What can you make from sewing supplies including tape, 10 yards of fabric, four balls of white cotton sewing thread, a ball each of black, red and blue thread, black wool, 24 hanks of coloured thread, a thimble, 100 needles, threads, pins, scissors and two pounds of patchwork pieces (or almost ten metres of fabric)?
If you’re a nineteenth century convict woman being transported to Australia?
Elizabeth Fry and other Quaker women provided these supplies, and in 1841 on the ship Rajah, this quilt was made. It includes embroidery, patchwork and applique, and is, according to its inscription, a proof that they [convicts] have not neglected the ladies kind admonitions of being industrious.
Now part of the textile collection at the National Gallery of Australia and one of Australia’s most important historical textiles, it is only on display intermittently due to its fragility. Its value lies not only in its survival as art, but what it tells us of the times from which it came, the women who contributed to its making and the textiles and technology of those days.
The Canberra Quilters’ annual show is on this weekend in Canberra as well – always an inspiring and varied collection of quilts. Canberra Quilters celebrate their 30th year in 2006 – they are one of the most long-established quilt groups in Australia.
Rajah image from the National Gallery of Australia site.