Sunday, 21 February 2010

Patchwork & Durham Quilts

I have been buying a lot of quilts over the past month. There were several good examples at a textiles auction down in North Yorkshire recently - from Durham wholecloth and strippy quilts to English log cabin patchwork and American patchwork.

Whilst the tradition of patchwork quilts is well known across both the UK and USA, the Durham quilt is perhaps less well known and I am often asked about what "makes" a Durham quilt.

Durham is a town and a county in the North of England and the Durham style of quilts originates from the Northern Counties of England. However "Durham" quilt is now used to describe a quilt made in a specific manner rather than one that originates from Durham. The basic construction of a Durham quilt does not differ from those made elsewhere - they have a top and bottom layer and  a layer of padding in-between. The three layers are then stitched together - usually by hand. However the feature that makes a "Durham" is the quilting pattern which is used to give a sculptural quality to the surface of the quilt. These patterns can involve a number of different named designs - Running Feather, Cable, Rose Motif and very often a central circular deisgn thought by many to represent the Pit Wheel that would so dominate the skyline in the North-East coal mining communities during the 19th century however "strippy" quilts are a paticular feature of North Country quilts. The quilt top was formed by alternating strips of plain fabrics - usually white alternating with red, blue, pink  or yellow and then the quilting was carried out up the stripes.

                                I will be selling some of the Durham quilts that I bought over the next few weeks on Ebay - I just have the task of washing them first!