Hatched, Matched, Dispatched – and Patched!

March 14, 2015 - Nicky Hancock

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Press Release
14 March to 1 November 2015

Hatched, Matched, Dispatched – & Patched!  This major exhibition, exploring how textiles are interwoven with the stories of people’s lives opens on 14 March at the American Museum in Britain. The exhibition runs 14 March – 1 November 2015.

This exhibition brings together extraordinary textile treasures that commemorate family milestones – births, marriages, and deaths.  It features historic quilts as well as exquisite costumes and other treasures, many of which have been passed down from one generation to the next. In an era of disposable fashion and memories that fade on social media, it is wonderful to hear the stories behind carefully crafted pieces that have been cherished and conserved. The objects are intrinsically beautiful, but the human-interest stories behind the beautifully worked pieces really bring them to life. Curator Kate Hebert says that she has been enormously moved by some of these stories: ‘the personal and sentimental connections, the stories of individuals that are linked with these objects, are what I have found so moving.’

Stitched memories on display include finely detailed quilts made in response to a birth, marriage, or death – drawn from the American Museum’s own remarkable collection or on loan from exhibition partners including the Beamish Museum, Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, the Quilters’ Guild, and the Jen Jones Collection.

The exhibition will also focus on what was traditionally worn to mark these important family milestones.  Mourning garments, heavily beaded with jet, contrast with delicate bridal gowns originating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as christening robes crafted from cascades of handmade broderie anglaise lace.  The exhibition includes the wedding dress worn in 1887 by Agnes Lucy Hughes, the first mother-in-law of Wallis Simpson – the American socialite who almost brought down the British monarchy.

A Whole Cloth Cot quilt, dating from 1700-10 (Quilters Guild) is the earliest piece on display in the exhibition and is densely quilted by hand. The designs on the quilt include a mermaid and merman, a sailing ship, a castle, and several exotic animals including a lion and a camel. Other memorable pieces include the Welcome Little Stranger Pincushion, dating from 1821, the Daffodil Dress embroidered for a bride-to-be’s trousseau (which was never worn because she tragically died on a trip to Europe prior to her wedding date), and Welsh quilted burial skirts from the late nineteenth century (such clothing is rare because it is usually buried). A tablecloth embroidered with the names of colleagues and friends of an American soldier who took part in the D-Day landings is incomplete. His British fiancée stopped embroidering the cloth when she heard he had been killed in action.  The stitched decoration remains unfinished, the needle still in the cloth.

The exhibition coincides with a resurgence of interest in sewing fuelled by the BBC TV programme The Great British Sewing Bee, now into its third series, whose judge, Patrick Grant, said ‘there’s a natural desire to work with our hands….we simply love making stuff’. In 2014, 393,114 sewing machines were purchased in the United Kingdom and a number of specialist craft magazines have been spawned on the back of this trend including Heirloom Patchwork & Quilting, which focuses specifically on heritage projects to sew and cherish.

Throughout the Museum’s season there will be a series of fascinating talks and workshops supporting the exhibition, starting with a talk on 16 April by Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Fashion & Textiles at the Victoria & Albert Museum who curated their hugely successful exhibition of wedding dresses. The Fabric of Memory is a special exhibition at the American Museum resulting from a year-long collaborative project with Bath Spa University’s Mixed Media Textiles, exploring the theme of textiles and memory, running from Tuesday 26 until Sunday 31 May.

Hatched, Matched, Dispatched – and Patched! American Life in Literature, Art and Film is a ten-week course with Dr Allan Phillipson, analysing the changes in American life over the last 100 years and, touching on representations of the family and marriage in art and film. Many of us have a box full of precious objects and collected ephemera. Join artist Kate Crossley for a workshop on 9 May to create a cabinet of curiosities to bring your much loved objects together. For details of these and other interesting talks and workshops, visit www.americanmuseum.org.

THE AMERICAN MUSEUM IN BRITAIN, located close to the city of Bath, was established to inform visitors about the cultural history of the United States, strengthening the bond of understanding between the two nations. Thousands of decorative items are on display in a series of Period Rooms that tell the story of the history of the United States from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries including one of the finest collections of American quilts in the world. Set on 125 acres, the Museum has spectacular grounds with an outdoor terrace offering sweeping views across the Limpley Stoke Valley – an area of outstanding natural beauty.

For ticket prices and opening times visit americanmuseum.org or Tel: 01225 460503.

For press information and images, please contact:

Hancock Communications

Tel. +44 (0)1225 332299

E-mail nicky@hancockcomm.com