I now have a Museum Association pass, and wishing to exploit it, I found myself paying a speedy visit to the Quilts exhibition at the V&A. This was coincidently the same week that I had a go at quilting myself, using the cut off ends of brown trousers and a Singer sewing machine from Lidl.
There are 65 quilts hanging, billowing and lying in the exhibition and they date form 1700 to the present day. Looking at beautiful objects on display, and deciding which one I like and don’t like, reminds me of the shopping experience. Once in the mood, it’s okay as the shop is not far away.
The patchwork quilts are made up from many pieces of fabric, often small pieces fitted together as a means to make a big covering. This process is very efficient in use of material and as time consuming as it is efficient. Some say it is a way of creating social bonds, as many people work collectively on one piece. A great deal of thought, planning and care is involved. In fact the skill is quite astonishing; one clever seamstress turned out to be 10 year old girl and other precise workers were wounded soldiers.
The quilts give the feeling only hand made objects can, a mysterious quality shared with home made food. Sometimes old fabrics, which had a nostalgic value, were reused and given a new life as part of a quilt, like a fabric photo album or scrap book.
It is the opposite of throw away mass production. Quilts were major gifts or commisions and so valued they were likely to be kept as an heir loom; unlike the quilts, high street and Ikea products are made to be with us for a short time and then replaced. They come in high quantities. There is no connection with the far away maker, the products are quick to manufacture and without the value that is added by craftsmanship. I do not know if the people in the factories are rewarded with a an increased social bond.
So will I be making a quilt or paying a trip to Ikea? It just depends if there is time….