Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Final letter to SQSG from Karen Fail

Quilt Study Group of Australia
PO Box 398, Neutral Bay, NSW 2089

Dear Members,
It is exciting times for the quilt study groups of Australia.

The Quilt Study Group of Australia (QSGA) was formed by Margaret Rolfe with a small group of enthusiasts in Canberra, ACT. The group exists to promote interest and research into quilting in Australia. Members are committed to the study of quilts both past and present, this study encompassing both the social and historical context in which quilts are made. The group encourages the preservation of significant historical quilts and while not itself having the resources to preserve quilts, will aim to facilitate preservation through appropriate organisations and institutions.

At the recent Australian Council of Quilters meeting, all Presidents of the state guilds agreed in principal to embrace the idea of forming a quilt study group in their state. Currently, ACT, WA, Qld and NSW have active study groups.

Following the British model to some extent, it is proposed that each state guild to form a focus group or sub-committee to maintain the current quilt study group or to form a new quilt study group in their state. Members of each guild would then be able to join in all activities of the quilt study groups and current quilt study group members are encouraged to join their local guild. Most members of the existing quilt study groups are already members of their state guilds and hence would only have to pay one lot of membership fees under the new structure.

To this end, The Sydney Quilt Study Group is being unincorporated as it is brought under the umbrella of the Quilters’ Guild of NSW Inc and the group will be now known as the Quilt Study Group of NSW. It is hoped that each state will name their study group similarly. For NSW members, the Quilters Guild of NSW usually renew membership in on June 1 but have agreed to have memberships paid for at the Quilt Show in Darling Harbour.
Contact the guild office on (02)92873737. Other states, please contact your state guild for further information on membership if required.

The aims and objectives of the Quilt Study Group of NSW will not change. It will still continue to be committed to the study of quilts both past and present as stated in the original aims established by Margaret Rolfe and restated at the beginning of this letter.

Currently, as members of the Quilt Study Group of Australia, you receive a newsletter, which provides you with information regarding events and news. From now on matters relating to the Quilt Study Group of NSW will be published in The Template and all other state quilt study groups will be able to publish information in their state guild’s newsletter. Everyone will have access to information on the web via the Quilt Study Groups of Australia blog at Here you will find information on what’s on, what’s been on, reports on research, interesting quilt finds and other matters of interest to quilt study group members. We are hoping this is a vibrant blog with lots of information for and from the Australian quilt study groups.

It is intended that the biennial seminar which has proved so popular each year since its inception in Canberra will continue with the responsibility for the seminar moving from state to state. In 2008, The Southern Queensland Quilt Study Group hosted a very successful seminar with well over 100 participants from just about every state in Australia. It is hoped that there will be another seminar in 2010/2011. You will be able to find all information, registration forms etc regarding the next seminar on the blog.

Currently, ACT, NSW and Qld have embraced this new structure, while WA, SA, Vic and Tas have agreed in principle and are investigating their options. NT is making enquiries regarding the availability of quilts to study in their state before committing to forming a quilt study group. It is suggested that a committee of 4-5 people can happily organise the activities of a quilt study group and I am delighted to report that the current committee of the Sydney Quilt Study Group are continuing as the committee for the Quilt Study Group of NSW.
Karen Fail – Convenor,
Liz Bonner – Minute Secretary,
Janet Marwood – Treasurer,
Sandra Lyons – Reporter and
Dr. Annette Gero remains the Patron of the Quilt Study Groups of Australia.

This will be the last formal letter you will receive from the Quilt Study Group of Australia or the Sydney Quilt Study Group. From now on you can find information about your quilt study group’s activities in your guild’s newsletter or on the blog. Put the address in your favourites list.

Warm regards and best wishes,
Karen Fail and the committee of the new Quilt Study Group of NSW.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Homage to the Wagga

Quilting and Collecting : Homage to the Wagga
An Exhibition of Quilts in Three Parts

My Journey - My Inspiration- My Interpretation

by Cynthia Harvey Baker
To be held at the Koja Place, Albany Highway, Kojonap
June 13-July 10 2009
Open Monday - Sunday 9am - 5pm
Floor talks Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11.00 am
or by appointment. Phone The Kodja Place (08) 9831-0500
Admission to the Kodja Place: Adults - $6, Children and Concession - $3

Monday, 16 February 2009


Bobby Goldsmith Foundation celebrates 25 years with the launch of the Quilt Project

The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation and the Powerhouse Museum last night joined to celebrate 25 years of the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation and launch the exhibition of the Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt Project at the Powerhouse Museum.
In a cocktail event hosted by media personality Ita Buttrose and attended by The Honorable Michael Kirby and his partner Johan van Vloten, Dr Dawn Casey, Director of the Powerhouse Museum, Todd McKenney, Ian Roberts, Harry M Miller, Simmone Logue and BGF directors, staff, supporters and clients, Fergus Kibble, President of the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation reflected on the importance of The Quilt.
“The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation was delighted to contribute funds to the curation and restoration of The Quilt as we strongly believed it is a poignant and symbolic reminder of our culture and heritage and it should be protected,” he said.
“I think it is important not just to remember the people who died, represented by these quilts, but also to remember those who made these quilts as a remembrance. They were the lovers, the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, and of course the friends of these people. Without their love there would be no Quilt.”

