I was sorting mine out last week in preparation for a photo shoot (at home with the Prichards – complete with husband making like Keith Floyd, whisk in one hand, glass of red in the other). As I looked at the scattered fabrics across the floor, my past flashed before my eyes. The spriggy Laura Ashley prints (my 18th birthday party dress), the deckchair stripes (a beach skirt I made for my first back packing holiday to Greece), the black and white polka dot (a gorgeous dress, which made me feel like a Vogue model, complete with signature red lipstick). I still remember the thrill of excitement as I twirled in front of the mirror – confident in the knowledge that I would never meet anyone with exactly the same outfit. Over thirty years had passed – where had the time gone – career, marriage, children (quilt exhibition), the hours spent at my machine had been replaced by more urgent tasks.
As I considered my past, I reflected on the lives of the makers of some of the most beautiful quilts in the exhibition. The quilted patchwork cover made from sumptuous silk ribbons – most dating from the 1720s and 1740s was said to have been for Mary Parker’s wedding in 1770, in the town of Crediton. Who collected all those ribbons for nearly twenty years, who secreted them away, waiting for that special occasion when they could stitch their stash into a wedding gift? Did Mary herself discover the ribbons, packed away in a box, perhaps on a dusty shelf, and then make the quilt herself?
Bedcover, quilted patchwork, possibly Mary Parker, Crediton, mid eighteenth century T.19-1987
As I sat among my scattered past I wondered who would inherit my fabric stash – my daughters, my grand-daughters? Would the memories fade with the fabrics, or would dates and names become confused, become the subject of myths and misconceptions? Who in the future would speculate on this life lived and the fabric it represents?
Enough of these morbid thoughts of my own mortality. Its Friday and time for some on line shopping. The V&A has just launched its limited edition fabrics based on the historic collection in time for the exhibition opening. This is truly soft porn for fabric fantasists – over 18 gorgeous designs in printed cotton which is being sold by metre as well as fat quarters. Hands off the fabulous Shell and Seed Head (in Blue) – although the India Flower (Green) and Stripes (Pink) would make a significant contribution to my stash. Where to start …. Where to stop……..
The V&A fabrics will be available in the V&A Shop from March 2010 or order on line http://www.vandashop.com/section.php?xSec=357. See also American Vogue’s coverage of the fabrics at
Quilts: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories
Quilts - Hidden Histories, Untold Stories was the curator's blog for the V&A's Quilts: 1700 - 2010 exhibition