2019 Challenge

Chairman's Challenge 2019: The Topsham Quilt

Those of you lucky enough to go to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC last year may have seen the fabulous Topsham Quilt on display there. We are really fortunate to have been given permission to show this quilt at our Exhibition in August too.

I thought that it would be fun to base our next Challenge on this gorgeous quilt. There are so many potential sources of design from crazy patchwork, appliqués, human figures and animals, paisley, hearts, different fabrics like velvets etc.—even "life as a Victorian invalid"—and I'm sure you'll have no problem finding inspiration. We can then also display our quilts with all their various interpretations next to the original at the Exhibition.

Some pictures of the quilt:

What We Know So Far

In Autumn 2017 volunteers at the Topsham Museum discovered this amazing quilt in their archives. A document accompanying the quilt showed that it was made by Emily Seward, an invalid living with her father, the farm bailiff, at Newcourt, Topsham. Emily signed the central panel in 1889.

The coverlet has a unique design with a crazy patchwork centre surrounded by a plain border with appliqué embroidered figures and animals. The patchwork is embellished with six boteh or Paisley motifs at the centre and and a heart in each corner.

The black fabric is mainly velvet and the other fabrics both plain and patterned silks. The patches are sewn down with a variety of embroidery stitches including blanket stitch, feather stitch and herringbone. The animals on the outer borders include tigers, elephants and camels and are embroidered with graded colours of thread. The figures are all dressed in historic costumes, King Louis of France, Mary Stuart, a Japanese lady, Romany and Turkish outfits.

Emily died aged 29 and the quilt was donated to the museum by the Misses Seward and Mrs Newman.

The unusual quilt has raised many questions. Where did the pattern come from and how were the figures made or were they purchased and applied?

The Challenge

The Challenge is for you to make a quilt between 14 inches and 36 inches in any direction, using the Topsham Quilt and its colour palette for inspiration. You're welcome to use other fabrics such as velvets similar to those in the quilt if you wish.

The Challenge will be judged at our meeting in July prior to the Exhibition.

Trish Walker