The AIDS Memorial Quilt Project will run until 26th February at the Powerhouse Museum.
The next BGF fundraising event, the BGF Glamstand at the Mardi Gras Parade on March 7 2009, is selling fast. For tickets or to make a donation to BGF go to
The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation is Australia’s oldest HIV/AIDS charity. Established though community efforts in 1984, the organisation continues to focus its efforts on improving the quality of life for men, women and children living with HIV and AIDS.
For media information please contact: The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation
Murray Black Phone: (02) 9283 8666

Monday, 2 February 2009

2008 Quilt Study Group Seminar by Karen Fail

Bayeux Tapestry Repro, Pam Holland

Reflections on Sharing Our Legacy – the 2008 Quilt Study Group of Australia Seminar
By Karen Fail

I make it a practice to attend the QSGA Seminar wherever it is being held because I know from experience that these are not to be missed! So, along with several other visitors from interstate including fellow New South Welshmen, we arrived in Brisbane to the usual ‘beautiful one day, perfect the next’ weather. Some of the girls had arrived much earlier and arranged to visit several of the quilt shops in Brisbane on Friday. Dinner on Friday night was held outdoors under a balmy night skies and provided a great opportunity to renew friendships and meet new likeminded quilters.

When I arrived for the first session on Saturday, I was welcomed by Gail Chalker who was sitting at the desk with her hat on. I thought she was dressed very formally and wondered if I was underdressed until she took the podium as the first speaker. Her topic was the Rosewood Redwork Quilt and she was dressed in the fashion of the day complete with corset. Now that’s dedication! And we were all thrilled to learn of the Queensland groups’ reproduction of this important quilt discovery. One of the original embroiderers was present – I am sure she never expected that her small square made when she was 7 would have caused such a fuss nearly 80 years later.

Dr. Gero, the patron of the Quilt Study Group of Australia, enthralled us with her talk on Gold Rush Quilts as we were transported back to those times when women had few resources but still managed to make beautiful things. But it was Karen Barrett’s delivery of The Quilting Legacy of Ruth and Denise that quietened the room as we heard about these two well-known Brisbane quilters, now deceased, whose legacy lives on through all those whom they encouraged and taught to love quilts. Thanks so much Karen for your sensitive presentation.

We can always rely on Margaret Rolfe from the Canberra Quilt Study Group to deliver a well-researched paper and this year’s seminar was no exception. She took us on the journey she herself had taken in her presentation ‘The Rajah Quilt – Developments and Descendents. She discovered much that was new about this iconic quilt made by convict women on the Rajah bound for Australia, but the mystery of why it was back in Scotland when found and bought for the National Gallery remains unsolved. Margaret’s research continues.

Michael Marendy is a good friend of the Queensland Quilt Study Group and gave an excellent presentation on Conservation of Quilts. He had many samples of his own team’s work, which were available for close inspection, and gave us all invaluable information regarding conservation of quilts of national importance and our own more modest collections.
He was, however, nearly escorted from the building when he confessed to vacuuming twice a week to preserve his own textiles from accumulating dust.

Margie Creek delighted us with A Family’s Legacy of Quilts – quilts from her grandmother, mother and of course her own. We were all just a little envious of her and wished our mothers had been diligent quilters too.

Many of you will know that Pam Holland is recreating the Bayeux Tapesty. She agreed to share her progress with us at the seminar, generously stopping over in Brisbane on her way to USA for a frenetic teaching schedule. Her presentation to say the least was awe-inspiring using the digital features of her computer to the max. We learned about her journeys around the historic areas depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry and were thrilled to see two finished panels of her work. This was the last time that the work will be seen until all the panels are complete. We are indebted to Pam for her generosity in sharing with us.

The day finished with the usual dinner and auction but was made memorable by Patty McCormack of How to Make an American Quilt fame delivering a speech on how to be a true blue Aussie resplendent in Aussie flag boxer shorts and a cork hat – in fact every item of clothing she had on was in some way Aussie flavoured. She laid us in the aisles.!

Dinner was great, the auction raised around $1000 for the Queensland Women’s Historical Association and we made many new friends. Thanks Queensland Quilt Study Group.

Rare Nineteenth Century Quilt

National Gallery Victoria hangs beautiful and rare early nineteenth century quilt

Late in 2007 the National Gallery Victoria (NGV) acquired, through generous donation, a rare and valuable ‘frame’ quilt about which very little was known. The quilt was given to the donor two decades earlier by someone who had, in turn, been given it by relatives who were also unacquainted with the original maker.

Quilting was a common pastime of genteel and middle-class women in colonial Australia, yet there are only a few extant examples of these quilts in Australian collections. Quilts of this type were particularly popular in the first half of the 19th century, with examples using similar fabrics and designs found in England (and subsequently Australia) from between 1800 and 1860.

