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Bed cover

Bed cover

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1800-50 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pieced silk and cotton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Patchwork is a needlework technique where small pieces of cut out fabric shapes are sewn together to produce a decorative design. The most enduring method in Britain is done by hand, and is known as 'piecing over paper'. A pattern is first drawn onto paper and then accurately cut out. Small pieces of fabric are tacked round each of the shapes, and then joined together from the back using overstitch. A bedcover that has been pieced but not wadded is often referred to as a coverlet.

The complex, double-sided design of this coverlet would have been pieced over paper when it was first created. At some point in the nineteenth century, repairs have been made to some of the more fragile silks and silk velvets. It was probably at this point that whole sheets of newspaper were used as an interlining, adding strength and stability to the original coverlet. Paper was handmade until the mid-nineteenth century and was both expensive and extremely useful. Waste-paper was a valuable household commodity and was often kept over a long period.

Although very little was known about this coverlet when it was acquired in 1937, the papers now visible through the damaged silks provide a record of the household's reading habits. Most are taken from newspapers dating from the 1780s to 1840s, and include trial reports and racing calendars from the Leicestershire area.

Physical description

Patchwork of plain and complex weave silks, with some later repairs in cotton. There are two separate patchwork projects evident: one on either side of the bed cover. One side has a central rosette surrounded by an intricately worked design of diamonds and triangles, made into larger squares by small lozenge-shaped pieces of black and green silk. Four quarter-rosettes sit in the corners, and the whole design is surrounded by a large border of silk and silk velvet pieces worked in the design now know as 'clamshell' or 'shells', and an outer border worked in an undulating band of green and black silks in the design now known as 'running feather'. On the reverse, triangular pieces have been worked into squares. Each square block is surrounded by a narrow strip of black silk. The maker has also pieced black silk circles at the points where each square block meets the next, resulting in a complex design. The whole bed cover has been worked over a newspaper template, pieces of which are now visible where the black silks have disintegrated.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1800-50 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Pieced silk and cotton


Weight: 2.56 kg

Object history note

The date 'November 1794' can be seen on one of the newspapers, suggesting that the project may have been started at around this time. There is also a report relating to the trial of John Codd, James, Shiers, Joseph Tuso and John Roberts. John Codd was sentenced to death on 7 July 1784 for violent robbery.

The coverlet was acquired in 1937 from The Little Gallery (Sloane Square, London). The Gallery was owned and run by Muriel Rose. Rose was a key figure in the crafts movement of the inter-war years, and promoted the work of potter Bernard Leach, as well as many other high profile figures. She also had a crucial involvement in promoting traditional quilting skills in rural areas in the 1920s and '30s, in collaboration with Mavis FitzRandolph. Described as ‘a remarkable woman, with an immediate eye for separating the genuine from the spurious’, she quickly recognized the inherent qualities of vernacular quilting traditions and their commercial application and appeal. As well as selling historic quilts and coverlets such as this one, the Little Gallery was the retail outlets for quilts made under the auspices of the Rural Industries Bureau, which promoted the continuation of traditional quilting skills in South Wales and the North East of England.

Descriptive line

double-sided silk patchwork, 1830-1869, British. Newspaper template

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Angela McShane, 'The Chapman coverlet: texts, myths and mysteries', in Sue Prichard (ed.), Quilts 1700-2010 (London: V&A, 2010) p.127


Silk; Satin; Velvet






Textiles and Fashion Collection

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