Victorian patchwork – make do and mend

Victorian patchwork was the original form of recycling so finding a new use for your waste is nothing new.

One of the things I love about the Victorian period is their hate of waste and making the most of what they had. We could all learn a lot about their penny-pinching ways!

We’ve all heard of Victorian patchwork quilts, but the art of patchwork extends to so many other household items. I’m lucky to have a few of these items scattered around my cottage.

I love the vibrant mix of colours and fabrics which give a real insight into the materials available at the time.

Unlike many ‘fussy’ Victorian knick-knacks, patchwork items blend in with modern and vintage interiors.

If you want an antique patchwork item get down to your local antique shop or search Ebay, there are plenty of lovely examples still up for grabs!

Here’s a bit about their history.

Victorian patchwork – fun for all

There are a few myths around Victorian patchwork items, namely:

  • they were always made up of old clothes
  • making them was a pastime of the poor

Wrong and wrong!

Victorian patchwork quilt bedroom antique

Beautiful silk scraps make up my bedroom patchwork quilt, which is now very fragile.

Creating the quilt may have been an evening hobby for a lady of leisure at a time before DVDs and Netflix.

Likewise, a servant may have made the quilt from their employer’s unwanted but beautiful clothes.

I’ve heard department stores used to sell scraps of bright silks and velvet materials specifically for patchworking. This made these fabrics available to the poor.

That’s the added interest with these items – we will never know but we can enjoy fantasising about their history!

One thing’s for sure, you don’t get Victorian patchwork items made of drab fabrics that your average Joe would wear like you do with rag rugs!

Victorian patchwork tablecloth parlour interior cranberry oil lamp
The Victorian who made this tablecloth went to some expense with the fringing

Victorian patchwork – pottery possibilities

The other myth about patchwork items is that they are only made of fabric. This antique patchwork plate shows the frugal Victorian even made the most of old broken plates and cups.

Victorian patchwork plate parlour organ harmonium
My Victorian patchwork plate

You can see a vivid mixture of bold plain and transfer printed pottery items embellished by Chinese figures, which I presume are from a broken Oriental ornament.

This item is timeless and could enliven a stark modern room as well as adorn a period interior.

Parlour perfection

Interestingly, my collection of patchwork items work best in my parlour as their vivid colours and bold patterns just don’t sit well in my plainer rooms.

After all, the Victorians made these items as decorative items to brighten up a corner or enliven a display cabinet.

They could tell us so many stories about their history if only they could speak!

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