Patchwork coverlet

Object name: Patchwork coverlet

Object number: CHWJA:JAH153

Category: Objects

Description: A linen and cotton patchwork coverlet, measuring approx 262cm x 232cm. It consists of a patchwork top with a cotton backing; there is no internal wadding.

It features a medallion design with a large central motif cut as a diamond, with a design of birds and a basket of flowers. This is surrounded by a panel of 249 smaller diamonds, each bordered by separate black and white polka dot print strips. The outer edge is made of over 2500 tiny diamonds, each with edges of 30mm.

There are at least 64 fabrics in the quilt. Those used in the central panel are block-printed dress weight fabrics and are arranged in alternating rows of darker and lighter fabrics.  Those in the outer edge are a mix of block and roller printed material and include both dress and furnishing fabrics.

Made: c.1810

Context: This patchwork coverlet was made by Jane Austen, her sister, Cassandra and their mother, circa 1810.

We do not know exactly when this patchwork was made, but we do know that the Austen women were working on a quilt in May 1811 as Jane wrote in a letter to her sister, Cassandra, “Have you remembered to collect peices (sic) for the patchwork – we are at a standstill”. Cassandra was staying with her brother Edward on his estate in Kent where there would have been many fabric pieces available from the dressmaker who made clothes for Edward’s eleven children.

This patchwork has an intricate design and has been carefully planned. The central panel of diamonds shows fourfold symmetry in their placement and the tiny diamonds in the outer edge are also placed symmetrically with top and bottom, and left and right sides matching.

The quilt was made by the English paper piecing method; in this pieces of fabric are stitched to paper shapes and then hand-stitched together, using tiny stitches, about 12 per inch; the paper is then removed.


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