Monday, March 9, 2009

Jane Austen: Seamstress and Quilter

The middle of a medallion quilt made by Jane Austen, her sister Cassandra, and her mother.

Jane Austen considered her books to be her "children," not her craft. In crafts, she was proud of her sewing and needlework. Jane, her sister Cassandra, and her mother made this medallion quilt shown above. In May 1811, in a letter to Cassandra, Jane asked, "have you remembered to collect pieces for the Patchwork? -- we are now at a standstill." According to the Jane Austen Society of Australia, "This very fine patchwork quilt uses 64 different fabrics. The quilt is worked using two sizes of lozenge diamond, and a rhomboid shape of black-and-white spotted fabric for the light-coloured 'trellis' effect dividing the diamonds. Each diamond-shaped patch is placed in sequences of four around a central diamond-shaped floral motif featuring a basket of flowers. The quilt has a deep border of smaller diamond patches adorned with landscapes and flowers."

The museum at the house in Chawton, where Jane lived with her mother and sister, also has a white embroidered Indian muslin tucker and a white embroidered lawn handkerchief that Jane crafted. As a young woman, she also made a tiny embroidered sewing bag as a present for Martha Lloyd, which, reports David Cecil, contained thread, needles, and a tiny pocket with this poesy written in tiny handwriting:

This little bag, I hope, will prove
To be not vainly made,
For should you thread and needles want.
It will afford you aid.

And, as we are about to part,
Twill serve another end:
For, when you look upon this bag,
You'll recollect your friend.

This picture of the quilt shows the border which was created with tiny diamonds in darker prints.

For information on seamstresses in Jane Austen's day, see Jane Austen's World.


Suzanne said...

It's so lovely. The basket form in the center reminds me of a Baltimore quilt. A woman's needlework skills were considered very important.

- Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife

Christina said...