Quilt, 'Friendship', embroidered crazy patchwork, cotton / silk / felt, Marion Gibson, Australia, 1892
This is a rare example of a quilt that is not only well provenanced but whose maker left a detailed description of its construction and materials and the reason for making it. Marion Gibson was born in Scotland, the daughter of a tailor. In 1854 she married John Gibson, a bootmaker, and John persuaded Marion, who lame in one leg, to sail for Australia. On the journey he truned one guinea into 2 by making and mending boots for the passengers.They settled in Colac in Victoria where John set up business as a bootmaker until, in 1875, fulfilling is lifetime ambition to take up farming. The family signed up for selections in the Hay district and bought a property, 'Narringa', outside Hay. There Marion Gibson established a home for her family, which eventually grew to nine children, eight boys and one girl. In addition to her work in the home and her activities on behalf of rural settlers generally, Marion was known for her skills as a needlewoman and this is only one of a number of pieces that survive.
Crazy patchwork was a new form of patchwork and quilting that was particularly popular in the 1890s. Originating in the United States, the emphasis was on bringing together different colours and textures to produce a vibrant mix. Crazy quilts were further enriched by embroidering the joins and randomly adding flowers, birds and other decorative elements. As a quilting method it was not without its detractors. In 1884 an editorial in the American magazine, 'Harper's Bazaar', complained 'the makers of crazy patchwork seem to have entered on the insane route that takes reason prisoner'. In 1889, the 'Sewing Machine Advance' claimed that a crazy quilt was so called 'because it drives a man nearly crazy when his wife makes one, for it keeps her so busily engaged that she has no time for other work.'
However these sentiments were not shared by Marion Gibson. She specifically chose this style so as to enable her to incorporate scraps of materials, clothes and other mementoes from friends and family. As she wrote in a letter to her granddaughter, 'With the exception of a few scraps of ribbon it was all made up with peices [sic] from friends far and near. I called it the Friendship Quilt and to me it was a labour of love and given to you as my eldest grand-daughter ... I am sorry I cannot write a history of it -- for as the eye is dazzled by the many colours of the different bits, so the mind is puzzled by the loving memories of dear friends who contributed and took an interest in the Friendship Quilt ... I must add I spent many a happy hour on it.'
The pieces came from wedding dresses, men's ties, children's clothes, favourite ribbons, bonnet trimmings and other personal items. There is even a piece from the crown of a neighbour's hat, 'which I did not care for, but put on to please him'. As Marion Gibson concluded, 'I went in for "Federation" on this quilt -- for all classes are united.'
This quilt was designed and made by Marion Gibson, Hay, New South Wales. At the time, crazy patchwork was very fashionable and heavily promoted in women's magazines. The style involved stitching together irregular shaped pieces of different materials to produce a vibrant mix of fabrics, textures and colours. Marion Gibson specifically chose this method to allow her to use scraps and pieces from friends 'far and near'. She called it her 'Friendship Quilt'.
The quilt was made by Marion Gibson. She later wrote to her granddaughter about it, 'I called it the Friendship Quilt and to me it was a labour of love .... I am sorry I cannot write a history of it -- for as the eye is dazzled by the many colours of the different bits, so the mind is puzzled by the loving memories of dear friends who contributed and took an interest in the Friendship Quilt ... I must add I spent many a happy hour on it.'
Heather Garland 21/1/2013 - My great grandmother used blanket stitch between the patches on her early quilts and only later feather stitch as seen in this quilt.
The quilt was made by Marion Gibson and passed to her eldest grand-daughter. It has since been treasured by successive generations of women in the Gibson family.
The quilt was about to be sold at an auction overseas when the family got together and raised $10,000 to purchase it. Overseas it would have fetched a higher price than in Australia.
A book was written about the Gibson family - to be located.
The Hay Museum has many objects relating to the Gibson family history.