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Be inspired every day with Living North
The Bowes Museum, Dreamstime
What's on
December 2021
Reading time 15

Quilting is one of the best examples of a traditional art form that has been passed down through generations – and that’s exactly what’s being celebrated at The Bowes Museum this winter

North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions combines the past and present of this craft by bringing together historic and contemporary quilts from the North, each with its own fascinating story.
Quilt, The Bowes Museum

Organised by The Bowes Museum’s curator of Fashion and Textiles, Joanna Hashagen, and exhibition consultant, Dorothy Osler, it follows on from the hugely successful North Country Quilts: Legend and Living Tradition exhibition which took place in 2000.

You can expect to see 25 stunning quilts this time around and one not to be missed is a stripy quilt made by Hannah Hauxwell’s grandmother, Elizabeth Bayles, in the 1880s. You may recognise Hannah’s name from a TV documentary about her life working alone on a remote Upper Teesdale farm with no running water or electricity in the 1970s. 

There’s also a breath-taking Pink Star-pieced quilt in the Sanderson Star design, which was displayed during International Quilt Week in Yokohama in 2008. It’s recognised as one of the finest examples of this style and was acquired by the Museum in 2020. The design takes its name from the woman who designed the pattern, Elizabeth Sanderson, from Allenheads. 

Contemporary examples include Leila Anderson’s hand-painted silk quilts which pay homage to the landscape of Teesdale where Leila grew up, and Plantforms, a black and white monochrome piece which was designed by Berwickshire-based contemporary textile artist Pauline Burbidge.

The museum’s textile conservator, Cecilia Oliver, prepared all the quilts for the exhibition by gently cleaning them and carrying out intricate repairs. You can see more of this in this behind the scenes video and get a sneak peek at some of the quilts ahead of visiting though the 3D online tour that is on the museum’s website. 

You can also get hands-on with demonstrations, workshops and talks featuring a variety of textile artists including multimedia artist Kaffe Fassett, who opened the 2000 show. A book will also accompany this show (and the original 2000 book has been reprinted). The new illustrated 68-page catalogue (written by Dorothy Osler, with foreword by Joanna Hashagen and sponsored by Christopher Wilson-Tate of the Antique Textiles Company) delves into the details of the individual quilts and their fascinating history. With so much to learn, the museum’s education team is also working with artists in schools, care homes and craft groups.

North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions will run until 9th January 2022.

The Museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm.  All admission tickets must be booked in advance by calling 01833 690606 or at thebowesmuseum.org.uk.

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