Dear Diva Readers,
I love visiting house museums as it gives a glimpse into how people lived in the past, bringing to life all the gorgeous antiques I see in markets, warehouses and antique shops.
In the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, England I found a multi-use piece that intrigued me. This multi functional work table made from Jacaranda wood was owned by the Austen family and was used for writing, chess, backgammon, draughts and sewing. Perhaps Jane herself used the piece when she and her mother and sister worked upon this patchwork coverlet or quilt.
Jane created this coverlet around 1810 using scraps of dresses and soft furnishings traded with friends and family. The museum has in its possession a letter Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra who was visiting their brother asking if she had been able to gather additional fabrics while in the city as the making of the quilt was at a standstill until they had more fabrics. The fabrics used in the quilt seem traditional to our eye today but were actually quite modern during the Jane’s time. We can tell this because many of the patches in the antique quilt contain both the colors red and blue. The process for fixing different colors in the same fabric wasn’t discovered until 1808 – before then if blue and red were both used in the same fabric the fabrics became purple. It’s an easy trick for dating fabrics!
Each diamond shaped patch in the quilt is joined to the next with 4 separate strips of black and white polka dot fabric individually sewn together. All in all it’s a beautiful antique English patchwork quilt – how amazing to think it was made by one of the greatest writers of all time!
The Antiques Diva®