Community Story Quilt Project

 

Throughout 2017, as part of the Museums’ Bicentenary commemorations, there has been a hive of activity amongst stitchers, locally and globally, working away to produce a community story quilt. The quilt has been funded through a Heritage Lottery grant, and inspired by the patchwork coverlet created by Jane, her mother and sister, on display in the Museum following recent conservation.  Each individual quilt block has been designed and created by representatives from over forty community groups worldwide, including groups in North America, Australia, Pakistan and Brazil as well as closer to home in the village of Chawton. Each block will explore a different Austen theme, which when combined, will form a patchwork of stories narrating Jane Austen’s life, work and legacy; and as Autumn approaches, it is nearly time for these special pieces to return to Chawton.

 

Early in the Spring, we recruited Brighton based quilt designer Elizabeth Betts as our Quilt Designer overseeing the final construction of sixty individually created quilt blocks. 

 

Over the course of the next few months Liz and myself will be posting every couple of weeks, about the busy progress of the quilt project so far, which has included patchwork workshops, local libraries, medallion centre pieces, talks and more!

 

 

Lucy Bailey, Project Manager

 

 

When did you first discover your interest in Jane Austen?

 

My interest in Austen developed as a teenager, when suddenly boys were no longer a nuisance but potential love interests. My best friend and I used to watch Austen adaptations obsessively. My friend Saskia and I also spent a weekend in Bath at the Regency Ball, having made our own dresses, the most exciting part of which was seeing the Officers around Bath and running up to them like Lydia and Kitty. What can I say - we were nineteen!

 

What do you like most about working at Jane Austen’s House Museum?

 

I enjoy being in the countryside. I am a country girl at heart and I like being able to step out of the office door and be in the fresh air and greenery.

 

What is the most exciting aspect of the quilt project for you?

 

The most exciting part of the project for me is the mix of groups. I love the fact we have Austen experts, alongside school children, professional quilters, those who have never sewn before and groups from around the world.

Elizabeth Betts, Quilt Designer

 

When did you first discover your interest in Jane Austen?

 

Oh dear, I wish I could say something clever, but it has to be the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I had just finished my GCSEs and loved reading, but I wasn’t keen on the set text from my exams and so was mainly reading post 1950s novels. I tuned in and fell in love with the storylines, the characters, the settings - just everything. Lizzie was the perfect role model for a teenager, caring, intelligent and forthright, and even now if I go for a long walk I like to think it is making my eyes look brighter! Following this I consumed everything she wrote, and still have my tatty Penguin classics at home. They have seen better days, and I’ll never let them go, however, as a print designer, I do have my eye on a set of gorgeous Penguin Clothbound Classics.

 

What do you like most about working at Jane Austen’s House Museum?

 

The House has a lovely feel, and every time I visit I feel privileged to be there. I love history, and it truly comes alive when you know the connection a place has to a specific time and person. As a female creative, the combination of Jane Austen’s writing with her domestic life and what was expected of her and the behaviour of women at the time, never fail to inspire.

 

What is the most exciting aspect of the quilt project for you?

 

It has been satisfying to guide the project from a concept to something that now has a plan to make it happen. The scale of the project and the level of enthusiasm from everyone involved means I cannot wait to see the finished quilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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