Friday, 12 June 2009

Visit to Forge Mill Needle Museum

It was on a warm and pleasant summer's day that 6 members had a visit to the Forge Mill Needle Museum. Our main purpose was to view the exhibition 'Quilting Yarns' which comprised some of the quilts owned by Jane Cobbett, ranging from the 1860s to the 1950s. Here we are in front of the museum. Left to right there is Lynda, Alison, Paula, Ruth, Eileen and Ginnie.

The exhibition was very good, and while it wasn't huge (about 20 pieces altogether) it was lovely to have the time to view and discuss them all in detail, with like-minded enthusiasts. Here are photos of some of the quilts.

This one was entitled 'Woollen Comforter' and was made of feedsacks, recycled clothing and dressmaking scraps from the 1920s and 30s. It was made in Pittsford, New York, USA, and was particularly delightful in the motifs embroidered on many of the patches. Some were initials (including, strangely, Ruth's initials of A.R.W) mostly ending with S, some dated and having ages added - one as young as 3 months, so perhaps not done in person! Some were animals, rabbits, chickens, geese etc., and some little scenes, such as a beehive and returning from milking and other motifs including several hands and a guitar. There were some interesting stitches joining the patches together too, mainly feather stitch but with some intriguing variations. The quilt had cotton wadding and a woollen backing, and six people who all wished they could take it home with them!

This is the Pease quilt. It belonged to the Pease family of Darlington UK but was not British, and had probably been brought over from the USA by them. It was made in the 1880s and the block is called The Star of Alabama. We really liked this quilt, but wondered why the maker had included the two very dark star fabrics in the top blocks. Maybe it was all she had, but we also wondered whether all the fabrics had had the same intensity originally, but the rest had faded. This is where we wished we had more knowledge of dyes and their effects on fabric!

This was a small unfinished fragment called Fussycut Stars. It was Scottish and had been made in the late Victorian era. It was all silk, and the fabrics had been meticulously cut and pieced to make beautiful patterns in the centres of the stars. Some of them (on the bottom right for example) looked as if they had been embroidered, but on closer inspection, it was the pattern of the fabric which had been used to full effect. It had probably been shut in a cupboard for years, as the colours were sumptuous.

Here is another quilt made of silks, velvets and other fabrics. This one is not of the same quality, but when you realise that it had been made by a 12 year old girl called Elizabeth Brown as a doll's quilt, you can appreciate it fully. It was made in Barrow upon Humber, UK in 1877. The unusual arrangement of blocks makes the design look rather like flying geese.

Here is another log cabin, his time in the straight furrows arrangement. This quilt had been made of feedsacks in Nebraska in the 1930s. It had been tied with blue wool, and the ties make a pleasing pattern over the surface. Unusually for an American quilt, it had not been bound, but the edges had been folded in and whipstitched.

This is a Welsh quilt, or at least, what was left of it! The date was not known, but it was made in Glamorgan. Both sides had been cut off for some reason, leaving it in a sorry state. Just imagine if that was your quilt, and someone had taken the scissors to it! It's just too awful to contemplate!

This beautiful quilt is a Bow Tie design, made in 1880, with blocks finishing at 4". We spent some time examining this at close quarters, trying to work out if it had been made over papers or not. (We didn't decide!) But when we had moved on and looked at it from further away, we were able to appreciate the soft colouring.

This Redwork quilt was made in Nantucket Island in the 1940s, probably from a commercial kits or pattern. It charmed us, and intrigued us in equal measure. Most of the blocks were cute designs of Sunbonnet Sue-type figures, but in the centre of the quilt (the first complete row in the picture above the bar) there were the initals V and K. We wondered if these were the initials of the maker or recipient. then we spotted another initial, I, in the second row, second block. Why were these letters included? Were they significant, or were they ones supplied with the kit, or ones she felt like making? There were no answers but we loved the freshness of the quilt.

Once we had viewed the exhibition, we went downstairs to see the recreation of a Victorian needle factory. We were amazed to find it took 30 different proceedures to turn a piece of wire into a needle, and the most skilled part, that of pointing the needle earned its workers a guinea (£1 and one shilling) a week, but gave them silicosis of the lungs, meaning that their life expectancy was only 30 years! Some young people had come to show the workings of the factory and were kind enough to let me take their photos. These young men were doing the shaping and stamping of the needles,

these young ladies were filing the edges of the eyes, and the overseer was keeping a stern eye on them! All in all we had a great day out. The museum is well worth a visit, and there was a lovely picnic space with tables and a children's play area with plenty of space to play and run about. The exhibition runs only till the 28th June, so if you would like to see these quilts (and others) in person, then go quickly or you'll miss your chance. If you can't go but would like to see more of the quilts, look on my blog here for the rest of the photos.

No comments: