Above: Some of the Patchwork and Quilting Group, Skeagh.
An exhibition of locally made patchwork quilts, in all their intricacies and colour, will be on display from Tuesday, October 7 to Sunday, October 12 at the Old Skeagh Creamery, Skeagh, Skibbereen. The show is being hosted by Marie Sprott, who set up a group of stitchers in 2012 and now gives instruction two mornings and two evenings a week to West Cork women where chat, coffee and sewing all vie for importance. Marie originally came from Birr in County Offaly but is now firmly established in West Cork.
The custom of patchwork quilting is still carried on all over Ireland, turning necessity into invention. These beautiful heirlooms continue to be created using scrap materials, or perhaps treasured old frocks that have long been outgrown or pretty fabrics found at charity shops and jumble sales. More frequently, however, they are now made from newly purchased fabrics of every hue and pattern.
Many quilts are made to traditional patterns and Marie’s first quilt was called Grandmother’s Country Garden, which is made up of hundreds of different little coloured and patterned hexagons of fabric, stitched together to create a sheet, which is then layered with wadding for warmth and backed with another fabric. For the past six years, she has been going to a retreat, run by the Quilters Guild of Ireland, to learn even more complex skills to enhance her work — all of which she generously passes on to her groups.
Historians have found evidence of patchwork — piecing small scraps of fabric together to create a large piece, then quilting layers together for warmth — throughout the ages. The earliest examples have been found in Egyptian tombs and in China as long as 5000 years ago. Quilted materials were found in the construction of armour in the Middle Ages to keep soldiers warm. As the European climate became colder around this time — 11th to 13th centuries — so bed quilts became more common, often embellished with more fabric pieces in pretty patterns, called appliqué.
Although patchwork quilts demonstrated admirable and frequently essential frugality, more than anything it was, and still is, fun to sit and chat with other women while you sew; having help when layering the batting; making decisions about colour or pattern and generally enjoying the company of others while creating something practical but also beautiful. Patchwork quilting has almost become an art form in itself and some of the shapes and patterns can take your breath away.
The Exhibition of Patchwork Quilts at Skeagh shows quilts made locally and some by members of the Quilters Guild of Ireland who were kind enough to lend the group display stands. If you want to find out more, have a look at their Facebook page for more information on quilting. For information on the exhibition telephone Marie on 086 3774686. Open Tuesday, October 7 to Sunday, October 12, 10.30am to 4.30pm at the Old Skeagh Creamery, Skeagh. This is a free event but donations will be welcome and will all go to the Baltimore Life Boat fund.
How to get there? Half way between Skibbereen and Ballydehob is Kilcoe Church. If you are travelling west turn right with Kilcoe church on your left and drive for approximately two miles. You will find Skeagh Creamery on your right.