Making the Australian Quilt: 1800 -1950

If you’re in Melbourne and looking for a richly satisfying experience do visit the National Gallery of Victoria’s Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 exhibition on until 6 November 2016. There are plenty of great stories, beautiful, intriguing, often very moving works and many, many, many stitches. There are witty tales told in embroidery and applique and much love and care embodied in each of the works. If you’re a lover of fabric you will be delighted, every conceivable kind is there in squares, hexagons, stripes, free form flowers, stars and crazy quilting too. Velvet, taffeta, cotton, crepe de chine, suiting, wool, petticoat flannel, often reused, reworked, salvaged and saved, made useful, made beautiful, made to last.

“Many of the pieces were created within an intimate, private setting, yet have the ability to convey much more of their broader social and historical significance. The exhibition encompasses quilts made by men and women, those made within the context of leisure and accomplishment, created as expressions of love and family connection and those stitched out of necessity in an environment of constraint and hardship.”– About the exhibition.

“A highlight of the exhibition is the renowned The Rajah Quilt, 1841, on loan from the National Gallery of Australia and considered one of Australia’s most important textiles. The work is the only surviving example of a quilt made by convicts on the long and treacherous three-month sea voyage from London to Van Diemen’s Land. Thought to have been hand stitched by more than 29 female convicts aboard the ship, The Rajah Quilt is decorated with bird and floral designs, and very rarely displayed due to its fragility and light-sensitivity. A second convict quilt, created in 1811 and only recently discovered, is also exhibited for the first time.” — More reading – NGV Press Release


The Rajah Quilt is worth the price of admission alone but there is plenty to delight, inspire and be awed by. The more you look, the more you’ll see details to be fascinated by, a jewel, a cheeky character, tininess, grandness, pathos, love – it’s all there in the fabric.  I came away with my eyes full. Allow yourself a couple of hours, there are more than eighty works, and you’ll want to stare at each!


Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 is on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Fed Square, from 22 July – 6 November 2016. Open daily, 10am–5pm.

Tickets on sale from Adult $15 | NGV Member $11 | Concession $12 | Child $7 | Family $41

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