The art of quilting and the Hardy sisters

The new quilt in the bedroom at Hardys Cottage

Volunteers from Hardy’s Cottage viewed two quilts kept in storage by Dorset County Museum, which had been lovingly created by Thomas Hardy’s sisters, Mary and Kate. Inspired, six volunteers decided to use the same design to make a new quilt for the cottage.

They copied Kate’s quilt, which was made with hexagon and diamond shaped patchwork pieces in very colourful fabrics. The volunteers decided to simplify the design by only using hexagons and recycled fabric from old curtains and clothes. This is exactly what would have been done in Hardy’s day, explains volunteer Sue Bonnar. “Nothing would have been wasted, fabric would have been recycled into patchwork and rag rugs.”

The new quilt has 750 hexagons and was sewn entirely by hand. The project began in 2017 and was completed in February this year, so it has been a true labour of love to get the quilt finished. The team worked on individual sections for the quilt, and once completed they met together to attach their pieces together.

The quilt was made using the traditional ‘English paper piecing’ technique. This involves folding fabric over paper templates and hand sewing these together. The paper template ensures the blocks are accurate and makes it easier to piece angles together.

Sue explained: “When we looked at the quilts made by the Hardy sisters, it was interesting to find that the papers used for their templates were music scores and what seems to be school essays, possibly from their pupils as they were both teachers.”

As is tradition, the volunteers have given the quilt a name. Sue explains: “We decided on ‘Serendipity’ during one particular session, where we discovered that the fact of finding interesting and valuable things can be by chance. Sewing as a group is very therapeutic.”

The new quilt is now on the display in the Cottage.