Sanderson Quilt
North Pennine quilt with framed star pattern<empty> designed and made by Elizabeth Sanderson at Allenheads c.1910 - 1920
Source: Dorothy Osler collection
Copyright: Dorothy Osler

Sanderson House
Elizabeth Sanderson (right) and two apprentices (in<empty> doorway) outside her home and workshop at Fawside Green, Allenheads early 20th century
Source: Dorothy Osler collection
Copyright: Dorothy Osler

Sanderson design
Drawings of parts of Elizabeth Sanderson’s elegant<empty> designs for stitching quilts
Source: North Country Folk Art by Peter Brears
Copyright: Peter Brears

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Allenheads
Current Location: Private
Theme: Cultural (domestic)
Period: Modern
Date: c.1910-1920

What is it?
This is an extremely high quality hand-stitched bed quilt which was designed and stitched by one of the best North Pennine quilters – Elizabeth Sanderson of Allenheads (1861-1934).

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
Most households in the North Pennines would have had quilts on the beds in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Usually these were made by the woman of the household.   They were made with a sandwich of cotton wadding between top and bottom covers, usually of cotton fabric.   The quilt layers were held together with patterns of hand-stitching, and the quilt was stitched at home on a frame.    The stitching was intricate and often elaborate and the quilt-maker created beautiful patterns, using cardboard templates passed down through the family. 

Quilts are thus characteristic examples of domestic crafts in the North Pennines and many are found in museums such as Bowes and Beamish.   Quilts were part of a strong regional female domestic culture – a culture expressed not just in the quilts themselves but reinforced in the group sessions when women got together to work on a quilt.   This was called ‘twilting’.     

Elizabeth Sanderson of Allenheads is the best known North Pennine quilter.    She not only made beautiful quilts herself but was one of a handful of enterprising women who developed a cottage industry by ‘stamping’ quilt tops with a design for other people to stitch.   ‘Stamping’ involved drawing out the pattern on the quilt top in blue pencil for a modest fee – one shilling and sixpence was the standard charge.  Elizabeth Sanderson developed a unique and individual style in her designs which although not signed are instantly recognisable.  

Quilting is important in demonstrating female domestic culture in the North Pennines which made items of beauty for utilitarian purposes.  The social element of quilting is captured in the diary of Thomas Dixon, lead smelter at Dukesfield.   For example in 1830 ‘27 January - A great twilting at Sparks’ and in 1833 ‘14 March - Our folk on twilting in our Parlour’.

Why is it important?
As a high quality example of local culture and domestic craft and an expression of female domestic culture in the North Pennines, the quilt stands as an example of a once-common craft.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Osler, D. 2000. North Country Quilts: Legend and Living Tradition. The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle
  • Brears, P. 1989. North Country Folk Art. John Donald, Edinburgh
  • Allen, R . 2007 Quilts and Coverlets: the Beamish Collection. Beamish, Co Durham
  • FitzRandolph, M 1954.   Traditional Quilting. Batsford, London

Other Information that might be useful:  
The photos are illustrative only and scanned from publications, so not of sufficient quality for final reproduction.   Dorothy Osler will hold the original images.  I am willing to contact her for photos and permission to use them.

Other quilts held in the collections of Bowes and Beamish Museum would also serve the same purpose as exemplars of the craft.

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