Perfectly Imperfect

Published: Monday, 9th November 2020 08:00 AM

Perfectly Imperfect

Theme – Perfectly Imperfect

This week we explore some pieces from The Collection which have little quirks all of their own. Some are mistakes and miscalculations in measuring or adding frames which means that the pieces have never been finished. Others have been chopped and changed, or had frames added to change their size which doesn’t look quite in keeping with a planned design. Whether these were intentional or accidental, or just making use of what the makers had available, they make these pieces extra quirky and unique. And we love them for it! We all have these moments when we’re making, and it’s always nice to know that we are not alone!

This first piece is actually pretty perfect – it’s a late 18th/ early 19th century frame quilt with an amazing quilted design and some stunning dark and light ground printed fabrics, including a fabulous bird in a nest print repeated in rows in the centre. The huge strips of fabric give us a really good idea of the printed design. But there is just one niggle – that small section at the top right of the 4th frame, where the stripes don’t match up. Did she run out of fabric and this was the only piece left, meaning she couldn’t line up the stripes? Perhaps she really wasn’t bothered that it was the only bit out of alignment? Was it mistake she didn’t realise until too late? We’ll never know!

This masterpiece of hexagons features hexagon rosettes surrounded by a red path with a diamond formation in the centre. It has been made from cotton, silk, wool and artificial fabrics. It was made by Mary Wakeling, a talented embroiderer who attended the Royal College of Music and the Royal School of Needlework. Sadly it seems Mary was perhaps better at embroidery then she was at patchwork. The close up shows some beautiful work, but the photograph taken flat across the horizontal surface shows that the piece does not lay flat, but ripples in the centre. It shows that even the slightest change in the dimensions of the patchwork shapes means it won’t tessellate properly.

This mosaic patchwork top made from furnishing fabrics also suffers from the same fate as the previous piece. The frames of braid that have been added around the central patchwork are slightly too small, resulting in the piece not laying flat. In this case the maker hasn’t had the heart to unpick her progress so far, and the piece was kept unfinished – perhaps with the intention of fixing but never quite getting around to it.

This frame quilt is very unusual and looks as though it as gone through various additions and adjustments away from its original design. The top section has pieces of various designs that have been cobbled together, and on closer inspection none of the side frames triangles and zigzags look as though they have been made to fit a specific space. It could have been using up different spare sections, or chopped up parts of several quilts which have been reassembled to make this piece – keeping the bits in better condition and getting rid of any parts that were too worn. The alterations have been done by sewing machine, which dates much later than the fabrics of the piece (1780-1810), suggesting it was given a second life in the 1860s. Despite its chaotic qualities, this is a very interesting quilt.

This last piece seems unfair to put in this week’s theme – it is, after all, made by North Country wholecloth quilting legend Amy Emms, whose quilting was always perfect. However this piece is interesting. It was commissioned by The Quilters’ Guild Heritage Committee and made in 1993, especially for the Collection to ensure we had a piece of her work. But if you look closely…there is a corner motif missing! But this does give hope to us all – even the most experienced makers can make a mistake, and we shouldn’t worry about the imperfections in our own work.

Hexagons Coverlet by Mary WakelingHexagons Coverlet by Mary Wakeling

Furnishing HexagonsFurnishing Hexagons

Brown Frame QuiltBrown Frame Quilt

Amy Emms QuiltAmy Emms Quilt