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Stories of Collaborative Making: Two Rochdale Quilts

Slater, AJ and Setterington, L (2017) Stories of Collaborative Making: Two Rochdale Quilts. Quilt Studies (18). pp. 7-36. ISSN 1467-2723

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Abstract

This paper explores the making of two signature quilts whose origins lie in the town of Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The first quilt, a black and gold satin bedspread, was made in Rochdale in December 1895; the date was embroidered on the quilt along with almost 200 signatures. It was re-discovered in the Touchstones Rochdale archive in 2012. Beyond the scarce details in the accession record, which indicated the quilt was made by Miss Emily Taylor – a Tripe Dresser of Ann Street in the town – and donated to the archives by a distant relative, little was known about the its origins. Using newspaper archives and books about Rochdale in the late 19th century, textile historian Alison Slater will share the journey of discovery of her research into the historical quilt’s story. The findings question the accuracy of the accession record, revealing the women who made it and the men and women of Rochdale who contributed their signatures to its design. The story told gives a snap shot of late Victorian philanthropy, led by leading figures in the town at the time, where community-based quilt-making was used to give a new charity, the NSPCC, a boost towards its profile and funds. The second quilt was made in Rochdale and the surrounding borough in summer 2013 as a socially engaged art project led by textile artist Lynn Setterington. In direct response to the historical quilt, the contemporary version was created as a record of the people of Rochdale today. Residents were encouraged to embroider their signatures onto pillowcases, bought at local charity shops, through sewing drop-in sessions, workshops and ‘sew your own packs’. The quilt combines these postcard-sized embroidered squares together and includes the signatures of over 300 people. Using her contemporary records of the quilt’s construction, Lynn’s story told gives a snap shot of those living in Rochdale today. This borough has more than its share of social and political issues spreading a negative view through media outlets. This community-based quilt-making project counters this negativity and the completed quilt gives the town and its residents a positive voice and preserves it for future generations. These two quilts were brought together for an exhibition at Touchstones Rochdale in December 2013. As snap shots of the moments in which they were made, these quilts offer a tactile expression of the shared dialogue of the social life of a town over time and how quilt-making can bring communities together.

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