A patchwork block made in chintz
This is an important example of prepared blocks intended for a patchwork quilt or table covering. The fabric pieces date from the late 1700s to the 1830s, with examples of block and roller printing. It is thought that the blocks were stitched in the 1830s however they could have been produced over a long period of time. As all the fabrics are in excellent condition and the original materials were costly this is not an example of a covering being made out of necessity. Rather it is an example of needlework providing a creative and time consuming pastime for a genteel woman. At the time this covering was being made women of the middle and upper classes were encouraged to pursue such activities as evidence of their 'refinement' and of their families' prosperity. They were to be 'the angel in the house', removed from the world of (paid) work and thus able to preserve moral and spiritual values.
The patches still have their original paper templates in place; many of these are covered with handwritten numbers and are perhaps from a school exercise book as they have scraps of arithmetic, geography and history lessons and religious printed texts. There are various handwritten scraps in a number of different hands, including 'Clayton 1830'. Clayton is a family name of the donor's.
The fact that this covering is unfinished makes it all the more interesting as it clearly demonstrates construction techniques. Quilts are made for various reasons, and often become family heirlooms. They not only record the life and work of the maker, but chronicle changes in fabric design and printing techniques, along with social and cultural changes, particularly relating to women's role in society.
Roszika Parker, 'The subversive stitch: embroidery and the making of the feminine', The Women's Press, 1986