The meeting was held to report on the progress of the help that four committee members of the Quilt Study Group (Karen Fail, Annette Gero, Sandra Lyons and Liz Bonner) have been giving the textile area of the Powerhouse Museum with research and documentation of their quilts. In late 2010, we met Christina Sumner, the Principal Curator, Design and Society, to discuss how we could help the Museum with its quilt collection. Due to staff cutbacks, there was a need to improve the documentation of the quilt collection and volunteers were needed to supplement the work of that area, as they had already done in a previous project to document the Museum’s rug collection.
Christina was delighted to accept our offer of assistance. After we discussed how to best approach the work and learnt how to fill in the form to make it easy for Christina to upload the information to the Museum’s computer system, we then chose our quilts to study and document from a file of possible contenders that Christina had selected.
Annette chose a patchwork quilt (98/48/1) made from military uniforms that was similar to one in her collection. Karen chose a set of 3 quilts (2001/13/1) by Barbara Macey called ‘Dream Series – Once in a Lifetime”. Sandra chose a woollen machine-pieced, hand embroidered quilt (96/393/1) made by Jocelyn Campbell. And Liz Bonner initially chose an undocumented North England whole cloth quilt (A8645) made by Hannah Coulson but after discovering on the National Quilt Register that 2 other quilts made by Hannah had also been donated to the museum, decided to research and document all 3 of Hannah’s quilts.
In February 2011 we visited the Museum’s quilt storage area with Christina Sumner to view our chosen quilts and then our hard work of research and documentation started.
Karen Fail ran the audience through the Powerhouse Museum’s online quilt collection catalogue, then showed the documentation requirements – the form used - and explained in detail the different sections we have to complete.
Annette started the quilt presentations proper by showing photos of her military quilt and the one she has researched for the Powerhouse Museum. The Powerhouse army quilt is supposed to have been made in Tasmania from war army uniforms from the British 90th Regiment of Foot c1870 by the soldiers’ wives. The connection was made because some soldiers who fought in the Crimean war were then given land grants in Tasmania in the 1860s. The quilt is hand stitched from trousers and jackets but analysis, by Annette and a military historian, suggests it was probably made in England and brought here as it is also all made by "one hand". Comparison photographs of the 2 quilts were shown and discussed.
Liz then talked about the 2 whole cloth and 1 strippy North England quilts made by Hannah Coulson (1826-1903) which were brought to Australia in 1912 by her daughter, Ruth Ritson, and which were donated to the Museum by her granddaughter, Lavinia McFadyen in the late 1980s. The town of Allendale in Northumberland, England, is famous for the design of North England whole cloth quilts and Hannah’s forebears lived in the area for generations as lead ore miners. After covering the important dates in Hannah’s life (researched from various genealogical websites) and the story of how the quilts were brought to Australia, Liz then covered the general characteristics of North England quilts and how they specifically relate to each of Hannah’s quilts. One of the quilts, A8645, was only the third quilt in the museum’s collection and is quite a spectacular example of the fine design and quilting of this type. From Lavinia’s letters that accompanied the quilt donations, it appears there are more of Hannah’s quilts in Australia, possibly in the Inverell district of northern NSW, and initial enquiries there have resulted in the discovery of one pink and white strippy. But the most important wedding quilt Hannah made for her only son, John Reed, who died in Queensland in 1918, is yet to be found.
|Hannah Coulson (seated)|
Sandra then spoke about her research on the embroidered woollen quilt, made by Jocelyn Campbell in 1990. There is a large amount of information about the quilt on the Powerhouse Museum’s website so Sandra’s work mostly involved confirming those details. We inspected the detailed photographs of the quilt with great interest and, because she was able to talk to the quilt maker, Sandra was able to add to our knowledge of the quilt itself and Jocelyn’s later quilts.
Then Karen spoke about Barbara Lacey, her quilting process and her quilts. Barbara has been quilting for 40 years and was a recipient of the Rajah Award for outstanding service to the quilting community in 2010. We saw photographs of some of her major quilts and Karen spoke at length about her conversation with Barbara and her explanation of the techniques and choice of materials in her quilts.