October 29, 2016

Making the Australian Quilt Exhibition

I have wanted to see the Rajah Quilt ever since I first heard of it - and I was delighted when I discovered it would be in Melbourne as part of the National Gallery of Victoria Exhibition.

"Making the Australian Quilt 1800 - 1950"

The Quilt is named after the convict ship "The Rajah" which set sail from England in 1841 for the penal colonies in Hobart Tasmania.

From 1817 - 1843 Mrs Elizabeth Fry supervised a total of 12,355 female convicts by teaching them Patchwork skills as a respectable trade and occupation for the voyage.

These women were all given:-
a Bible, 2 Aprons, 1 small bag of tape, 1 Once of pins, 100 needles, 9 balls of sewing cotton, 24 hanks of coloured thread, 1 small bodkin, 1 thimble, 1 pair of scissors and 2 pounds of patchwork pieces.

At least 29 of the 179 women prisoners on board the Rajah put their gifts and newly learnt skills to good use by contributing to the making of this remarkable quilt.
It is the only known example of a convict quilt made during transportation to Australia.

The exhibition was well worth the visit and my DD & I spent ages peering at the construction of the blocks and applique and admiring the tiny stitches that held them together.

This incredible quilt was made in 1857 by Mary Jane Tolman and sent as a gift to her brother James, in Hobart.

I could not resist including a close up of the blocks - so vibrant they could have been pieced yesterday!

The quilt contains 6063 paper pieced hexagons and being held with 120 stitches per hexagon - there are three quarters of a million stitches in the quilt!

A letter from the maker to her brother asks if his female friends liked it.....

There were so many beautiful examples of hand worked quilts on display I cannot mention them all (you will have to go and see it for yourself - or buy the book!).

I will leave you with some photographs of just one last exhibit -

How beautiful is this....

Wonderful work
and exceptional fussy cutting...

Put away at the end of the day's sewing,
never to be finished.

Having done white glove duty I know just how fascinating the reverse of a quilt can be I was delighted to discover a photograph of the BACK of the Rajah quilt. This link will take you to further information.

Making the Australian Quilt
National Gallery of Victoria
(Ian Potter Gallery - Federation square)
22nd July - 6th November 2016

1 comment:

  1. I loved the exhibition. I was hoping to get back before it closed, but not sure I'll make it now.