Friday, 20 October 2017

As Good As It Gets - Jen Jones' Welsh Wholecloth Quilt Exhibition and Update

Yesterday I had to get some material to match that which I had been using on my red and white quilt.  That meant a trip to Lampeter.  We went via Llandovery, so we could change some things round at the Unit.  Then across country past Dolaucothi Gold Mines, established by the Romans, who did a form of open-cast blasting with water to get at the most likely seams.  Anyway, before I went into the quilt shop, Calico Kate's, I decided I would see if Jen Jones' latest quilt exhibition was still running.  It was, and it focused on Wholecloth quilts, and some clothing, made between the wars by skilled quilt-makers from the Welsh valleys (an area of poverty) who were recruited by the Rural Industries Bureau, so that they could increment their meagre income through the making of quilts for retail in London.  The Royal Family, aristocracy and the big hotels (Claridges was one) put in orders for opulent quilts made using materials from shops such as Liberty  who supplied silks, taffeta, satin and velvet.  Each quilt was filled with lambs' wool. 

These are just a few photos to whet your appetite.  Photos are loading far too slowly tonight, and I am just off for a bath now.  The beautiful quilt, shown above and below, dated from 1825 and I believe is one that has benefitted from being restored using some of the money raised from one of the previous exhibitions.   It was made in Whitland, using linen and cotton materials.

Photo showing some of the original quilt makers.  (More details tomorrow).

A close up photo of the most amazing quilting.  Mind-blowingly good.

So much skill and a lovely design in this cushion.

A slightly blurry photo of one of the Art Deco room settings used to set off the quilts.

Words failed me when I looked at this yesterday.  I can't imagine how long it took to design and quilt, but oh my gosh, you couldn't have a more stunning design.  This was made by Emiah Jones, who was an expert quilter who took pupils to teach for the RIB scheme.  It was Emiah who was commissioned to make a quilt for the then Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

I wish I could enlarge this even more to show the superb quilting patterns used here.  Just amazing.  This lemon yellow quilt was made by Edith Thomas of Whitland in the late 1920s.

Some really unusual quilting combinations used in this pink quilt.  I love the little hearts.

Above and below: two more blurry photos.  My fault as the camera had to be set to "no flash" and for some reason the photo took longer to focus when I clicked to take it, so several photos nothing like as good as they should be and some unusable. 

Some more photos now (Saturday morning has arrived and we've not blown away).

This  Double Wedding Ring quilt has an amazing story.  It was made using offcuts of corsetry garments.  I will quote the entry in the guide book:

"My mother Myfanwy Morris wanted to enter a competition at the National Eisteddfod soon after the war and it was to do with using old to make new.  An extension to "mend and make do".   I am not sure whether it was a quilt competition.  She set to and was encouraged by an acquaintance who had an American quilt that had been made in South Wales and gone to America and returned back through a family connection.  My father Griffith Morris an architect in Portmadog was keen to help her and got down to making the metal templates for the quilting and also the frame to stretch it on for ease of working.  The material for the top layer was given to her from a local shop, material sample books for undergarments, ie corsets and such.  I think the whole process took around 18 months.  Remarkable really with a family of four and a busy household to run.  Mother was always keen to try competitions and was very successful on many occasions, but not with this quilt as the material was new. "

Grr - again slightly blurry.  This is a satin cotton wedding quilt from South Wales, again an RIB quilt.

Above and below: some of the entries made for a competition run alongside the Exhibition and based on people's interpretations.  The redwork hanging above was the Peoples' Choice (I agreed, it was stunning).  Below are some more entries.


  1. Beautiful post today. The stitching all the stitching amazing.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. I went to see this exhibition and like you it stopped me in my tracks. Amazing work, it made my fingers tingle just to think of all those tiny stitches.

  3. Thanks everyone. Words seem inadequate when I see work of this standard. There was a diary on display belonging to one of the quilters responsible for some of these splendid pieces. It read (for an entire week's entries) "Quilted all day".

  4. Wow, wholecloth quilting is so beautiful. I would love to see this in real life. I started playing around with tiny stitches on a quilt sandwich that I made from a piece of white linen cut from an old (35 years' old!) shirt of mine. Nothing like this though even though I used the tiniest needle I could see to thread while wearing my new glasses. Was browsing an old Jen Jones's book in a secondhand bookshop in Wales recently. Wished I'd bought it now! Looking forward to more of your fantastic photos BB. I really appreciate how you 'see' and capture things.

    1. I'm sure you could get a copy on Fleabay, Amazon or through Abebooks. Having paid £7.50 (!) for a slim exhibition catalogue, I wasn't inclined to pay out for her book (wasn't sure if I already had it, but think I have confused it with the ones I bought at the American Museum many years ago.) I hope you can find one soon, and meanwhile, enjoy playing with your quilting!

  5. Those quilts really are beautiful. What talent these people have!

  6. "Mind-blowingly good" for sure! The stitches certainly steal the show, especially in the whole cloth quilts. The fact that many of these quilts originated in areas where the people lived in poverty makes the story even sweeter!

  7. What talent and also what patience, absolutely beautiful.

  8. The quilts are just amazing - so beautiful and so much skill and time must have gone into creating them. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful photos :)

  9. Thank you all. It does a soul good to see such talent and creativity and skill all under one roof. Note to self: must improve!!

  10. Ooh, such wonderful quilts. The photos are great, even the slightly blurry ones. Thank you for sharing.x