Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Bed cover

Bed cover

  • Place of origin:

    England (sewing)

  • Date:

    1800-30 (sewing)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss D L Fagence

  • Museum number:

    T.169 to TT-1978

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In 'piecing' or 'patchwork', small pieces of fabric 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'. The pattern is first drawn onto paper and then accurately cut. 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.

Very little was known about this coverlet when it was acquired in 1978, but the paper template still tacked into the reverse offers a glimpse into the education and domestic life of a young girl in the early nineteenth century. The name Ann Spencer appears several times on the reverse, and the frequency of a child's hand suggests that this may have been a project started at school. The script, showing single sentences repeated on both sides of the paper, indicates classroom exercises. The subject matter reveals lessons in numeracy, grammar and historical facts, including one paper which states "From Egypt ..."; perhaps a reference to the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

Other papers were probably recycled from within the home. Personal papers in the reverse include correspondence to a 'Mr Spencer', ledger accounts and bills, including at least one reference to calico. Paper was hand-made until the mid-nineteenth century, making it a valuable and useful commodity. The careful recycling of this paper would have provided the young maker with a valuable lesson in household management, giving her an insight into the value of goods in daily use.

Physical description

Unfinished patchwork coverlet of printed cottons with unused patches, templates and pieces of fabric. Pieced in the design now known as 'grandmother's flower garden': groups of 7 printed cotton hexagons arranged into rosettes, with white cotton muslin hexagons between each of the rosettes. The cottons vary in date, from the last quarter of the eighteenth century and some early nineteenth century (c.1808-10), through to c.1820. The cottons are dress prints, mainly block-prints with some early roller prints (c.1820). Printed on one hexagon is 'GOD SAVE THE KING' - a celebration of George III's jubilee.

The paper templates, most of which remain tacked in place, contain writing in brown and black ink. The paper is hand made and dates to the early nineteenth century. The written text falls into four main categories: children's copy books, personal papers, printed papers and some blank papers.

Place of Origin

England (sewing)


1800-30 (sewing)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Weight: 1.04 kg

Object history note

Given by Miss D L Fagence of Pulborough, West Sussex. According to the donor's family history, the coverlet was discovered 'by a very old lady who had found it among the possessions of a still older friend'.

Historical context note

The papers in this coverlet suggest that it may have been a project started at school, possibly in a dame school (noted for the use of patchwork as an educational tool for young girls). Most of the pieces are from a child's copy sheet. The child's name may be Ann Spencer (a name that is repeated several times). One paper is also taken from a letter to Mr Spencer with a possible date of 1811, January 14th. Other dates are 1810 (twice, at the bottom of a sheet of copying) and possibly 1801. Two pieces are from a sheet of accounts, three from another receipt (which includes at least one entry for "calico"). There are also several pieces of copy from historical and religious texts. Reference to "From egypt ..." (Napoleon/Nelson Battle of the Nile 1798) and "Union" - 1801.' suggest that the coverlet postdates these events, and that the child is copying historical facts.

Descriptive line

Patchwork bed cover (unfinished), England, 1800-1830.

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.126
Linda Parry, 'Complexity and context: nineteenth-century British quilts', in Sue Prichard (ed.), Quilts 1700-2010 (London: V&A, 2010) p.67


Paper; Cotton; Muslin





Production Type



Textiles and Fashion Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.