Global Perspective: Australian Wagga Quilts
This wagga, made in the 1950s by Ethel May Woodman in Burra, South Australia, is an example of a depression rug. She machine-stitched it and many others from wool and corduroy skirt and suiting fabrics to keep her husband and son warm while they hunted and trapped rabbits during a plague.
Waggas are generally subdued in color because palettes were limited to the available scrap materials, but some women took care to create attractive waggas for their homes. In her book Australia’s Quilts: A Directory of Patchwork Treasures (AQD Press, 2000), Jenny Manning says waggas were “designed for thrift and need rather than beauty, through some were not only warm but also decorative.”
Woodman’s wagga features a complementary color scheme, red and green, with punches of red placed deliberately to draw the eye around the design. “What’s striking is that even though people are using what they have on hand and working in an improvisational way, some still emerged with an artistic eye,” says Carolyn Ducey, curator at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. “Ethel could have used simple strips of fabrics, but she created a frame look. Even though it was something that was going to be very utilitarian, it’s still something that she probably took great pride in creating.”
Photo courtesy of International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2007.010.0001.
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