Petal or pocket quilt, hand embroidered cotton, maker unknown, probably made in England, c. 1900
This is a most unusual quilt, made from over a thousand petal-shaped pieces cut from printed cotton fabrics bearing illustrations of people and flowers, animals, baskets, ducks and houses. Probably made in England in the late 1800s or early 1900s, the special charm of this quilt is in large part due to the way in which the petal pieces have been very carefully cut, so that each has a centralised image, and then meticulously arranged to create whimsical scenarios and stories. A Regency buck reads to an attentive woman in the neighbouring piece; another man brings a bouquet of flowers to a waiting girl; chubby children alternate with plants and animals in a rural landscape; flowers bloom.
The skill with which each petal piece has been evenly buttonhole-stitched along each side and around the curved top is also impressive, and indicative of the dedication and time invested in the quilt by its unknown maker. The occasional petal has itself been lovingly pieced from fragments of fabric to create additional picture pieces, and the seams on these have also been buttonholed.
The petal quilt was brought to Australia from England in about 2005, adding to the body of inspirational quilts which have found their way to this side of the world. Australia's own rich quilting heritage, which dates from the earliest days of the colony to the present day, owes much to the earlier English, and American, quilt traditions.
The quilt was probably made in England c. 1900.
An unusual pieced construction has been used to make this petal or pocket quilt. The pieces are petal shaped, basically rectangular with one end evenly rounded, like the end of a paddle pop stick; they are all the same size with the exception of a row across the middle. Starting from each end, rows of petals have been laid down, meeting in the middle with the row of rounded pieces featuring red flowers.
The petal pieces have been carefully cut from printed cotton fabric so that images, mainly of people and flowers, but also baskets, houses, ducks, animals etc are centralised. They have then been arranged in rows across the quilt with painstaking care to juxtapose the people portrayed and so create stories.
Each petal piece is backed with cotton fabric and buttonhole stitched around the curved end in a range of soft yellow, green, blue, mauve and claret colours. The buttonhole stitching is quite extraordinarily evenly worked, and is interlaced with the neighbouring piece which gives the structure structural strength. Additionally, a buttonhole bar ties every petal to its neighbour at the point where the curve of the petals begins. The curved tops of the petals are left open, forming small pockets.
The quilt is backed with cotton fabric and is not padded.
The quilt was purchased in England by the vendor Carina Cox in about 2005 and has been in her personal collection since that time. Mrs Cox and her husband Robert established the antiques and collectables business Peppergreen in Berrima in the early 1990s.