There is a lot of chatter around the changing nature of blogging. Apparently now blogs are used to make money, sell online course and build a brand. Comments no longer happen and the idea of ‘community’ is a thing of the past. Well, I think my last post showed how wrong that is.

I asked a question about upgrading WordPress. As it turns out I was quite confused, but so many of you responded, giving me advice and support. And I love that, I love the community that surrounds me here, I love our ‘old fashioned’ blogging world. Thank you.

The next part of the post is of an exhibition I went to today, Making the Australian Quilt: 1800 to 1950. It is at the NGV in Melbourne and won’t be travelling. I want to share it because I know there are members of this fantastic community who are wonderful quilters and won’t get the chance to see it. I was thinking of you as I wandered through the exhibition.

Many of the pieces were created within an intimate, private setting, yet have the ability to convey much more of their broader social and historical significance. The exhibition encompasses quilts made by men and women, those made within the context of leisure and accomplishment, created as expressions of love and family connection and those stitched out of necessity in an environment of constraint and hardship. (from the NGV website)

The timeframe tells you that the quilts ranged from those sewn in England and bought out to Australia by the early settlers through to those created in Australia until after WW2. One, the Rajah Quilt was created by women on the convict ship The Rajah. They had been taught sewing skill by the Quaker prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry and given the materials to make the quilt on board. The quilt was given to Lady Jane Franklin wife of the John Franklin, the Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania.

Another was created by Corporal Clifford Gatenby, a POW in a German prison camp during WW2. He sewed images into his army blanket with pieces of wool and cotton taken from discarded garments in the camp, and used needles fashioned from the frames of eyeglasses and ground-down toothbrushes. It took him two and a half years to complete. When he escaped in 1945 he took the quilt with him, saying that it represented too much hard work to leave behind!

Part of the quilt created by Corporal Clifford Gatenby while in a German POW camp in WW2. Made from scrounged wool and cotton.

This next photo shows a detail of a hexagonal quilt made from hexagons that were only one centimetre in diameter!

Hexagon pieces that are only one centimetre in diameter.

As we know sewing was something that was done in the domestic sphere and therefore often went unrecognised as art. But so many of the quilts showed that their creators were as confident colourists as many painters. Look at the beautiful, subtle use of colour in this one.

Quilt detail

And all of this done by hand sewing. Most of the time you couldn’t see the stitches, but this photo shows how fine the stitches were.

Dainty stitching

My sister and I were intrigued by what the reverse sides of the quilts would look like, and kept trying to peer behind the hanging works. We were delighted to see this quilt, showing the other side. This was obvious a work in progress, because the paper supports were still sewn into the quilt. The quilter used whatever came to hand ~ newspapers, book pages and even children’s pages of handwriting practice. My sister, ever the researcher, was trying to read the tiny print!


These two show great use of colour:


Many of the ones below were created with satins and ribbon.


Later in the 1800s there crazy patchwork was fashionable and allowed the women to be much more expressive.

Crazy patchwork

The last part of the exhibition displayed waggas. I didn’t know what they were either. A wagga is a quilt that is made from found and reused materials, making do when resources are scarce. They were often made from samples and swatches of materials, such as men’s suiting. They were common in regional Australia in the first half of the 20th century, during the two world wars and the Depression when other material was scarce. Apparently they were often backed with hession sugar bags and layered for warmth.

A couple of waggas and a patchwork dressing gown.

So, a tantalising thank you to my quilting friends.


By anne54

Botanic artist

34 replies on “”

I SO wish I could see this exhibit with my own eyes! It’s very interesting to see similarities and difference between these quilts and ones made in the American tradition. I’m especially interested in the Rajah quilt and the Gatenby quilt–I love a quilt with a special story of the people who made it. Gatenby’s quilt is so beautiful and detailed–that work and the purpose it gave him might, literally, have kept him sane!

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The stories behind the quilts are fascinating. Of course, because of the private/domestic nature of the art, there were quite a few quilts whose creators were unknown. However even some of them had interesting stories about being found in sheds many years later, or working out who the creator may have been by reading the paper supports.
The American/British traditions in quilting was addressed a little. American quilting techniques had more influence in the 20 century, when more magazines arrived in Australia and people travelled to the States more. Those quilts had quite a different look.


While it is true that there are many bloggers out there that are using (or trying to us) blogging to make money, the idea that there is no community is bunk. If you participate you will find your people. I’ve found actual friends, and I may never see them in person, but we support each other, worry when we don’t see each other, have formed secret groups on FB in order to chat openly about stuff, etc. And FYI, I will keep blogging here at WP, but I wanted to consolidate my selling site and so, I am also going to SquareSpace. WP needs to get their act together and add ecommerce so we can do it all here. I don’t know that I will move my blog too — I’ll see. But yup, I want to make a living online, teaching art, selling art, and I don’t think the two or at odds — because really, being friendly and supportive of life around you also si good for business. Finally, I thik that some folks feel angry tht people don’t leave comments on blogspot, but damn they make it impossible!

