Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quilting History/Herstory

My online quilting group has had several interesting discussions recently.  One referred to the convict ships which took hundreds of thousands of women (against their will) from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland to Australia and other countries in the 1800s.   It reminded me of a song written by Cathy Miller (quilter, musician, songwriter) called The Rajah Quilt.  It tells of the women sent out to Australia on a convict ship called the Rajah in 1841 who were given a small bundle of sewing supplies by Elizabeth Fry (who had fought for better treatment of women prisoners).   For some, their crime was petty theft or prostitution, but their main crime was poverty.  She wanted to give them the means to make a living in their new land.  The women sewed many quilts in that long journey then sold them in order to survive.  According to Cathy, they used the technique of Broderie Perse which was a style of applique using printed chintz and appliquing it onto another fabric.   One of these quilts - The Rajah Quilt - was found in an attic in Scotland in the 1980s and donated to the National Gallery of Australia.  I have added a link to this quilt in my list of favourite links.  The Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild apparently made a replica of the quilt and donated it to the Elizabeth Fry Society in 1996.

What a rich history quilting has and Cathy Miller writes about it in her songs.  She writes extraordinary songs about quilting - combining history, humour and emotion.  The CD I have is called One Stitch at a Time.  It brings me to tears (and laughter) every time I listen to it.  If  you are interested check out her website.  I found it by just typing in her name.    Some of her songs have titles like 100 Ways to Hide your Stash and It Ain't Finished Yet.....a great CD for quilters.

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