QUILT making in Wales is as traditional as bara brith or even the Eisteddfod itself.
And as the national event makes a much anticipated return to Wrexham later this month, students from Yale College will be on hand to showcase their own takes on this age-old craft.
For the past few months, art and design students at the college have been engaged in a Welsh Assembly supported project which teaches them, not just about traditional quilt making but also about business and enterprise.
The students have benefitted from the provision, by the Assembly, of a state-of-the-art long armed quilter.
It has allowed them to design and produce Welsh textiles based on traditional skills, heritage and culture but incorporating 21st century technology.
The project links directly to their Welsh Baccalaureate qualification and the students did extensive research before coming up with their own designs.
Marcus Thomas, lecturer in art and design and project co-ordinator, explained: “It’s an enterprise project where we produce traditionally inspired Welsh quilts. The students have been involved in experiential learning and have been to all sorts of specialist centres in Wales – the Minerva Centre in Llanidloes (home of the Quilt Association and its collection of heritage quilts), Norweft, Bodfari and Jen Jones in Lampeter (the largest collection of antique Welsh quilts and Welsh blankets anywhere in the world).
“They have studied the Wrexham Tailor’s Quilt (a famous quilt made from 4,500 pieces of wool cloth which was created in 1842 by James Williams, a Wrexham tailor and is now in the collection of St Fagans museum in Cardiff) and have also looked at the Rural Industries Board in South Wales in the 20s and 30s, a group who set about reintroducing traditional skills. The crafts they made ended up in high end establishments such as the Savoy hotel in London.”
From these experiences, the students came up with their own, unique textile design.
Made using fleece from a Welsh breed of sheep, the Llanwenog breed, the quilts that the students have produced are of exceptionally high quality and reflect the work that has gone into this project.
They are also eco friendly.
“The materials they have used are organic,” Marcus continued. “In line with His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales’ Campaign for Wool. It’s an all round project that teaches them where things come from, how to source materials and how to do that in a responsible and ethical way. They learn about keeping their carbon footprint down.”
As part of the project, the students also learned how Welsh quilt making has influenced makers elsewhere in the world – such as Amish quiltmakers and the quilts of the community of Gee’s Bend in America.
The quilts and blankets made by the students will be offered for sale.
A percentage of profits will be donated to Jen Jones’ Ethiopian Welsh Quilts Project world. The project supports the women’s community and enables them to send their children to school.
See full story in the Leader