300 years of British Quilt Making

THE V&A is exploring 300 years of British quilt making in its exhibition this spring. Head there to uncover more than 65 examples of quilts, from a cot cover made in the 1690s to recent examples by Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry.

Liberty Jack 2008 by Janey Forgan
Liberty Jack 2008 by Janey Forgan © V&A Images

Quilts 1700-2010 brings out the V&A’s magnificent bedcover collection and the hidden stories woven into them. The templates (backing papers) are interesting, too. Here are pieces from ledger books, children’s copy books and receipts from textile houses.

One of the most fascinating, The Elizabeth Chapman coverlet has what was thought to be a “love poem” embroidered on a panel. Further research revealed that it’s actually an epitaph to a – unconnected – dentist’s dead wife!

Many of the quilts are extremely intricate. The scene of George III reviewing his troops has 23-45 border patches, additional embroidery and drawn-on inscriptions.There are eccentric ones, one which came with a diary about smuggling, and two by Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin.

To Meet My Past, 2002 Tracey Emin
To Meet My Past, 2002 Tracey Emin,
The Saatchi Gallery, London

Some were made in rich silks and satins for wealthy patrons, others in the humbler – but fashionable chintz. A fascinating exhibition and inspiration to the nimble fingered.

20 Mar-4 July. Victoria and Albert Museum, London SW7; tel: (020) 7942 2000.