|Jane Austen Society of Australia
Jane Austen was both fond of and good at needlework. Several pieces of her work survive and can be seen at the Jane Austen's House museum in Chawton, Hampshire, UK, including a white embroidered indian muslin tucker, a white embroidered lawn handkerchief and this patchwork quilt which was made by herself, her sister, Cassandra, and her mother at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
In May 1811, in a letter to Cassandra, Jane asked, "have you remembered to collect pieces for the Patchwork? -- we are now at a standstill."
This very fine patchwork quilt uses 64 different fabrics. The quilt is worked using two sizes of lozenge diamond, and a rhomboid shape of black-and-white spotted fabric for the light-coloured 'trellis' effect dividing the diamonds.
Each diamond-shaped patch is placed in sequences of four around a central diamond-shaped floral motif featuring a basket of flowers. The quilt has a deep border of smaller diamond patches adorned with landscapes and flowers.
The patchwork quilt has been re-sited – the one which was made by Jane and her mother and sister while they were in Chawton. It used to be hung over a rail in Jane’s bedroom, but the textile experts, who recently cleaned and restored it, said that being sewn ‘on the cross’, it put too much strain on the stitches. We had a bed made up in the Costume Room – just boxes and padding, so that the quilt could be thrown over it. This room is dust- and finger-free, and the lights only come on when anyone is looking at the display, so the conditions are ideal. We were recently given a reproduction of a Tent Bed by the Trustees of Keats’ House in Hampstead. Mr Austen bought Tent Beds for Jane and Cassandra when they lived at Steventon. It has two iron rails curving lengthways from either side of the bedhead to the footboard so that curtains could be hung along them to keep out the draughts. We have had some dainty curtains specially made, tied back so that the bed can be seen. Luckily this bed fits into the costume display area, and we can dispose of the boxes and display the quilt more appropriately.
From Learn Patchwork, by Lynette-Merlin Syme, Collins.
The Austens used a 5 x 2.5 cm (2 x 1 in) rhomboid between the diamonds, with the result that there are joins where one feels there should not be joins. This has been overcome in the instructions given here for making a similar quilt, by using a 9 x 3 cm (3 1/2 x 1 1/4 in) rhomboid and a 3 cm (1 1/4 in) diamond. Thus, each large diamond will have a rhomboid sewn to each of the four sides and a diamond to each point (Fig 1).
For reproducing a Jane Austen quilt, finished size 236 x I55 cm (93 x 6l in) along each side.
Working the design
Figure 2 shows one quarter of the quilt. It is recommended that patchwork begins with the large, central diamond, which is cut from a floral fabric. Around this are set the rhomboids and the small diamonds in the light-coloured, spotted fabric. Work the patchwork outwards from this central diamond. If the quilt is being made as a group project, the border area could be worked as four strips and joined into the main quilt on completion.
The Jane Austen quilt is lined with cotton fabric, the edges of the patchwork border turned under 2.5 cm (1 in). It is recommended that the quilt be tied to prevent ballooning.
09 December 2006