Our tiny local museum has a display of stitching at the moment, and I took a quick hour out of my day last week to go and have a look.
There were a number of small items, as well as some lovely smocks which had been painstakingly stitched, and then later mended in places. I didn't photograph the smocks, but I did manage to capture some of the other items.
I loved this stitched map. We live just north of Bristol - for those from further afield, if you start at the Bristol Channel (on the left, about two-thirds of the way down), then move east up the Severn River, you can see Bris tol to the right of the word River. I like how the stitcher has squeezed in the county names.
The star of the show is something pretty amazing. Back in 1894 the local vicarage was declared unsanitary and uninhabitable and was demolished to make way for a new one. Local people raised some money, and the new vicarage was duly built. But in 1900 there was still a debt of £150, and it was proposed to hold a Sale of Work to clear it.
The sale was held over two days, and included a rummage stall, penny dips, refreshments and entertainments as well as an evening dance at the tennis court at the local castle. The parish accounts also referred to "Mrs Chambers' Quilt" which raised £8-1s-0d.
Last summer, when a local family were clearing a building on their farm, they unearthed an old cardboard box, which contained damp sheets and various odds and ends. It was nearly thrown away, but fortunately someone noticed a roll of coloured fabric at the bottom. It turned out to be an amazing patchwork quilt with each square handstitched and representing a local person or business.
The central panel, worked by a Mrs Lucy Chambers, shows the new vicarage. It's safe to assume it is the quilt referred to in the records of the Sale of Work.
Mrs Chambers was born in 1850, the daughter of a grocer here in this town. She married her cousin (I know in some places that kind of thing is prohibited, but here it's A-okay), and they even had three children, although one died before she was two. Mrs Chambers lived in a house at the top of the high street and ran a small private school there. She died aged 54, just four years after the quilt was completed.
I'm not sure if she created the whole quilt. It would have been a huge undertaking - as well as the central panel there are another 236 small squares. It is a so-called bazaar quilt, with each square sponsored by someone who would have paid to have their initials or something relating to their business stitched onto their square.
The individual squares are wonderful. My favourites are the bird drinking, the bicycle, the bee hive and the saddle. And I love the borders on some of them, so evenly stitched.
At the bottom of the display cabinet were these two beautiful old sewing machines.
I always find seeing something like this quite inspirational. All those hours of concentration and dedication. I am so pleased that it's on display for people to see now. I think it will be sold eventually, and the museum will try and raise the money to buy it. I do hope they succeed.
On the way out I passed this map of our area.
Almost the whole area was fields of course, each one with a name, some more imaginative than others. There's Home Ground, Middle Ground and Further Ground, Great Hills and Further Hills, and when it comes to Five Acres and Ten Acres, I don't think they were really trying. My favourites - Drimble and Havlands. Wonderful. Sadly it all looks very different now, but we are lucky to be just a very small town plenty of countryside still around us. Long may it last.