Bowes Museum Quilt Exhibition

The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, seen from the bottom of the drive, showing the formal gardens in front
The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

The Bowes Museum is currently showing a Quilt Exhibition, as I mentioned in last week’s blog post. The Museum was the setting for my workshops last Friday: hand-stitched patchwork in the morning and crazy patchwork in the afternoon. We left the North-East (to move to the South-East) on the 4th of May this year, so it felt strange to be driving back to Barnard Castle after just five weeks away. There were ‘welcome back’ banners outside. (Clearly, for everyone, not just for me – but encouraging in any case!)

‘Welcome back’ banners outside the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

It is a most imposing building, not unlike a French chateau in appearance. At the front, there are extensive formal gardens as you can see in the photo at the top of the post. My trusty ‘corporate vehicle'(!) was parked on the sweeping drive leading up to the museum.

Amanda's car, a white Seat, complete with turquoise and pink decals advertising Amanda Jane Textiles
Amanda Jane Textiles, company car

Within the Bowes Museum the setting is equally grand. There is a large tiled hallway, from which a wide staircase goes up to the first floor. The area is lit by a magnificent chandelier, as seen in the photo below, taken from the first floor.

Entrance hall at the Bowes Museum, showing the doorway, black and white tiled floor and chandelier
Entrance hall at the Bowes Museum

Between the morning and afternoon classes, I went up the formal staircase and through to the exhibition gallery to see ‘North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Aquisitions’. It was an absolute joy to see wholecloth quilts (where all the top surface is a single colour), strippy quilts (where there are vertical stripes of different colours) and pieced quilts (made by stitching patches together). All these were embellished with hand-quilted stitches in traditional patterns.

One display cabinet held a fascinating collection of templates for these traditional patterns. Templates are used to mark up the top layer of the quilt before the quilt is layered up with wadding and backing.

Templates used to mark out traditional patterns on North Country Quilts, shown at an exhibition at the Bowes Museum
Quilting templates at the Bowes Museum

There was also a delightful patchwork coverlet on show. (A coverlet has two layers and no wadding, unlike a quilt). Although it was completed in the 1930s, it looked fresh and vibrant. The exhibition included a number of photographs which linked the exhibits with their makers. With this quilt was a photo of the eleven members (just eleven!) who had made the quilt. Next to it, there was even one of a pair of curtains, which were made to match. It was especially pleasurable to see it, as I had been teaching hand-stitched patchwork techniques that morning.

Cream and turquoise blue patchwork coverlet made by Heighington Women's Institute c 1935
Patchwork coverlet made by Heighington Women’s Institute, presented to the Bowes Museum by Lynne Pepperel and Louise Reeves

The exhibition also included some examples of quilts which were made recently, using some of the traditional North Country quilting techniques. These included a quilt made by Pauline Burbidge. I heard Pauline speak about her work in Llandudno, mentioned in the blog post here.

The Bowes Museum Quilt Exhibition is on until 9 January 2022. There are many interesting things to see in the Museum in addition to the quilts and a visit is highly recommended. You can see paintings by Goya, Canaletto and El Greco, for example. Entry to the quilt exhibition is free with normal admission but you do have to reserve a timed ticket in advance. You can do that here.

Amanda Jane Textiles offers unique fabrics for sale here, quilt patterns here and classes here

North Country Quilts

I have been thinking a lot about North Country Quilts at the moment. I recently had the pleasure of teaching two groups of people (via Zoom) about North Country Quilts. It was wonderful to introduce them all to the quiet pleasures of hand-quilting and to share a little of the quilting tradition in the North of England. Hand-quilting in traditional patterns on quilts is strong in the area around Durham, where I used to live and these quilts are often referred to as ‘Durham Quilts’. However, the same quilting patterns are seen across the Pennines in the North-West of England, so ‘North Country Quilts’ is a more accurate term. I have written in a previous post about the beautiful quilts in the collection of Beamish Museum in County Durham. You can see that post here.

white quilting on a white background on a traditional North Country Quilt in which the stitches make the pattern.
Hay spade pattern quilt at Beamish

The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, in County Durham is currently showing an exhibition entitled ‘North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions’. One of the exhibits is the beautiful hand-quilted double bed quilt seen below. The exhibition runs from 17 May 2021 – 9 January 2022. You can buy tickets here.

Photo credit: The Bowes Museum

If you are elsewhere in the world, you’ll be pleased to learn that an online tour of the exhibit is available. You can see it on the Museum website here.

I will be at the Bowes Museum myself on Friday this week, teaching two quilting and patchwork classes, both of which employ hand-stitching (with all the benefits that activity brings!).

To comply with current government restrictions, each class will be taught in a deliberately small, socially-distanced group. Careful attention will be paid to ensure that materials and equipment used are only handled by the one person using them. Once the precautions have been put in place, each session will be a calm and relaxed introduction to the subject.

In the morning, we will be doing hand-stitched patchwork over papers, a traditional skill, which also offers the enjoyment of hand-stitching.

In the afternoon, the class will cover crazy patchwork, again a traditional technique but with plenty of opportunity to improvise. This will include an introduction to various different embroidery stitches used to decorate the seams.

Here are the details of the classes.

Hand-stitched Patchwork Workshop

25 June, 10.30, Included within admission – £35 or £65 to include crazy patchwork afternoon workshop, Booking essential

Discover how to make your very own hand-stitched patchwork quilt, based on one in the North Country Quilts exhibition, in this small group session being led by the textile artist Amanda Jane Ogden. This is a great recycling way to use small pieces of left over new or recycled fabric. Amanda will give you lots of tips, advice and ideas on what you could do with the finished piece. All materials will be provided for you.

Crazy Patchwork

25 June, 2.00 – £35 or £65 to include hand stitched patchwork morning workshop, Booking essential

Have you ever wanted to have a go at making crazy patchwork? If you have, then this fun small group session is for you! Textile artist Amanda Jane Ogden will show you an adaptation of the traditional ‘crazy’ technique, in which small pieces of fabric are pieced onto a background like crazy paving before the seams and pieces are embellished with embroidery. You will construct the piece in strips, to complement the strippy quilts in the North Country Quilting exhibition, with suitable embroidery stitching to cover the seams. All materials will be provided for you.

If you would like to join a class, as well as seeing the exhibition, check availability like this: the links for both workshops are within in the Events section of the website here. (The events are listed in date order. These classes are on page 3 of Events at the time of writing)

Amanda Jane Textiles offers unique fabrics for sale here, quilt patterns here and classes here