20th February 2017 – 9th December 2017

Friendship quilt Quaker Tapestry collection

This 19th Century friendship quilt is a major work of art with connections to the Victorian Art World, William Morris and Queen Victoria herself! Come along to find out more.

The Barrett Counterpane

Displayed before you is a nineteenth century hand embroidered counterpane or coverlet. Imagine yourself in front of a large brass framed Victorian bed upon which this counterpane would have been laid. The imaginary bedroom in which you are quietly standing belongs to Marianne Barrett.

Marianne’s marriage to the artist, Jerry Barrett in 1867, had brought her into contact with several of the leading painters, engravers and writers of the day and it was to these new friends, as well as to her own and Jerry’s relations, that she turned when she began the counterpane in 1899.

At first glance, the counterpane resembles a chessboard: squares individually embroidered with designs in blue thread alternate with hand-knitted cream squares. Sewn along the sides of the counterpane on brown backgrounds are four quotations. Each quotation relates to the theme of sleep or dreams.

Stitch by stitch and thread by thread, the counterpane took shape over a period of ten years during which time 34 embroiderers, all of them women, contributed their own personalised squares. As a result each square holds clues that, once solved, shed light on forgotten lives. This silent cloth is filled with voices.

The clues reveal that the oldest embroiderer was aged 83 and the youngest was in her early teens. In this way the counterpane looks back to a time before railways and forward to the helter skelter of the twentieth century.

Did you know – you can buy the knitting pattern from our on-line shop and make your own Friendship Quilt.