Marianne Gibson's Crazy Patchwork Quilt
In this video curator Dianne Mangan, textile artist and researcher Chris Dormer, Heather Lane from the Wangaratta Historical Society, and artist Susan Mathews discuss the Marianne Gibson Quilt.
Made in 1891 in Wangaratta, the Marianne Gibson Quilt is one of the finest surviving examples of a crazy patchwork quilt in the world.
Crazy patchwork was extremely popular between 1876 and the 1920s, and defined a major shift from traditional quilting, which involved precise geometrical patterns. Rather than employing regular patterns and batting or filling, it uses irregular pieces of often exotic fabric (such as velvet, silk, tulle or satin) in asymmetrical ways, involving embellishments such as ribbons, button and embroidery. Fancy stitches such as feather, herringbone, fly and chain are also seen.
It became a fad in America in the late 19th Century, probably influenced by the sensation caused by the Japanese pavilion at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where asymmetrical designs with ceramics and other art were exhibited. It remained popular until about 1920.
The Marianne Gibson Quilt, completed 1891, was made in Wangaratta by Marianne Gibson (1837- 1911) an experienced needlewoman. It is composed of 9 blocks, and features silks and velvets, with embellishments such as lacework and embroidery.
The main blocks are outlined with gold embroidered feather-stitch and many individual patches are embroidered with motifs that include Australiana such as flowers and birds, popular orientalist kitsch such as the geisha, domestic objects such the rakes that filled her father’s shop, and Marianne’s initials. The backing is beige silk, and a variety of threads is used, including chenille.
The quilt remained in the Marianne Gibson’s family until it was presented to Miss Alma Gard, who later donated it to the Wangaratta Historical Society.
-Well, it's just a fantastic example of the crazy quilt. Like I have seen crazy quilts, but none of them quite as elaborate, as colorful, and as beautifully executed as this one.
-Crazy patchwork quilts were a phenomenon around late 19th century, the last two decades of the late 19th century. And this quilt was made in 1891, which means that Marianne Gibson was right in the center of that craze or phenomenon that was happening in the Western world. So she took part in that. And she made this quilt I think probably later in her life, and it's been preserved beautifully by the family, which is fantastic. The color hasn't faded, and most of the patchwork samples are in great condition.
-Apparently it is typical of crazy patchwork quilts that were made at that time, especially with the Japanese lady on it. It seems to be the thing that was happening at that time. However, I know Marianne has gone and put Australian in in. There's this desert pea in the center. There's King Parrots on it. There's the wattle on it. There's typically Australian things on it.
-The craziness of it is that all of the patches are irregular in size and shape, and they've just been sewn together in a crazy sort of way. So there's not pattern, no formal structure. But the quilt overall has been structured, in that the nine pieces have been placed in a grid and then joined by the beautiful velvet and the satin rushing that goes between each shape. And then, of course, all the lovely handmade lace on the edge. Marianne has used some Chenille thread in each of the patchwork squares. And not only to embroider shapes with-- like there's a couple of butterflies that she's embroidered out of the Chenille thread-- but also as a stitching that she's used to join the patches.
There's lots of flags. There's lots of beautiful fans. She's used some of Kate Greenaway's illustrations from her children's books also, and they've been embroidered and sewn in. She's just got everything from tennis rackets to birds to lots and lots of flower symbols. And different animals, as well. There's one section up here that looks like it's a sort of embroidery that you might get it on an item that comes from Romania, or Hungary, or Czechoslovakia.
-I believe there maybe an M on it somewhere. And I believe that relates to a daughter, Mary, Mary Jane, who died at a day old. There's a Rest Darling, too, and I believe that's for her son, William, who died at 17 years of age. And she's also embroidered her down initials very beautifully, and the date that it was made. So it's obviously an heirloom to be passed down through the generations.
DIANNE MANGAN: It is beautifully made, the stitching on it. It just jumps out at you, and you can see the color there. And you never, ever find out everything about the quilt. Every time you have a look at it, you find something new on it.
SUSAN MATHEWS: The rich red color and the lusciousness of the velvet is very strong. And it's completed with this amazingly lavish lace, which I just think is gorgeous.
DIANNE MANGAN: It's probably one of the most well preserved specimen of its kind in the world.
SUSAN MATHEWS: It was made in Wangaratta, and it's still in Wangaratta, which is a wonderful feature.
-It's of huge value to our community.