Monday, 25 April 2016

Stitching update and quilting soliders


I have been working on Ann Lawle this weekend.


There was a slub in the linen that could not be teased out. It was in the worse spot - the centre flower where a tent stitch had to sit

It is easy to think of quilting as a feminine pastime but during the later half of the 19th century to around 1910 (when khaki uniforms were introduced) soldiers often quilted.

Portrait of Private Thomas Wood 1856 - injured at the battle of Inkerman
Painted by Thomas Wood and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1855 this portrait shows Private Thomas Walker sewing a quilt. In 1855, while convalescing after a successful trepanning operation, he was seen by Queen Victoria during her visit to Fort Pitt Military Hospital. Walker sustained a head injury at the battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War, when a shell burst above his head and a silver plate was inserted in his skull.

The painting shows how Walker is constructing his quilt by sewing triangles of uniform wool together. The colours, red, black, gold and white reflect the colours of his uniform which hangs at the foot of the bed. His regiment was the 95th Derbyshire Regiment

Military or soldiers' quilts are made from wool serge or worsted twill, used in the production of military uniforms. Because of the thickness of the cloth, piercing and sewing the quilts was extremely difficult and it is unlikely that any military quilts were made by women. The mid-nineteenth century was a period when the fashion for colourful and elaborate patchwork was most prolific in Britain and military quilts represent a unique chapter in the history of the craft.


Military quilts are often referred to as 'Crimean Quilts' (Crimean War 1853-56). Brightness of colour is a key feature of quilts made in India, unlike the more subdued colour palette of Crimean quilts. Originally attributed to William Brayley, research revealed that the quilt shown above was actually made by his father, Francis Brayley, a Private in the 1st, 11th Foot Regiment, who served in India between 1864 and 1877. Within a month of returning to England, Brayley married Mary Ann Ash, with whom he had one son, William. Brayley died three years later from tuberculosis.


The quilt is made from pieced wool with a complex geometric pattern created from small hexagons featuring six point stars, large diamonds and hexagons in black, white, red, green and yellow.


Each individual hexagon measures 1.5 cm in diameter and is backed with green damask.
The quilt measures 238 x 238 cms squared.imageIt is thought that the quilt was made during the Regiment's 13 year tour of Bengal India (1864 - 1877). Long postings were monotonous and stressful. Soldiers had to cope with extreme heat, life threatening situations and disease. 

Quilting was a way to relieve the boredom and it was acknowledged in military and medical circles of the time that it helped healing. Private Bayley may well have pieced the quilt together whilst hospitalised in 1875/6 for "Rifle Drill Fatique" .
Images of the Francis Bayley quilt are the copyright of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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