a cross design enclosing a dissected circle and also an unusual layout on the rest of the quilt – with circles dissected in different ways upon a square diamond background. The outer edge is of quilted diamonds. The quilt templates would most probably have been made by drawing round anything to hand such as a plate or a pan lid. The quilting stitches are quite crude and so the quilt was probably stitched very quickly and with the patterns being quite bold and not as detailed as some quilts, it would suggest that it is a cottage quilt made out of necessity to keep warm but neverless an interesting quilt.
Margaret tells the story of how she came by the quilt -
“Our father grew up in Swansea in a rented, terraced house, ruled over by his grandmother. When he left home, on leaving school in 1935, to work at the Home Office in London the house had no electricity, an outside privy and a cold water tap outside the back door.
He married mum in 1942 and when we children were taken there for holidays the house was just the same. His grandparents had died during the war but the aunts and cousin continued with domestic chores exactly the same as their mother had instructed. So there was a gas light, coal fires, feather mattresses an outside loo and the one cold tap outside.
Over the years things gradually changed – a glass house was built to enclose the tap, with a sink, meaning a shorter run to the privy if it was raining, electricity arrived in the 1960’s, a bathroom was installed in an upstairs bedroom in the 1980’s but the remaining elderly aunt and cousin continued to wash at the kitchen sink. An immersion heater provided hot water and this was enjoyed. When the last elderly cousin died in 1997 the family had lived there for 97 years, the beds still had feather mattresses with old blankets and quilts making up the gap at the bottom – the mattresses were all too short for the bedsteads.
I kept just one of the quilts because it brings back memories of a family that was warmly welcoming, always delighted to see us and generous with the small amount of money that they had. It reminds me of the soft, downy beds that moulded themselves to your body but were such hard work to shake out each morning and of the love and care of a generation now gone.”