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What you say about the community is so true, Katie. One of the things I have loved about blogging is how caring and supporting others are, and how it leads to so many other interactions. Building relationships online is just the same as building them offline ~ taking time to listen and respond, to have genuine interactions, to enjoy the company of others, to be a friend.
Good luck with your SquareSpace site, I didn’t mean to imply that there should be no commerce on blogs. But so many blogs now are driven by a sell,all,sell motive, and a need to ‘stay on brand’ with no genuine connection to readers. Your’s will not be like that ~ friendly and supportive is the way business should be!
As for comments on Blogspot…….what a painful process.


I think there is a bit of a divide between those who use blogging as a platform for a business and those who use it to widen their contact with a circle of potential friends. I’m sure there are many ‘business bloggers’ who feel that they combine the best of both worlds, but I find myself increasingly bothered by sales messages drowning content, by flashing, jiggling widgets and offers of newsletters, by urges to purchase overpowering actual information or thoughts. In theory, I have several hundred followers. In practice, I feel community only with those who like or comment, because at least I know they’ve engaged to some extent. I do wish people would comment more, I’m interested in what they have to say, and it’s not nearly as hard to do on WordPress as on Blogger, where I have to use my G+ account or I can’t leave a comment at all.
The quilts are wonderful – do you know how long the exhibition is on for? I saw the Rajah quilt wen it was loaned to the Victoria & Albert Museum some years ago for their epic exhibition of quilts through the ages. It’s a wonderful piece of work, as are the quilts made by soldiers from the Crimean war, tiny hexagons pieced from uniforms. People will find creativity in the most unlikely situations…

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The exhibition is on until Nov 6. I hope you could get to see it ~ I was definitely thinking of you as I walked around. I know that you would get so much out of it. xxx I saw a quilt exhibition in the V&A in 2010 (?) and was also amazed by the ingenuity of people. I remember one made by Guides in a Japanese POW camp.
To sell through a blog you have to find the right tone and have built up an engaging presence where you freely share yourself and your work alongside offering the opportunity to go deeper with online courses or books or workshops. I think Liz Steel does this very well.
(Can we ban flashing ads?)


Sadly, I don’t think I’ll make it. Every so often I take an amazing book out of the library: The Fabric of Society: Australia’s Quilt Heritage from Convict Times to 1960. It’s a fascinating read, but as the book cost $120 new I’ll only ever be borrowing it.
And I’m totally with you on flashing ads and those annoying ‘sign up for our newsletter’ things that pop up in front of what I’m trying to read. I feel fully capable of deciding if I want a newsletter AFTER I’ve checked out the blog! Also, and this sounds a bit full of myself but isn’t meant to, I find the instructive tone of many quilt blogs a bit patronising. I don’t want to be told the ‘best’ way to do things I’ve been doing quite adequately for 25 years, I don’t need to sign up for classes with people who’ve been quilting for half the time I have. Sorry, a constant point of irritation…


The book sounds like would have many of the quilts in the exhibition ~ so you have probably seen them anyway!
And yes, those “Sign up to my newsletter” things that pop up before you have even had a chance to look at the site are so annoying.


Hexagons of 1cm!! How do these people do it? I found your photographs of this exhibition more interesting than my visit to the quilts at the American Museum in Bath (U,.K.) but that might be treason or something so I’ll say no more about that.
As for blogging becoming more commercial – I hope not. I left Facebook in a huff recently (a story for another time), can’t bear Twitter and Instagram is for portable devices and I like to type on a proper keyboard with a biggish screen in front of me. I have noticed a fall off of people blogging or commenting on blogs and they have usually moved over to Instagram which is photo heavy and you don’t have to say/or read as much. I know everybody is very busy but I like writing and reading so I’ll continue with my ‘sort of journal’ and, although I do have my Etsy shops in the sidebar, I don’t really deal with that in my posts – well, sometimes indirectly. Anyway, I thought, when I joined WordPress yonks ago, they said you weren’t allowed to use your blog as a selling tool.
I love the little community I belong to in blogland – I have very few ‘real life’ friends who quilt, knit or make clothes so it makes me feel that I’m not the only crazy person lusting after fabric, accumulating yarn and tearing my hair out trying to make clothes instead of going to Primark (although I have been known to prowl the rails from time to time). I would feel a little bereft if it were to end.

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Treason?! Love it! It wood be interesting to see an exhibition explaining the historical differences between American/British styles. As I said to Kerry above, it was touched upon in the exhibition and the couple of quilts they showed that were influenced by American quilting were noticeably different. The other thing about the quilt made of cm pieces was that its shape was hexagonal too.
Our online communities are very special places, and like you, my blog is the place I feel most comfortable in. It’s like coming home! Although I do enjoy Instagram there is no way I could have posted about the exhibition in such depth nor had such thoughtful and interesting comments made in response.


