Thursday, 3 May 2012

Noughts and Crosses

I only discovered Welsh quilts when I grew up and inherited a cottage in Cardiganshire from  my parents.  Before that, I knew only the Welsh woollen tweeds and flannels which were woven and tailored near my home in the hills behind Criccieth.    My mother dressed us all in blue tweed, trousers and skirts, and then knitted lovely warm striped jerseys to go with them. I knitted garters for my father every Christmas, to hold up his knee-socks which he wore with his tweedy knickerbocker breeches.  The Bryncyr Mill produced a special black and white tweed which was made into gentleman's clothing and was exclusive to his family and known as the Wern pattern., a sort of shepherd's plaid pattern made from the natural black and white local sheep's wool and I have a lovely picture of him and my 5 uncles standing outside our family home all wearing the same stuff, taken just before the Great War 1914, all wearing knickerbocker suits.
     I met Jen Jones in South Wales and was amazed to see how beautiful the work and designs of the 19C. quilts were and started to look for them myself.  I was told by the local farm people that there was no-one left making them but most could remember their families using them before cheap blankets and eiderdowns took their place.  Here are two very different examples - One showing  needlework  on top of some beautiful fine quilting, with amusing cartoons of birds, children and flowers, dated 1901 and the other, 1875 or so, quite rustic and roughly pieced tailors' samples, enlivened with red stitching which lifts it to quite a contemporary level, in my eyes.  In the days when some of the children left school in their early teens, I always thought it remarkable they had such a sure touch with their patterns, hand work and colour mixing.
No doubt they learned from the older women in the family and there was probably quite a difference between the roughly cobbled family covers, stuffed with old woollens and patches, and those destined for the dowries  and best rooms of the better-off farmhouses.   There were, of course, skilled quilters who travelled from one farm to another making several during a stay at the house, their names are known and their work is distinctive and recognisable.  Occasionally they have dates and names sewn on them which makes them even more collectable.  They are quite expensive but they are a good investment for handing down the family to be enjoyed and used.


  1. This post of yours has summoned up a childhood memory of my own. In Virginia, my dad had a fondness for Harris tweed, and this lead to a series of jackets.

    It also lead to a little collection of samples of this beautiful fabric that I connected into a doll's blanket with a bit of blanket embroidery stitch. Tonight, as I write, I don't actually know what happened to that blanket.

    I thank you for bringing this sweet memory.

    My visits here are courtesy of a reference from the lovely Gretel Parker. It's such a pleasure to stop hereabouts.

  2. Another interesting and informative posts.
    Thank you.
    I am always delighted to see you've done a new post.