History in patchworks at WB exhibition

Julia Alsop and Sarah Lionheart ,with Jean Ayre (seated), alongside the silk quilt cover

Macclesfield silk history came to Whaley Bridge, when a 19th century patchwork quilt cover, made from hundreds of small patches of silk, went on display at the Festival of Stitches in Holy Trinity Church.

Members of Trinity Patchwork and Quilting group were delighted with the large number of visitors, as well as the many examples of patchwork that local people offered the group to add to their displays.

Mrs Joyce Eyre, widow of local historian William Eyre, who died ten years ago, had met a group member, Sarah Lionheart, in a charity shop.  As they talked about Festival of Stitches, Mrs Eyre said:  “I bet you haven’t got what I’ve got.”

It was the king-size Macclesfield silk quilt cover, out of wraps for the first time in about 60 years at the exhibition.  With it came history.  William Birchenough, a relative of  Mrs Eyre’s family, was a designer with a Macclesfield silk factory in the 1800s. He created ties and the elaborate silk waistcoats so popular with Victorian gentlemen.

The quilt cover, made from hundreds of pieces of tie materials – plain, striped, even tartan – is thought to have been made by William Birchenough’s daughters in the late 1800s. Originally, it had a black border – probably satin – which has disintegrated over the years.

Mrs Eyre can remember ‘Grannie Birchenough’ using the quilt on her bed in the 1930s. The quilt now belongs to Mrs Eyre’s daughter Jane, who lives in Lancashire.  They would like experts from a mill or museum in Macclesfield to examine the historic bedcover.

The patchwork group, with about 20 members, meets on a regular basis in Holy Trinity Church.  Leader Julia Alsop said:  “We were delighted to be able to show our work, and the many pieces from other local people.”  Contact Julia on 01298 815 742 or at needlewomanofchapel@gmail.com

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