Friday, December 30, 2011

Talk on Australia's Quilt Heritage by Annette Gero in April 2012 for the National Trust of NSW

A National Trust lecture on quilts by Annette Gero will take place in Heritage Week 2012. It will be an illustrated talk and cover Australia's quilt heritage and the history of the women who made them.
Start Date
Saturday 21 April 2012
Start Time
10:30:00 AM
End Date
Saturday 21 April 2012
End Time
11:30:00 AM
Name of Event *
Parramatta Lecture Series 2012: The Fabric of Society : Australia's quilt heritage and the history of the women who made them. An illustrated talk by Annette Gero
Venue Name *
Northcott Conference and Function Centre
Venue Address *
1 Fennell Street
Parramatta, NSW 2150
Organising Property/Committee/Branch *
Parramatta Properties with Friends of OGH & EFC

Event Description *
The Parramatta Lecture Series 2012 will highlight the history of women's work in its many facets, with a focus on colonial times. 
Dr Annette Gero, historian and author of “The Fabric of Society - Australia's Quilt Heritage from Convict Times to 1960” has been documenting and collecting quilts since 1982. She curated a stunning exhibition shown at Old Government House in 2000.
The thread that holds this patchwork of Australian history together is that every story told includes the making of a quilt. Each story draws on women's memories, diaries, their letters to relatives, official records, newspaper and magazine articles reflecting the current domestic influences.
Annette will bring along some quilts to illlustrate the talk and will be selling copies of her book.

What is on offer?
·         talk/lecture
·         food/drinks included in ticket price
Cost *
Paid Event
Non Members
Bookings essential *
Yes - see for details or phone 02 9635 8149
Tickets essential *
Event suitable for:
·         Adults

Friday, December 2, 2011

Report on the 2011 QSGA "Unfolding Tradition" Seminar

The seventh Quilt Study Group of Australia Seminar was held at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne on the 5th and 6th of November 2011 and was hosted by the Quilt Study Group Victoria. The QSGV convenor, Janet O’Dell, opened the seminar and gave an opening talk, standing in for the keynote speaker, Dr Annette Gero, who unfortunately was unable to attend. 

Janet spoke about the Braddyll quilt she bought in 2008 in England. It is made from a variety of wonderful dress silks in the grandmother’s flower garden pattern with background hexagons of honey yellow silk and a rich purple border with a gold fringe.
The Braddyll Quilt

It was made in 1842 by three sisters, the last in line of the once wealthy and prominent Braddyll family of Conishead Priory in Cumbria. We learnt of her fascinating research to date into the history of the family and the Priory, reaching back to the twelfth century.

Margaret Rolfe then presented Annette Gero’s planned talk, discussing the quilts inspired by, recreated or adapted from Annette’s book ‘Quilts: The Fabric of Society’ during a quilt challenge run by the Victorian Quilters in 2011. 
Gail Fry Chalker and Margaret Rolfe
Admiring the Challenge quilts on show
We saw images of eight of the original quilts and were able to view in detail the quilts made by the prize winners, which were hung around the room.
For more details about the challenge, see

Lynette Nilaweera then spoke about the Wool Quilt Prize and the National Wool Museum in Geelong. The collection started in 1983 in The Meat Market Craft Centre in North Melbourne as the “Running Stitch Collection” and was expanded in 1995 when a Melbourne Textile group approached the Museum to hold a competition. The collection has grown with the biennial acquisition of the winner of the only wool quilt prize awarded in Australia and New Zealand, and through the donation of quilts and waggas by owners and quilt makers. They also hold a number of wool sample books in their collection. The quilts in the collection were made from the 1890s to the present day. We were shown images of seven representative quilts in the collection and then were delighted to see images of the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 prize winning quilts from the competition.
See for more details of the Museum and the Prize.

The Martha Bergin quilt, currently on display in the Gold Rush section of the Melbourne Museum, was the subject of Margaret Rolfe’s talk. The centre of this wonderful 1843 Irish appliqué quilt is embroidered with Martha’s name, and the place it was made (Athlone) and the date it was made.
Corner of the Martha Bergin Quilt

Centre  of the quilt

 Margaret discussed the source of the chintz pieces that were broderie persed onto a white linen background, mentioning a possible link to Martha’s father’s drapery in Athlone, and similarities to another Irish quilt made around the same time in nearby Toomyvara. Margaret described how Martha Tipping née Bergin (1822–1883) came to Australia via America in 1846 at the time of the Great Irish Potato Famine and ventured into the gold fields of Victoria. It was wonderful to hear the story in the presence of her descendant, Dr Edmund Muirhead, and his wife who donated the quilt to the Melbourne Museum.

