Thursday, September 12, 2013

Quilts from yesteryear- The Rajah Quilt

This is a photo of the Rajah Quilt.  This quilt was made on board the ship Rajah.  It is thought to have been made by group of convicts who were being transported from England to Tasmania.  There must have been made by a number of women as there are many different stitching styles and stitch sizes.  Not every convict was a proficient needle woman.  Some unknown person must have masterminded this work. The quilt was sent back to England as a thank you gift for Elizabeth Fry.  Elizabeth Fry and her ladies formed a group which organised for activities and other things for the convicts to do.  If you could sew you would have some employable skill in the new colonies.  It is not known if Elizabeth Fry ever saw this quilt as the quilt was lost for some years.  It is frail and small blood and perspiration stains show.  

If you want to know a little more here are some articles

1.  http://nga.gov.au/rajahquilt/
2.  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/stitches-in-time/story-fn9n8gph-1226663120523

Ever since I heard of this quilt I have wanted to see it.  It has been on show as part of the "Quilts 1700 to 1945" at the Queensland Art Gallery.  Today I finally made it into town to see this treasure.  The fabric in the middle is of a better quality and has broderie perse to form the central medallion.  Then there are borders of various patches and finally another border with more appliqué.  At the bottom there is a cross stitch section which tells the story of the gift.

I felt like I witnessed one of our national treasures.  

The exhibition had other beautiful items which took my breath away.  Tiny seed beads worked into pin cushions.  The needles must have been so expensive and rare as they would have been so fine  A purse that was someone's sampler type work.  There were bed hangings and quilts.  Some of them had the closest quilting.  I was in awe of the stitching that was oh so small.  Some of the quilts were made of military materials which would have been quite a challenge.  So many quilts had stories to tell.  There were quilts made of ribbons and others that tell the age old story of recycling at its most useful. One quilt even had a map of England and each county was named. Even the backs of some quilt tops were shown.  Interesting bits of newspaper, account and copy books were there to be seen. It was an experience that was well worth my entry fee.

I certainly hope you have been able to follow my ramble about this incredible treat.



2 comments:

Marie said...

What a beautiful piece of work and history Suzan. You are right, it IS a national treasure! Loved reading about it! xxoo

Suze said...

Thank you Marie. It is amazing to know that these women were sent with thimble, thread, patches of fabric etc. I have been told that some more quilts were made but were sold en route and the money made was shared between the convicts.