There’s just a month left to visit the stunning North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions exhibition at The Bowes Museum.
It features 26 of the very best examples of exquisite historical and contemporary quilts made in the North of England, each with a fascinating story to tell, that have been acquired by the Museum in the last 20 years.
The exhibition brings together the past and present of the living tradition that’s been passed down through the generations and that’s seeing a huge resurgence in popularity today.
Curated by The Bowes Museum’s Curator of Fashion and Textiles, Joanna Hashagen and the Author and Exhibition Consultant, Dorothy Osler, it follows on from the hugely successful North Country Quilts: Legend and Living Tradition exhibition in 2000.
Visitors will be able to see the finest wholecloth, pieced, strippy and patchwork quilts as well as templates and wholecloth quilt tops and while the Museum’s Christmas Market is on they’ll be able to speak to expert quilters Margaret and Aidan Nichol in action in the gallery as they demonstrate the skills needed to create these fabric masterpieces.
Joanna Hashagen said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for people to come and get an insight into how and why these different styles of quilts were made and to see up close the intricate workmanship that went into creating the softly sculptured patterns that subtly adorn their surfaces before the exhibition closes in January.”
One of the stand out quilts in the display is a charming strippy quilt made by Hannah Hauxwell’s grandmother, Elizabeth Bayles, in the 1880s. Hannah Hauxwell rose to fame when Yorkshire Television made a documentary about her life working alone on a remote Upper Teesdale farm with no running water or electricity in the 1970s.
Another is a beautiful block patchwork coverlet of Single Irish Chain Design that bears the words ‘ Isabella Peacock own work age 14 1855’ in the centrepiece.
There is a breath-taking Pink Star-pieced quilt in the Sanderson Star design, that was acquired by the Museum in 2020 and last wowed visitors in Japan, when it was displayed during International Quilt Week in Yokohama in 2008. It has been recognised by quilt experts as one of the very finest examples of the iconic style which takes its name from the woman who designed the pattern, Elizabeth Sanderson from Allenheads in Northumberland.
Visitors can admire contemporary examples of the craft with Leila Anderson’s hand-painted silk quilts making up a series of the seasons. They echo North Country strippy quilts in their rectangular fields of colour and pay homage to the landscape of Teesdale where Leila grew up.
One of the most striking quilts in the exhibition is ‘Plantforms’ designed by the Berwickshire based contemporary textile artist Pauline Burbidge. Pauline draws inspiration from the natural world but also references the North Country quilting tradition in her work. She created ‘Plantforms’, a black and white monochrome work, so that the pattern on the back is every bit as important as that on the top surface, where you can clearly see the link to nature and landscape in the finished design.
A fascinating and beautifully illustrated 68-page catalogue written by Dorothy Osler, with foreword by Joanna Hashagen, delves into the details of the individual quilts on show, their history, provenance, construction and pattern to accompany the exhibition. North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions by The Bowes Museum is available from the Museum shop priced at £7.95.
The book that accompanied the 2000 exhibition, North Country Quilts: Legend and Living Tradition by Dorothy Osler is also available to buy priced at £11.95. This superb book has been reissued as it gives a thoroughly detailed insight into the tradition and history of the art of quilting in Northern England.
Christopher Wilson-Tate of the Antique Textiles Company has kindly sponsored the 2021 exhibition catalogue, Castleacre Insurance have generously sponsored the re-print of the 2000 exhibition book and Kaffe Fassett has provided sponsorship in kind. The Friends of the Bowes Museum have also enthusiastically supported the exhibition.
The Museum is open every day from 10am until 5pm. Except Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve when it is open 10am until 3pm and Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day when it is closed.
All admission tickets must be booked in advance by calling 01833 690606 or visiting the website: thebowesmuseum.org.uk
North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions is open for its last day on Sunday, 9 January 2022.