A large medallion-style, pieced patchwork, the quilt comprises many graduating, linear borders around a central panel. The particularly impressive central design consists of appliquéd cotton chintz partridge and flower motifs executed in the broderie perse technique (a technique used to appliqué small flowers and leaves using a tiny chain stitch). While on the reverse, embroidered in black cotton cross stitch is the enigmatic dedication: E. Dickins / The Gift of Her Mother / Finished When 60 Years / Of Age.

Sadly for us, no date accompanies this dedication, although it has been suggested that the embroidered ‘signature’ may mean that the quilt was sent to an early Australian settler as a gift – a practice that has been previously documented.

When the quilt first arrived at the NGV it was in a fragile condition. Damp storage had caused mould and mildew to develop while the presence of iron in dye mordants had corroded fibres, resulting in areas of discoloration and loss over time. The surface of the quilt was badly soiled and despite initial cleaning with a low-suction vacuum, it still appeared grimy.

On the recommendation of our Textile Conservator a wet-cleaning treatment in de-ionised water was undertaken (to remove degradation products and to minimise their effect on the quilt in the future). The challenge, however, was the quilt’s large size. A tank was custom-built by NGV’s Conservation Art Technician, which enabled the quilt to be completely submerged. At times this required the assistance of nearly all the conservation staff! Yet the result has left the quilt in a much-improved state both visually and structurally.

Through the process of acquisition and a combination of expert opinion and curatorial knowledge, the NGV has also endeavoured to recover some of this quilt’s lost history.

A quilt is usually dated from the most recent fabrics used in it. In this case, we discovered that many of the printed cotton fabrics along the outer patchwork bands were similar to those seen in 1840s dresses from the NGV Fashion & Textiles Collection. The floral chintz was also found to resemble fabrics from the 1830s. The most exciting revelation, however, was that the central bird chintz fabric could be identified as an English furnishing chintz called Partridge and May Tree printed circa 1815, making our quilt a valuable piece of textile history.

While the name of the maker and the actual date of the quilt’s completion may never be known, it remains a rare surviving example of textile endeavour and a significant example of early domestic skilled handicraft.

The quilt has just been hung on the 2nd floor of National Gallery Victoria at Federation Square, Melbourne and will be on display until March 2009. Entry is FREE.

National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Road Melbourne Vic 3004 Australia
Telephone: +61 3 8620 2345 Mobile: 0438 582 727Fax: +61 3 8620

Keep informed of the latest NGV exhibitions, special events and programs atThe Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia and NGV International by subscribing to NGV@RT, the NGV's free e-newsletter.

Annette Gero helps NGV to aquire their new wonderful old quilt & identifies the central 1815 fabric, "Partridge & May Tree"

This quilt has an interesting story. It turned up some time ago at the Victorian Quilters, annual Quilt Show and was shown to Mary Hitchens, the President of Vic Quilters. It was obviously special, so the owner was advised to donate it to a museum or institution. The owner tried four times and each time the quilt came back with words like "doesn't fit into our collection? or "it is the wrong time period?!

Meantime, Annette Gero was researching the early fabrics in several other wonderful early 19th century quilts for inclusion in her new book "The Fabric of Society, Australia's Quilt Heritage from Convict Times to 1960, (See for information about the book, The Fabric of Society). As soon as Annette heard about this new quilt she was keen to include it in her book and the delighted owner gave her permission.

Research into the fabrics of the quilt by Annettte revealed that "The bird chinz fabric in the centre of the quilt was an English furnishing chinz called Partridge & May Tree printed c1815. It is block printed in madder colours with pencilled blue on a tea ground. The birds and trees appeared in many fabric variations between 1814 and 1816 *This Partridge & May Tree fabric is in the Victoria & Albert Museum's Textile collection, however there are also reproductions and Annette found a roll of it in the USA. She was able to send the NGV some of this reproduction fabric so it can be exhibited with the quilt when it is on show. In addition Annette found that "The floral chintz within some of the outer borders is unknown but has been dated against similar fabrics from c.1830. The flowers along the border are very similar to those in the centre of a chintz quilt brought to Australia from England by the LLoyd family in 1833 (also in her book) and the fabrics here date from c1825-30.

* Several months after undertaking her research into the quilt Annette was contacted by the textile curator at NGV to say they had been offered an old quilt and could she give them an opinion as to whether this was an important quilt! The curator obviously knew this was a wonderful example of an early 19th century quilt but the acquisition committee needed an outside opinion. Annette's research on the fabrics was invaluable in providing this proof. There are about 10 such quilts in Australia of similar age and quality of early fabrics. These quilts are probably equal to any other quilts of their period found in the world. We are extremely fortunate to have them in this country as part of our quilt heritage.

Annette Gero 2009

SPECIAL MEETING: March 8th at 2pm

All members of the Sydney Quilt Study Group and the Quilt Study Group of Australia are invited to a Special Meeting of the Sydney Quilt Study Group
Purpose: To dissolve the incorporated body currently known as the Sydney Quilt Study Group and to advise the future structure of the group.
Where and When: March 8th, 2.00 pm at Powerhouse Museum.
Please bring: - Your first quilt and your latest project as well as any intersting show and tell of recent textile purchases or finds.

(You will not have to pay an entry fee to the Powerhouse Museum. A member of the SQSG committee will be on the door to direct you to the meeting room)