After lunch, Bronwyn Cosgrove detailed the conservation work undertaken on the 1840s Dickens Quilt by the National Gallery of Victoria. It was acquired by donation in 2007 and had spent years rolled up in a shed in country Victoria.  It is a wonderful coverlet of 16 frames made in cotton, glazed cotton, chintz, silk and wool and its condition posed serious challenges to restoring it to display quality. It had a large amount of mould, mildew, soiling, dye bleeding and iron mordant deterioration, along with rodent and silverfish damage. They estimated 30 to 35% of the fabric had been lost when it was brought in. Bronwyn took us through the five steps taken to clean, dry, stabilize and repair, then mount the quilt. The Gallery estimate that for the stitch stabilization period along, three conservators spent almost 600 hours working on the quilt. It was displayed in 2009 for four months but it is uncertain when next it will be on view. It is included in Annette Gero’s book “Quilts: The Fabric of Society” and can be viewed at

Two members of the Strathdate (Bendigo) Quilters Inc talked to us about their project to restore, research and document the 1895 Signature Quilt. It was brought to them in 2006 and contains 264 embroidered signatures of local men and women of the day (including prominent business people, local councillors, clergy, senators and MHRs, musicians, theatrical people and other community members). 

They took us through the history of Bendigo, especially during and after the gold rush. As the provenance is not certain, they believe the quilt was made as a fund raising item at the Golden City Fancy Fair in 1895 for the Sisters of Mercy Convent High School. We learnt of the history of some of those people who signed the blocks .

Centre of the 1895 Signature Quilt

 On Sunday, Alan Tremain started the day by showing some of the quilts, quilt tops and items he purchased when he travelled to USA using the Quilters’ Guild of NSW scholarship. He showed us some quilts from Gees Bend, feed sack quilts and individual quilt items and discussed their background in detail. We also saw his latest purchase, a hatchet block quilt, along with recent quilts and quilt tops he has made as educational samples. 

Alan Tremain talking about his quilts
Alan's Hatchet Quilt

You can see some of these items in the presentation Alan gave as part of his Guild Scholarship requirement on our blog at

Janet O’Dell started her talk, ‘Traditional Bed Turning of Selected pre-1850 Quilts and Coverlets’, by showing us the Maldon Crazy Quilt. It was won in a raffle around 1900 and is now owned by Sandra and Ken Jones, who were present for the talk.
The Maldon Crazy Quilt

It was made by Sarah Jackson née London, and consists of velvet and silk appliqué pieces outlined in gold threads. It has had new braid edging and backing added and is a wonderful crazy quilt that we all examined in great detail. You can read more about the maker at

Janet then showed us part of her extensive collection of quilts, coverlets and quilt tops made in the UK, USA and Holland. She loves hexie quilts, star quilts and medallion (frame) quilts and this is reflected in her purchases over the years.
Janet O'Dell (left) pointing to details on one of her quilt tops

 If you would like a copy of the seminar presentations, including photos and descriptions of Janet’s quilts, the Seminar CD costs $A10 including p. & p. within Australia. Please send orders and payment to:
P O Box 120
Briar Hill
Vic 3088
Make cheques payable to Victorian Quilters Inc Quilt Study Group.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Call for Entries - Antique Quilts of Ireland Exhibit at the Galway City Museum.

We are looking for antique Irish quilts to feature at the Galway City Museum during the 1st International Quilt Festival of Ireland. We would like to feature quilts especially around the time of the Great Famine (1845) and up to 1930.

These quilts will be on display for three weeks at the Galway City Museum starting from one week before the festival to one week after the festival. All quilts will be showcased in our festival program and in our online Showcase of Quilts.

How to submit:
If you’re interested in sharing one of your Antique Quilts please contact Suz at for all submissions and questions. IQFOI will pay the costs of shipping to and from Ireland.
Many thanks

Alan R Tremain
Director – Oz Quilt Design

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Can you identify this antique quilt?

It’s dated “Begun 1865, Done 92”, made from ¾ inch hexagons, mainly in silk, backed with strong calico with no wadding and edged with a thin cord. The initials LT are embroidered in a blue hexagon and the remains of several blue tags along one side suggest it may have been hung on a wall – perhaps, because of the cross motifs, in a church.


Its present owner is Margaret Cook and it is stored with Dr Annette Gero and is in a very fragile state.
 Margaret thought the quilt had been made by a member of the Bell family of Beaudesert in Queensland. It was in the Paddington, NSW, terrace house she bought from the estate of Pamela Bell. However, Pamela’s family have no knowledge of it; they and her friends Margaret Olley and Lyn Clarke suggested it may have been in a piece of antique furniture that Pamela bought some time after she bought the house in 1968.

Daphne has made an exact copy of the quilt for Margaret and below is a photo of her at our recent QSG meeting showing us her copy and talking about her search for the origins of the original quilt.

