Amy Emm's Quilt
The Amy Emms Durham Quilt Weardale Museum.<empty>

Amy Emms
Amy Emms MBE 1904 - 1998.<empty>

Quilted Housecoat
Quilted housecoat made by Lillian Clark, pupil to Amy<empty> Emms in 1960s. Weardale Museum.

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Weardale
Current Location: Weardale Museum
Theme: Cultural/Social
Period: Modern
Date: c.1985

What is it?
168cm x 229cm Light beige cotton backed with dark russet red polyester satin. Stitched with white cotton and edges with narrow ….. covered piping. The quilt Incorporates many of the motifs (rose leaves, shells, fans, cable and feathers) commonly found on ‘Durham Quilts’.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
Amy Emms, born in Sunderland in 1904, practised and taught Durham or North Country quilting, the techniques of which had been handed down through generations of female relatives. She was taught to sew and quilt by her mother Elizabeth Harrison of Cowshill in Weardale, who made quilts to sell to supplement the family’s income.

Amy quilted for pleasure and soon became unbeatable in competition. In 1951 she was asked to take classes but despite her obvious talents had to undergo a twelve week course to obtain qualifications to teach the subject.  In 1984, Amy Emms was awarded an M.B.E. for her outstanding contribution to the craft of quilting.

Why is it important?
Retiring to Weardale she was asked by the Weardale Museum if she would quilt a sampler to illustrate typical Durham quilting patterns. The full sized quilt that she made incorporates the rose leaves, shells, fans, cable and feather patterns commonly found on ‘Durham Quilts’.

These quilts are made of one piece of fabric, (or two or three widths sewn together to look as one), not patchwork, and the quilting is the only adornment. A cottage industry of professional pattern makers and markers emerged prior to World War I. They marked quilt patterns on the tops for the quilt maker to quilt. However when women took over men's jobs during the first world war quilting waned and although it was revived by the Women’s Institute it came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of war in 1939 and by 1951 it was a dying craft.

It was during this interwar period that North Country Quilts became known as Durham Quilts possibly as the result of a notice in the London papers advertising ‘Durham Quilts for Claridges’.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Emms, Amy (1990) Amy Emms’ Story of Durham Quilting. (Edited by Pam Dawson) Kent, Search Press Limited.
    Available in the Quilters’ Guild Library, reference: QM/EMM.
    A book written by Amy Emms, which includes descriptions of her life and work, as well as instructions for working some of Emms’ designs.

  • External Links:
  • Weardale Museum


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