Last summer I started to read about a new book that was due to be released about a silk coverlet made in England in 1718. I was intrigued by the coverlet as I am drawn to old English patchwork and the idea of making it began to germinate in my mind. My son even mentioned the book to me when he heard about it as he knew it was something I might like. The book, by Susan Briscoe, was released and I got busy with other things and the idea was pushed to the back of my mind. Then a few weeks ago while reading blogs I came across the 1718 Coverlet Quilt Along hosted by the blogs "The Last Piece" and "Mrs. Schmenkman Quilts" (sorry I am having issues with linking but you can google the 1718 Coverlet Quilt along) and I started thinking about the quilt again. Within a few hours I had pulled my stash of silks out and ordered the book, which I found deeply discounted online at Connecting Threads, and another new project was born. The book is really fascinating as, along with the pattern instructions, it gives a history of how the quilt was purchased for a museum in England and was then reproduced using the original techniques.
First a bit about these silks. About 5 years ago My DH and I were living in China due to his job and we went to Bangkok on holiday. Because we lived in rural China the silks that I hoped to purchase there were not available so I was hoping to purchase silk in Thailand. In Bangkok we toured the Jim Thompson house and I was fascinated to learn about how he had revived the silk industry in Thailand in the 1950's and 60's. The Jim Thompson silks made today are some of the most beautiful in the world and I had the opportunity to go to the outlet. So exciting for a fabric lover and I ended up purchasing a meter of almost 30 different colors of silk taffeta. A few years later, back here in the US, a friend was moving and gifted me with a box full of sample swatches from the Jim Thompson showroom in Atlanta that she had been gifted many years earlier. I had no idea what to do with them but hoped I would come up with a worthy project. I also had collected a few other silk bits over the years, including a few from local decor fabric stores, and really had accumulated quite a stash.
In looking at the coverlet more closely I realized that this was the project that would tie these silks together. Lots of stripes, solids and a few odd prints would be in keeping with the original and would give me a chance to work with these great fabrics. I was very nervous to use silks but they have been sitting around for over 5 years and I really want to use them myself rather than leave them unused in my stash to just stroke now and then! So I just began and they work beautifully. They do fray a bit more than cottons but the Jim Thompson taffetas appliqué beautifully using simple needle turn. I am not using any kind of stabilizer in either the piecing or appliqué and so far so good.
Here is block 1. It is one of the largest in the quilt at a finished size of 13 1/2 inches. The original quilt was all pieced with papers in an English Paper Piecing fashion but the book also includes modern directions for piecing and appliqué and that is how I am making my version. In this block the background was pieced and then the appliqué applied. I decided to try it rather than just using a solid background as I had this great stripe and am pleased with how it turned out.
My version will obviously not be a true reproduction but I have decided to use the original as my inspiration for color placement. My silk selection has many similar colors and stripes but I am taking lots of liberties as I go. For example I have no browns or blacks so I will just use something that I think works. I love the versions being made with modern cottons and prints but am forcing myself to stick with silks. Here is where I am so far. The lighting really messes with the silks. The two end large blocks are all the same fabrics though the appliqué is only completed on one of the blocks.
It is truly a joy to work with these fabrics on such an interesting project. History, stitching and memories combined, what could be more perfect!