First off let me say, I know these images aren’t great but I wasn’t expecting to come across these incredible quilts. All I had to hand was the loan of my husband’s phone! You can make your own mind up whether poor pictures are better than no pictures at all!
We spent a fantastic day today at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh. I was truly humbled by the beauty of the vintage folk quilts they had on display there. These quilts, some nearly 200 hundred years old, were displayed in cabins that were sometimes little more than hovels. The poverty and the hardship of the lives of the people who lived in these cottages was shocking. The beauty of the quilts literally shone out of the white-washed rooms.
I particularly liked this quilt because it was such a clear example of patchwork in its starkest form. Patches of fabric had been cut from worn clothing and stitched together to form a quilt. I could pick out shirt fabrics, a square of tweed, maybe cut from an old cap, striped night shirt fabric and the sudden beauty of a delicate blue dress print. Quilts at this time in Ireland did not usually contain a middle layer and were simply two layers of cloth quilted together. Even on a mild Spring day it seemed pitifully thin and I can’t imagine it kept children warm through bitter winter nights.
This cute cottage belonged to one of the more prosperous tenant farmers who emigrated to America, eventually founding the Mellon bank! It housed a stunning little hexagon quilt but the room was just so dark, I couldn’t photograph it adequately.
This gorgeous quilt would have been stitched entirely by hand. Often these quilts were made as a wedding gift or 21st birthday present for one of the daughters in the household. Their preservation shows how much they were cherished!
I love the detail of this quilt. If you look closely you can see the staining from its many years of use. I wonder what its maker would have thought of our lives today with all the conveniences of modern living! I feel very honoured to be a small part of the continuation of this old Irish craft.