On Saturday, when I went to Rocheberie Quilters in Rugby, the speaker was Barbara Chainey. I knew of her excellent work but had never heard her speak. We had a real treat. Not only was her work very inspiring, but she was amusing and very down to earth, and an excellent speaker. However, the best part of the day for me was when she took a little time to look at the old quilt we have.
Striaghtaway she said it was beyond repair. She looked at the fabrics and said that there were at least two which were woodblock prints, and one was a known pillar print. It's the glazed chintz with the shield and chain fence background on in the picture. She thought that was about 1830. There was another floral chintz which was from the same era.
There were also patches of purple fabric, which became very fashionable when William Perkin invented analine mauve dye in 1856. (This was first used for silks, but influenced cotton fabric production where the colour was much duller, as here). The red fabric with the seaweed pattern is in fact a double pink.
Barbara thought some of the fabrics had been dyed using a manganese solution, which had rotted the fabric, and caused so much of the damage.
Barbara also confirmed what we had thought, that the quilt had been remodelled, probably in the 1940s or 1950s, just before it was sold. The multicoloured patches are mid-twentieth century fabric which has been appliqued on top of the patches. Maybe it was to repair or strengthen it or maybe to brighten it up.
It's obvious how out of keeping these patches are. Barbara also said that the backing and quilting had certainly been done at the same time. The backing is a furnishing fabric and the quilting is 'in the ditch', a fashion never seen on old quilts. The inner is domette, which is a lightweight lining fabric used in curtain making.
The egde is finished in a very unusual way. The edge of the quilt top has been folded over to a depth of about an inch (losing all the points on the front!), and then the backing has been slipstitched on (with green thread - another 20th century giveaway!) about a quarter of an inch below the fold. An old British quilt would have been finished with a knife edge.
All in all, the quilt is still a puzzle. It seems that the top is mid/late Victorian (it's only as old as its youngest fabric) which was originally either a top or a coverlet. Someone decided to remodel it in the 1950s, appliqued some patches on top, layered it with domette and furnishing fabric, quilted it in the ditch and sold it.
Thanks to Barbara for this information, but I'm still looking for more!