At this time

An historic Quilt

My neighbour Jane Beatty, who's home lies in the street behind my house, has a wall hanging on her bedroom wall of a unfinished hexigon quilt.

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Even though the quilt is unfinished the pieces have been handed down through the generations of her family.  Each generation added a few more flowers until the piece reached it's current size.  I suspect it was one of those projects that someone thinks they will finish, but it never happens.  Jane then took this and sewed it onto a backing cloth and it now hangs above her bed.  She has not removed any of the papers or the original tacking.  (My mind almost explodes when I think what those papers might reveal.)  This piece will then be passed to her daughter.

The quilt was started in the 1860's by Ellen Mary Fitzhenry nee Cronin who emigrated to Australia in the 1860's from Ireland.  It is not known jut where she started the quilt, Ireland, on the way out, or in Australia.

(sorry for the quality of this photo but it is old, on glass and under glass.)

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Mary Ellen Fitzhenry.

It is known that she sewed this central red group of hexigon flowers.

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The beginnings of this quilt then passed to her daughter Ellen.

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Ellen Oliver nee Fitzhenry with her son, (Jane's father) and her aunts Alice and Marie. (early 1900's)  All three of these women contributed to the quilt.

The fabrics used change with each era but there is still a continuity to the whole.

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You can see from the tacking of each piece that paper not cardboard was used as a backing and if you look closely you can count the number of whip stitches used to attach each piece to it's neighbour. There are some blocks that scream 1920's and 30's. This one was stitched by her mother,  Margaret Oliver.

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But his piece speaks eloquently of far more than of just the fabric and stitching.  It speaks of a history of women over more than 100 years.  Of family and how that has succored it's members.  Of a commonality of understanding and shared love of textiles between it's female members.  Each piece is saturated with memories and the lives of the women who stitched it.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we had a written record from the makers about the making of this quilt?  So much is just guess work.  What we think might have been the intentions and emotions of the makers.  Men documented everything they did.  Women didn't think that was important.

But it is.


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I suspect they thought the doing was more interesting than writing about it. It's possible for someone who knows about pattern to identify the period a fabric was produced by the pattern or the dyes, but what we don't get, of course, is what they were thinking about as they were doing it..

Carolyn Foley

As I make each quilt I am now writing a little piece to go with it and putting a copy of this in my journal.

Sent from my iPhone

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