South Australian quilts in Melbourne


Textiles, quilts, exhibition, embroidery

We’re delighted that one of our accredited museums in History SA’s Community Museums Program has some items from their collection on display at a major unprecedented exhibition in Melbourne.

Earlier this year, the Embroiderers’ Guild of SA Museum, based in Mile End, loaned some items to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) for the latter’s Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 exhibition which includes more than eighty works from public and private collections throughout Australia.

This is a prestigious experience  for the Embroiderers’ Guild Museum as Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 is the first major exhibition of its kind to bring together the rich works that constitute Australia’s quilt heritage.  It demonstrates that many community museums have very significant items in their collections.

The Embroiderers’ Guild have loaned two large quilts plus some smaller items made of crazy patchwork.  One of the quilts features early in the exhibition, in the English heritage section. Elizabeth Hardy’s unfinished Medallion patchwork quilt was made in England in c1830 prior to her marriage. She was a free settler who came to South Australia aboard the shipKangarooin the 1830s. 

The other quilt dates from a whole century later and features in the later Community section of the exhibition.  Mrs Emily McKay’s Chronicle quilt won first prize in The Chronicle’s Native Bird Quilt competition at the Royal Adelaide Show in 1934.  According to the sumptuous full colour hardback catalogue that accompanies the exhibition co-curated by renowned quilt historian and collector Dr Annette Gero and Katie Somerville, Senior Curator Fashion and Textiles, NGV:

In Adelaide during the 1930s there was a particular community quilting phenomenon that had great support. In an effort to create a distraction and a creative outlet for women during the Depression, the weekly newspaper The Adelaide Chronicle launched a competition in its women’s pages.  In March of 1932 members of the community were encouraged to make a quilt inspired by a published pattern.

Also displayed in the exhibition from the Embroiderers’ Guild of SA Museum is a collection of items made of crazy patchwork, reflecting the Australian influence.  There is Mary Elizabeth Nicholls (nee Moore)’s 1892 cushion cover, an amazing bag that looks like a jug of an unknown origin and Emily Thirza’s 1909 tea cosy all of which feature embroidered wattle and other native flowers.

South Australia is also represented by the two examples on loan from the Art Gallery of South Australia: a quilt made by Jane Judd in England during the early 19th century using a technique known asBroderie perse and later brought to South Australia by her great granddaughter; and a fascinating patchwork table cover made from golden silk cigar ribbons by Annie Percival, the daughter of a Broken Hill publican in in c1903.

As well as featuring in the accompanying catalogue, the Embroiderers’ Guild of SA Museum are also delighted that their items are amongst the exhibition merchandise. Their Chronicle quilt has been used to create gift cards, a fridge magnet and a notebook.

Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 is currently at the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre in Melbourne’s Federation Square until 6 November from 10am-5pm daily.


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