Friday 24 June 2022

Antique Quilts, beautiful, functional, tactile and Collectible.


We stitch together quilts of meaning to keep us warm and safe, with whatever patches of beauty and utility we have on hand.

Anne Lamott.

The other morning the postman knocked on my door and handed me a fairly large box.  I could not think what was nestled inside.  Pondering over the package I sipped at my morning coffee.  Well I thought just open it up then.

I carefully opened the box and inside was a beautifully wrapped something in brown paper tied with a beautiful ribbon around it.  There was a beautifully hand written "Thank you"  on the brown paper.  I began to carefully open it up and a gorgeous antique, red and white quilt was folded neatly and smelt beautifully fresh and hand washed.  I could not believe it, the I remembered seeing the patterned fabric and remembered purchasing, what I thought was a large piece of antique quilt, however this was very much a whole complete antique quilt.  This tells you I had purchased a bargain.

Eagerly I opened it out to reveal a hand quilted large quilt.  The tiny neatly hand stitched had nine to an inch.. it was old.  Looking closer and doing a happy jiggle dance at the same time I saw it was not pieced but printed fabrics, each side different and all in glorious red and white.  I looked carefully and could see that the red was indeed in Turkey red, Oh the joy!

For those of you who do not know about Turkey Red cotton, it is a complex dyeing
process which involved many steps and some caustic chemicals.  It has a distinctive wearing pattern as the yarn was dyed and then woven into fabric.  The colour stays bright but the process causes the threads to wear which when it ages you can see little white striations there in.  It was widely used to dye cotton in the 18th and 19th Century.  It is made  using the root of the Rubia plant and is a long and laborious process and originated in Turkey and said to have been brought to Europe in around the 1740's.

In France Turkey Red is known as rouge d'Andrinople .  Anyway I wondered if I could find out more about this process  and upon searching I found from the notes of a Manchester dyer in 1786.

  • 1. Boil cotton in lye of Barilla or wood ash
  • 2. Wash and dry
  • 3. Steep in a liquor of Barilla ash or soda plus sheep's dung and olive oil
  • 4. Rinse, let stand 12 hours, dry
  • 5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 three times.
  • 6. Steep in a fresh liquor of Barilla ash or soda, sheep's dung, olive oil and white argol (potassium tartrate).
  • 7. Rinse and dry
  • 8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 three times.
  • 9. Treat with gall nut solution
  • 10. Wash and dry
  • 11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 once.
  • 12. Treat with a solution of alum, or alum mixed with ashes and Saccharum Saturni (lead acetate).
  • 13. Dry, wash, dry.
  • 14. Madder once or twice with Turkey madder to which a little sheep's blood is added.
  • 15. Wash
  • 16. Boil in a lye made of soda ash or the dung liquor
  • 17. Wash and dry.[2]

So as you can see from the above it was a long process and not terribly appealing!

Originally when I thought I had purchased a large piece of antique quilt it was for cutting up and making things but this quilt will not see a pair of scissors it would be sacrilege in my humble opinion.  Having to re-think about making something with the quilt to "it's a keeper" is a pure pleasure and a wonderful unexpected surprise.  I will go truffling to find some red and white quilt again and smile at my good fortune. 

Here in Dorset we have had the most glorious weather of late,  really very warm but it has been wonderful sat outside under a huge umbrella for shade at the table.  Hand stitching out there and watching the birds busy hunting around for worms to feed

their young and the bees so diligently at going from flower to flower collecting pollen, it is the Summer sounds of a little garden I love with the warmth bringing the sweet smells of lavender and roses carried in the warm air.

Bee's do have a smell you know, and if they do not they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.

      Ray Bradbury.

Tonight I think a walk down by the river to check on the family of swans.  Originally they had eight signats but it seems only four have survived.  I took this photo early one morning by the River Stour and hope that they still have their four young.

This year I have not spotted our otters yet, probably I am not early enough to be honest with you, it is one of my Summer joys seeing their beautiful and inquisitive faces staring at you from the water,  makes me smile so.

Here at Thimble my studio remains lovely and cool to retreat to and remains a good heat to work in.  It is not good when hands get to warm and the needle slips through your fingers.

This weekend I am off to a Vintage Brocante and I am so looking forward to it, I am

not sure what the weather will be like but as it is mostly in large marquees it really does not matter to me.

Wandering around truffling for treasures and meeting up and catching up with friends is such a delight.  After 2 years of no fairs at all and not seeing friends in person, I no longer take it for granted at all,  because of Covid I am sure we all appreciate our freedom so much more, I know I do.

Well I hope you all have enjoyed today's musings and mutterings from here in beautiful Dorset and hope you all have a really wonderful weekend.

As always be careful and take care and of course Happy Stitching!

Sarah XX


  1. What a delightful surprise Sarah. It certainly merits a happy jig at the very least 😂 I must admit, if I had lived in the 18th century all that faffing and steeping in sheep dung would have stopped me in my tracks. Your quilt looks lovely. I hope you enjoy the Fairs. I’m going to Toddington in August, but sadly too much going on to squeeze in an earlier trip down South. I look forward to your show and tell.
    Mo xxx

  2. Sarah Hawkings27 June 2022 at 00:23

    It was a really stunning fair, the weather was beautiful and held in the beautiful English countryside.,, truffling for treasure and my quilt find!! Well still jiggling 💕