July Quilt of the Month - White and Yellow Wholecloth Quilt

Published: Tuesday, 10th July 2012 15:47 PM

Despite the summer month of July, the recent rainy weather has inspired a warm and cosy looking quilt of the month!

This striking yellow and white cotton wholecloth quilt was made by Frances Binns (nee Murray) from Corbridge, near Hexham, in 1902. It contains traditional North Country quilting patterns, including plaits, fan shapes and running feather motifs. Wholecloth quilting, where the emphasis of design focuses on the quilting patterns rather than patchwork piecing, is traditional to Wales, the North Country and the Scottish Borders. Each region has its own style and iconic quilting motifs that identify the quilt to its area of origin.

Unlike so many of the quilts in our collection, we have some information as to the maker of this beautiful piece. Frances Murray was born in 1851, and was rumoured to have come from a wealthy family background, but her mother had eloped with a coachman. Both of her parents died when she was in her teens. Together with her youngest sister Isabelle, they went to work as governess and cook to a family in Birkhamshaw, where Frances met her future husband, Henry Binns. They had four children, and her eldest son Frank went on to married fellow teacher Annie Hannam. Frances was very fond of Annie, and made her this quilt as a 21st Birthday present. It is thought Frances made a lot of quilts to supplement the family income and as gifts for different members of the family, although it is not certain what happened to these other quilts.

Interestingly the overall design of the quilt closely echoes another quilt in the Museum collection. The ‘Triple X’ quilt, also made in yellow and white cotton with a central ‘X’ design is thought to have been made by quilt teacher Nellie Ellison in the Castleside area of County Durham around 1910. In both cases, the quilting patterns have been drawn into the quilts using blue pencil, and traces of this can still be seen. Drawing quilting designs required a great deal of skill, and whilst both Frances and Nellie would have drawn their designs themselves, quilt tops could be sent away to have their designs drawn on by professional quilt marker.

White and yellow wholecloth quilt made by France Binns, 1902White and yellow wholecloth quilt made by France Binns, 1902

'Triple X' Wholecloth Quilt, made by Nellie Ellison c.1910'Triple X' Wholecloth Quilt, made by Nellie Ellison c.1910