BY the 18th century a ‘flourishing town’, according to Celia Fiennes, Canterbury boasted an unusual number of shops offering wares for the home. Fiennes noted ‘good tradeing in ye weaving of silks’: the Kent city was almost certainly the source for both the silks and the fabrics used by Priscilla Redding, daughter of Capt Samuel Tavenor, governor of nearby Deal Castle, in making a quilted patchwork cover for a child’s bed some time after 1700. Today, Redding’s cover survives in the V&A Museum, an unusually sumptuous patchwork of silk velvet, satin and tissues of silver and silver-gilt. Lined with wool wadding and bound with pink silk, it is quilted all over in a geometric design of diamond shapes.
In 1933, a cot cover of quilted, pale-blue silk, by a Mrs Hird of Sherburn in Co Durham, became the first quilt to enter the collection of the Bowes Museum, now the home of an exhibition, ‘North Country Quilts’. A ‘whole cloth quilt—made from a single piece of fabric, not a mosaic of patches—it lacks the Aladdin’scave richness of Redding’s handiwork.
Divergences between the two quilts reflect differences in their maker’s social and economic status, as well as access—financial or geographical—to materials. They remind us that domestic craft played a part in the lives of women of varied backgrounds in the British Isles, crossing regional and class boundaries.
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