It’s fascinating to imagine that female convicts on ships to Australia, were sewing beautiful quilts. They were leaving heavily populated cobble streets and embarking on a tour into the wild unknown.It was a place where currency was rum, women were few and some unthinkable dark terrors took place.The unfree made free and the free made unfree.
This quilt was created by the women on board the Rajah in 1841, they were taught by Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker reformer.
‘The Australian quilting tradition developed in response to a unique set of factors that sets it apart from other quilting traditions internationally.’ NGV
There was the odd sailor that picked up a needle and thread and made his own quilt.
This example is a work of Art, an intricate geometric design, with a contemporary feel. The beauty of the quilt is that it is also functional. The time poured over the work creates a meditative element that transfers an emotional or spiritual quality to the work.
During WW1 and WW2, ‘quilts were a means of rallying support’.
To this day, some churches still create quilts to place over the unwell. The quilt can also serve as an historical piece, recording the members of a congregation, club or school.
Some stitched a bit of wisdom to guide the next generation.
The charming Westbury quilt was created by a Tasmanian family, it was intended to be a raffle prize. Its a mix of British domestic influence and Australiana.
Others competed to be the ‘craziest’ of the ‘crazy quilt’ fashion, that was the sewing movement at a time, when European Art was shaking off the shackles of the past. The British settlers had no cultural roots in Australia, they could push the boundaries of traditional Arts.
Some caught the eye of the galleries to be immortalised. Mothers often sewed quilts for their children or were given to them by a loving friend or family member. Mary Jane Hannford’s ‘Goodnight Quilt’ was made for her 11 year old grandson.
‘The subject matter of Hannafords quilt includes patriotism, religious faith, the love of Australian wildlife and the marking of key family events’
Some works were sewed roughly, not for beauty or art but for warmth. The gathering of discarded clothes, recycled into a rug. The perfect art for Depression and War when materials are few and patience is limited.
‘real rag bag waggas, hessian bags or patchwork-covered army blankets, but still rich in the memories embedded in their cloth.’ Annette Gero
It’s a pictoral exploration into our past, through fabric. Mostly, but not exclusively a womens history. Sewing groups were also social and community acts. It’s an engaging exhibition.