Jane Austen was both an accomplished novelist and expert seamstress. She mentions household sewing as well as trimming and retrimming her hats, bonnets and gowns several times throughout her letters. Many of her pieces of fine work survive and can be seen in the displays at her home, Chawton Cottage, in Hampshire. Among these are a white indian muslin tucker, a white embroidered lawn handkerchief and a patchwork quilt which was made by herself, her sister, Cassandra, and her mother in the early part of the nineteenth century. In May 1811, Jane asked her sister Cassandra, “have you remembered to collect pieces for the Patchwork? — we are now at a standstill.” When viewing this quilt, now displayed on a period bed in Chawton, it is easy to see why the Austen’s needed more fabric! This quilt uses 64 different patterns over its several hundred diamond shaped squares. It is amazing to think of the Austen ladies bent over their needles sewing every stitch by hand! The pattern used by the Austens is called an English medallion, that is, “a quilt with a central motif, surrounded by multiple Borders. The center is often a large square on point.” The Austen quilt is made up of a variety of Chintz (printed or painted cotton fabric) fabrics, each one specially cut to show off the pattern to it’s best ability. Chintz fabric were first imported from India in the 1600’s. While early prints were based on fashionable Indian patterns, though they were
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