If you are like me, you find everything about Jane Austen endlessly fascinating.
I enjoy the emails I receive about the Jane Austen Quilt. Today, my plan is to answer a few of the most common questions. What could be better than starting with a few photos?
I took this photo at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton in 2001. Since then, the quilt has been professionally cleaned. The quit is lighter and brighter without centuries of dust and dirt, and now it is beautifully displayed on a replica of Jane Austen’s bed.
I first saw the patchwork coverlet in Jane Austen’s bedroom at the house in Chawton before I was a quilter, and it has fascinated me ever since. It is the inspiration for five of my books: Quilted Diamonds, Quilted Diamonds 2, Jane Austen’s Writing Table Quilts, Jane Austen Patchwork (downloadable pattern), and Jane Austen Patchwork Mystery.
Jane Austen, Cassandra, and their mother sewed patchwork when they lived in Chawton. They used templates for English Paper Piecing. There was no preference for sizes which were easy to measure, because they weren’t measuring.
As a result, the shape and size of the diamonds and sashing are tricky for modern quilters. The few patterns which appeared over the years simplified the numbers to avoid measuring in eighths and sixteenths of an inch, or cutting odd angles. That added another layer of confusion. There was no way to reconcile the sizes and angles in the various sources.
Since Inklingo eliminates the need for measuring (by printing the outline of the shapes on the wrong side of the fabric), I knew it was possible to prepare an absolutely accurate pattern to sew by machine or by hand.
With the gracious permission and assistance of the Jane Austen Memorial Trust, we were able to determine the measurements of the original, so Jane Austen Patchwork Mystery and the Inklingo download are the first and only accurate patterns.
WHEN WAS IT MADE?
Almost every reference to the coverlet quotes a letter which Jane Austen wrote to Cassandra on Friday, 31 May, 1811, from Chawton:
(Yes, that’s how she spelled pieces. She liked freindship too.)
However, the letter may or may not refer to this coverlet. The difficulty of the dates is discussed in Jane Austen Patchwork Mystery. The problem is the date of the fabric panel used for the center medallion.
Quilters often ask me where they can get the fabric for the center medallion.
The medallion in the original coverlet is an attractive printed panel. There have been a few attempts at manufacturing a reproduction of it.
If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all. Moving on . . .
I started with a cotton drapery fabric and then selected the fabrics for the diamonds and the sashing from my stash and from a local quilt shop.
Some quilters have appliquéed baskets of flowers for a lovely medallion, and others have created their own artwork to print on fabric, the way Emma might have done. (Except that Emma probably would not finish hers!)
I also used the cotton drapery fabric for the border—instead of sewing 2500 small diamonds like the original!
I sewed this small version by machine, except for the inner border of diamonds.
NOT A QUILT AT ALL
No, it’s not a quilt! The “Jane Austen Quilt” is only two layers (top and back; no batting or quilting), so it is a coverlet. You can be true to the original or make a quilt. What do you think Elizabeth Bennet would do?
Linda & Monkey
PS We have written about Jane Austen on this blog before. You can collect the posts on one page by using the Search feature (up at the top).