If you can shed any light on this find, please contact Daphne Massie care of the Quilters’ Guild of NSW Inc.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Report on the 17th September 2011 talk to the Quilt Study Group by Jennifer Corkish about her inspiration when designing quilts based on antique quilts.

Jennifer Corkish is a noted quilt designer and teacher who lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW and who specialises in antique looking quilts. She spoke to us about her inspiration when designing quilts and the process she follows for reproducing antique quilts. She was accompanied by five of her students who showed us their quilts, completed and in progress, demonstrating the variety of modifications to her quilt patterns that can be made. 
Jennifer (2nd on left) with her students
Jennifer told us that she looks at quilt auction and sale websites, museum collections, magazines, books, quilts brought along to Quilt Study Group meetings, private quilt collections and old embroideries to inspire her in designing her quilt patterns. She often takes ideas from different quilts to come up with a design that is modified in class to meet each of her students’ aims, sewing preferences and fabric choices.

Here are 3 students' variations of one of her designs  –  
We were taken through a series of images of antique quilts, their source details, Jennifer’s designs inspired by those quilts, and then we were shown 2 to 3 examples of quilts made in her classes from her patterns. Jennifer carefully explained exactly how each pattern was created and then varied for each student. Many of her Australian quilt inspirations came from photographs in Dr. Annette Gero’s books (the Frederica Josephson quilt, the Roebuck quilt, the Sarah Evans quilt, Elizabeth Hardy’s 1840 quilt, Jessie Wilson’s 1870 Medallion with Heart quilt, Mary Tolman’s 1850s hexagon quilt), Jenny Manning’s book and Aunt Clara’s quilt from the Powerhouse Museum.  
Her inspirations are many -  patterns on tiles, photographs of quilts in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Beamish Collection in the UK, and antique quilts she saw at Houston in USA. Jennifer said she prefers to use ordinary materials to design her quilt patterns – graph paper, propelling pencil, compass and protractor, but she has been known to use EQ7 and Photoshop software. Her final statement was apt: “I can’t imagine living without a needle and thread. That’s why I design, colour, stitch and teach others to do the same.”
Liz Bonner.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Report on the 30th July 2011 talk by Trish Bloomfield about the joys and pitfalls of collecting old quilts.

Trish Bloomfield owns over 100 old quilts and quilt tops, most of which she has bought over the internet. She came along with a sample of them to show us and illustrate her talk on how to become a more discerning buyer of old quilts. She started by showing us some quilts that were made in China and represented as being antiques that she owns and uses as everyday quilts on her bed. She said she has seen brand new US$50-60 quilts on e-bay being bid up to US$500–600 so it was very good to hear this warning.

Trish gave us a number of hints for trying to make sure you pay the correct price for a quilt. She believes that firstly you must research quilts by reading as many quilt history books as possible and checking various websites on the internet before you commit to buying an old quilt. She recommended as the major site to look at for recent commercially made reproduction quilts that have been sold on e-bay as old ones. The three photos above are examples of such quilts she has bought or been given. Also, by googling the block name used in a quilt you are interested in buying, you can see if there is a suspiciously large number of them for sale.

We learnt how she cares for her quilts and quilt tops and she explained how she keeps a numbered catalogue of all the quilts she buys. She transfers this information onto old doilies which she then sews on the back of the quilts. Examples are below –

Trish showed us some of her first purchases and some wonderful examples of how her taste in quilts has changed over time. Some great purchases included a whole cloth Mennonite wedding quilt that was advertised as being cotton, but turned out to be made of silk, a rare blue Marie Webster kit quilt, a Ruby McKim state flower quilt, a 1960s cross stitch kit quilt and a bright poly cotton 1960s Seven Sisters quilt. She finished her talk by showing us her latest purchases of a French bouti petticoat bought from a Swiss antique dealer’s website and two North England whole cloth quilts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Report on the Quilt Study Group Meeting covering the Powerhouse Museum Quilt Documentation Project held on the 7th May 2011 at Burwood

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.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quilt Documentation for the Powerhouse Museum talk this Saturday

Join the Quilt Study Group of NSW at 2pm on Saturday 7th May 2011 at Burwood RSL as the committee members reveal the results of their research into quilts held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. 

The quilt catalogue was in need of an upgrade and the committee of the QSG of NSW was invited by Christina Sumner to begin the lengthy process of reviewing it for the Museum. Four members of the committee, Dr Annette Gero, Liz Bonner, Sandra Lyons, and Karen Fail selected a quilt each to review and have been lucky enough to see the quilts, photograph sections of them and with further research, review and if necessary add to the existing documentation held by the PH about the history of the quilts and quilt makers.  Once completed, the new information will become available online.

