Alternative Name(s): Hexagon Quilt, Hexagonal Quilt, Honeycomb Quilt, Mosaic Quilt, Six Sided Patchwork
Patchwork quilt comprising of small hexagonal cotton and wool fabrics hand-sewn together, backed with paper recycled from printed publications (including an 1832 missionary publication), hand-written letters and (likely) letter copybooks. The quilt is unfinished, with several separate pieces, unfinished edges and tacking still in place. Textile specialist Laura Jocic identifies the fabric as 1830s in style, with no pieces later than the early 1840s. The cream infill pieces appear to be plain 'Holland' cotton, in glazed (also known as 'holland finish') and unglazed forms. The quilt was most likely made in the 1840s.
According to the donor, the quilt was probably made by her great grandmother Jane Kay, in keeping with the 1840s creation period. It was later in the keeping of her two great aunts Jean and Catherine Kay who lived in Elgin in North Scotland during the 19th century. They never married and lived a very frugal life, evident from a cellar full of hoarded items including piles of coal. Despite the cold climate the aunts only allowed themselves a tiny fire for a few hours a day, even in the middle of winter. It was in the cellar that the quilt was discovered by family members.
Some of the male members of the Kay family had been Methodist ministers and missionaries so the rest of the family followed the strict Methodist way of living. The aunts' niece Valerie Margaret Smith (nee Kay) recalled that they never had alcohol in the house, but on Christmas Day they were allowed a treat, and a jug of ginger essence and water would be served in place of wine. Sunday was a traditional day of rest and church-going.
Valerie's daughter Hilary (the donor) migrated to Australia in 1969 via a ten pound assisted passage, having met and fallen in love with an Australian man whom she met in London. They married and she relocated to Melbourne. After the death of her father and younger brother, her mother Valerie was left with no family in the UK, so at the age of 82, Valerie decided to move to Melbourne to be with her daughter, bringing the quilt with her as it was too precious to leave behind.
Hilary reflects in 2021: "This quilt is important to our family, as it was sewn by my Scottish great grandmother although never finished. My mother rescued it when she was packing up the lifelong belongings of my great aunts after they died. My mum was a great needleworker as well as collector of antiques and she recognised the value of the quilt to our family and possibly to the broader community. Mum eventually left the UK and came to live in Australia and she bought the quilt with her. I know she would be very happy to see that its value as an interesting piece of craft work as well of beauty has been recognised."
Hilary Vaughan 21.7.21
Patchwork quilt with hexagonal cotton and wool fabrics hand-sewn together, backed with paper recycled from printed publications, hand-written letters and letter copybooks.
Place & Date Made
Type of item
1065 mm (Width), 1470 mm (Height)
145 (Width), 130 (Height)
Measurement for 16 individual patches.