Before talking about the Quilting clubs I think it is important to know a little bit about the area in which they came about.
A photo of Weardale today, once an industrial Lead mining area.
The Northern Pennine region including Allendale, Weardale and Teesdale had rich deposits of Lead. The Lead mining was at its height during the 1700’s &1800’s when thousands of workers mined the area, many setting up homes there. Some of the quilting clubs started at this time to bring in extra money into the home, particularly for those who had been widowed.
By the late 1880’s the price of lead was so low, the big mining companies withdrew and unemployment was writhe. Some of the workers will have moved into the coal mining areas further to the east of the country, around Durham, Northumberland and Newcastle. Here quilters clubs were set up by miners wife’s who had been widowed or their husbands disabled. The quilt clubs came into their own during the strikes and depressions of the 1920’s and 1930’s and provided a much needed income.
The women in the mining areas would have been engaged in making quilts on large wooden frames in the farmhouses and cottages and would have fitted the quilting around household and farm chores. Three generations, grandma, mother and daughter might work at the frame.
If a quilt club was set up just one person would have worked on the quilt for longer hours each day, making a quilt in 1 or 2 weeks. The patterns would have been easier and quicker to complete and the running stitches not so small. They would have generally marked out the quilts and could be wholecloth or strippy quilts.
This quilt is from the Beamish collection and is peach/pink sateen with a cream sateen reverse. Quilted with a central rose and a rose in each corner with 12 concentric circles equally spaced around the quilt. It has a diamond infill finished off with a feather border. –circa 1920.
From the quilt I worked out some of the patterns used, the central rose design, the goosewing and concentric circles.
This is a simplified example of how the quilt club could work, which was like a higher purchase system.
The quilt club would have 25 members, each person contributed 1 shilling per week for 25weeks (the quilt costing 25 shillings) Names would be drawn out of a bag to determine the order customers would get a quilt. So once a week one person would receive a quilt and by the end of 25 weeks all 25 members would have a quilt.
After materials, wadding and thread for a quilt the Quilter was left with a small profit to live on.
The quilt clubs gave a continuation of the craft through the beginning of the 20 century and played an important role in providing a means of survival for women in hard times.
If you would like to read more M. Fitzrandolph in her book “Traditional Quilting” (1954) has interviews and stories about the quilt clubs which makes very interesting reading .
The quilt clubs by 1939 declined dramatically. due to textile rationing during the war years.
Next week we will look at a beautiful cot quilt made through the Rural Industries Bureau to be sold in London.