I love learning about the history of quilting, and if I could make a trip to London right now, I would definitely check out the Quilts 1700–2010 Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibit, which runs through July 4, features more than 65 examples of British quilting, as well as paintings and personal artifacts from quilters. It’s also the V&A’s first major exhibit to focus on British patchwork and quiltmaking (including both domestic production and fine-art practice).
But since an overseas journey isn’t in the cards this summer, I was really excited to receive a review copy of Quilts 1700–2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories (edited by Sue Prichard; V&A Publishing, 2010).
This book, published to complement the exhibit, divides 300 years of British quilting into four chapters: 18th century, 19th century, 1900–1945, and 1945–2010. Each chapter contains essays about significant quilt styles and movements from each time period.
Here are three fun facts I learned from the book:
- “Paning,” the joining of fabric pieces in different colors to create bed furnishings in the 16th century, was the precursor to patchwork.
- Printed cottons became accessible and gained popularity in the 19th century. Broderie perse is a technique for making quilts that left large pieces of fabric intact in order to best showcase the printed designs.
- The Women’s Institute movement was founded by metropolitan women after World War I to sustain traditional rural crafts. The group’s activities included a Guild of Learners. After achieving basic proficiency, members of the guild could takes exams to become teachers, demonstrators, and judges.
While I enjoyed reading the essays, my absolute favorite part of the book is the stunning photography featuring quilts from the exhibit. In my opinion, the best shots are the full-page details that showcase the beautiful details of the quilts. There’s also a “Catalogue” in the back featuring photos and a brief history of each piece in the exhibit–definitely a nice consolation prize for those of us who can’t see the exhibit in person! Even if you do, it’d make a great souvenir.