Those quilts are all wonderful – I have tried quilting and am not one whit good at it, but the attempt left me with a lot of respect for those who are. I only continue blogging for my community – those folks who interact through comments, messages and so on. I have met up with my very good friends Alys, Boomdee, LB and Julia in the US and have seed-plans to catch up with some more local folk next year. My US gals and I Skype often to keep our friendship real and alive despite the miles between us. I absolutely treasure these friends, they were met through blogging and I have come to see that is were we can find folk who are kindred spirits and real friends, not just people who are geographically convenient but with whom the intimate spark of friendship is lacking. I have over 500 followers on my blog, most of whom are people who click ‘follow’ en masse in the hopes you will reciprocate. I never follow unless I am interested in the blog content. Community blogging may be dying out – but, I suspect, only in those places where the blogger’s intention is other than community building.

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I have seen your amazing friendship through Alys’ blog. What a wonderful invention the internet is to enable those connections to be made and then maintained.
On Instagram I get comments from people offering me the chance to get thousands of followers in a couple of days. No thank you. Like all of us I am interested in the real connections, not the fake numbers.


I’ve seen Waggas made from animal skins, possums mainly, sewn together and lined with men’s suits. I did go through a crazy quilt phase and that photo took me back.I must get in to see this exhibition.


I had never heard the term wagga before (Except for Wagga Wagga, of course). I wonder why many quilts are not waggas because they are often made from found and reused materials. Is it a particularly Australian term and therefore only used for Australian quilts made at a certain time? The exhibition has a possum wagga and one from rabbits. You must get to see the exhibition, Francesca, if only to relive your crazy patchwork days!!


Thanks for the info Francesca and Kate. I will follow the link. Francesca, what you say about the lack of design makes sense. The pieces in the waggas were often very random, or very simple designs with rectangles. They had that sense of being sewn together to create something warm rather than something beautiful.


I love patchwork quilts. When my daughter was little we would go visit an old lady who had made them all her life. I fell in love with her work and when she died she left me two glorious pieces. I still have them and will pass them on in my turn. Lovely post, Anne. 🙂


What a special legacy she left you, Meeks. Do you use them? The heirloom nature of quilts is fascinating. I suppose it is because we often know the creator, and the quilt holds so many memories. We treasure the time it took to create and the stories behind the pieces.


I used to use them all the time but then the stitching began to unravel on one of them and I didn’t know how to fix it so I put them both away for safe keeping. And before you ask, no quilting is a skill I greatly admire but do not possess. 😦

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Anne, what a terrific post. I’m in full agreement on the community of blogging. It’s what keeps me logging on every week. It’s been wonderful finding “my people” cast about the globe. Kindred spirits, brought together by the technology that allows us to share through blogging, is extraordinary.

I LOVE the quilts you’ve featured above. I’m a huge fan of any museum featuring textiles. What talent and artistry and what beauty. You’ve taken some wonderful photos, not always easy I find in darkened museums.

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Thanks for the comment on the photos, Alys. It was a little tricky because the lighting has to be low to preserve the material. You could see the damage on a number of the early ones.
I so agree about your blogging comments! In fact, I think the comments on this post show that blogging as we know it is not dying out. I am blown away by all the thoughtful and interesting comments that people have made. Thank you all!!


there are many quilt-makers who recycle material, often even down to old blankets with embroidery on them

as to blogging, I have no idea why I decided to get a blog, I tried some others but now I have a generic w/press one…I’ve a facebook page for personal, and one more recently for art-maker. I still need to get up to speed with it all…but as a dabbler, I’m happy where I am with it all.


Of course the original idea of quilting was to make something out of small scraps and left over pieces. There was a quilt in the exhibition that was made from the ribbons around cigars!
I think we have all come to blogging in different ways, but stay because we love the chance to write what we want, and then chat to interesting people all over the world.

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What a fantastic exhibition, I wish I could see it for myself! And as for the blogging issue, as far as I can make out a lot of people blog just for the community feeling, so I don’t think this will ever die out. It’s allowed people from all backgrounds and continents to communicate in ways never possible before. Those that are in it to make money, or to amass millions of followers (horrors, whatever for?) they are a different tribe, and good luck to them. However, for artists, writers etc, blogging is also a nice way to increase your platform, and that goes with a supportive community.


It was a really interesting exhibition, Marina. It’s a shame you can’t make it, but there are lots of other things to see and do in Melbourne, so come and visit!!
Yes, good luck to those who use their blogs to make money, and I think it is good to have another way to sell online courses, ebooks etc. But to have those zillions of followers? Not something that drives our blogging community, obviously. 🙂

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There is so much beauty hidden away in the domestic sphere, and it is great that there are exhibitions like this one at the NGV, which is a world class gallery, that bring the beauty to the open. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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As you know I’m a fan of the blogging community, and I think there is room for a certain kind of e-commerce, where it is a part of the blogger’s lifestyle bundle. So handy to be able to access what they produce. But the community and exchange of comments happens regardless.
I think the purely commercial blogger operates on a kind of numbers game marketing calculation, so many conversions to sales so many sign ups.
I admire & love the art of quilts, so Imreally appreciated you sharing the exhibition but I am a knit and crochet nanna blanket person at heart ♡


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