A new form was designed for the purpose and we have been reviewing and adding to the catalogue for three months. This process has taken longer than expected as in some cases, the quilts were not known to us and we needed to see them. Of great interest to us and the Powerhouse Museum are the three North Country quilts (A8645, 85/1274, 85/1275) made by the same women, Hannah Reed, who Liz Bonner is researching. The donor, Hannah’s granddaughter, had provided many family records and photographs but none of this information had been collated and recorded in the quilt catalogue. Liz will be sharing her findings at the meeting on Saturday.

The PH quilt collection, while not huge, is representative of quilt history in Australia and included in the collection are several contemporary quilts including a triptych by Barbara Macey (2001/13/1) along with her 'suitcase' quilt, which was included in the Quilts Covering Australia travelling exhibition which was part of the 1988 Bicentenary Celebrations. Karen Fail has been researching Barbara and her quilts and will share the work of this outstanding and very influential Australian quilt maker.

One of Dr. Annette Gero's specialities is Army Quilts and she is currently studying the example at the PH (98/48/1), which is supposed to have been made in Tasmania around 1870 from war army uniforms from the British 90th Regiment of Foot, and will share her findings. While Sandra Lyons has looked at an amazing wool quilt (96/393/1) called ‘Goodnight, Sleep Tight’ made by Canberra quilt maker, Jocelyn Cambell.

It has been an exciting journey working Christina Sumner and learning how to correctly 'curate' items for the PH. They in turn are delighted to train us and to have us add our expertise to the information already available.

We are hoping to introduce you to this process of cataloguing and researching quilts in a way that is acceptable to museums and other institutions. So in the programme on Saturday, you will have a chance to look at the paperwork that we are using, and see how it is done. This initial training may lead to further training as other opportunities for assisting institutions and their quilt catalogues arise.

If you want to research any quilts in the Powerhouse Museums collection, their database is online at -

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 Australian Quilt Study Group Seminar

The next Australian Quilt Study Group Seminar will be held in Melbourne on the 5th and 6th of November 2011. 

For the first time Victoria will host this very special event. The Seminar brings quilt enthusiasts together for a weekend engaged in quilt study. In addition to the presentation of research and a renowned keynote speaker, other events include a show-and-tell of remarkable quilts and an on-site quilt exhibition.

The Seminar presents the opportunity to view quilts from new perspectives, discuss aspects of women's and cultural history, and learn the latest in documentation and research.

Details are yet to be finalised but if you are interested in attending and would like to be on the mailing list for entry forms and brochures please send your contact details to:

The QSGV Convenor, Janet O’Dell
P O Box 120, Briar Hill 3088
Tel: 03 9434 7127

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Report on the 12th March 2011 Japanese Textiles: Then and Now talk

Our guest speaker was Lynn Hewitt who is a past President & long time member of the Quilters' Guild of NSW Inc. Lynn has been visiting Japan since 2002, when she and Jane Gibson were invited by the city of Nagoya to represent Sydney and the Quilters' Guild of NSW Inc at the International Quilt Fair. Since that first visit Lynn has been back 5 times, including twice as the tour leader for quilting tours. Apart from her own visits, Lynn's original interest began through her daughter, who learned Japanese and went there on a school exchange - thus beginning a series of return visits firstly by school children and then followed later by adults, a number of whom have become good friends with Lynn and her husband Ted.

Lynn began her talk with a PowerPoint presentation showing a map of Japan to highlight the various areas where textiles are produced. As she progressed through the talk, Lynn described the different textile types and their production. She also explained the origin of the Kamon crest which we are so used to seeing in quilts today and how Sashiko was used to patch and mend garments. (A fireman’s outfit was made of many layers stitched together and when needed was doused with water to protect him from the fires). 

After discussing design elements of Japanese textiles and how, for instance, different plants symbolise the different seasons ( Spring - plum and cherry blossom, Summer- iris & a flowing stream, Autumn-chrysanthemum and Winter - bamboo leaves), Lynn went on to tell us about Yuzen dyeing. She explained how it is done, how it can take up to 4 months for the design to be transferred, and the different elements painted - hence the high price to be paid for many of the beautiful Kimonos we see (that is unless you are lucky to get to a second hand market or a quilt show, where a number of people from the audience later told us they has picked them up for a song).  Lynn then spoke about how the indigo dye was produced and how some cloths are dyed up to 150 times to get the pattern and colour desired. She showed us examples of the different Shibori dyeing techniques as well as some images of amazing quilts made using indigo fabrics
After her very informative talk Lynn showed many examples of the textiles she had described earlier. She then went on to show some of the quilts she has made using her Japanese fabric. Some of it was most unusual, one piece purported to be woven banana leaf, but she couldn’t actually confirm this as her Japanese didn't stretch that far. But it was an interesting piece to see!

Following Lynn’s talk and her showcase there was a great ‘Show and Tell’ from the audience ranging from amazing fabrics picked up in the backstreets, kimono and yukata garments, and of course lovely quilts made from Japanese fabrics.