HistoryDeborah Gavens (nee Lee), arrived in Australia as a war bride in 1946, having married Philip Gavens, an Australian pilot, in London just before his departure.
Five daughters were born between 1948 and 1958 and the oldest four in particular were dressed in beautiful, matching vyella* dresses embellished with smocking and embroidery, which reflected Deborah’s British background. A European dressmaker who lived in Alvie, north of Colac, made most of these dresses.
Deborah loved sewing but had very little time to do non-utilitarian work when the girls were young. They have strong memories of her mainly sewing this quilt at meal times when they were having dessert (which she rarely ate). That is why it took over five years to create!
When Deborah finished piecing the quilt and started the embroidery, it was the girls’ job to find the seams that she had missed, and they would often talk about who wore what dress and whom the dresses had been passed on to.
The quilt was used as a comforter when the girls were sick and, later on, when grandchildren visited. It was passed on to her daughter Fiona in the late 1980s.
Fiona has the original book containing the instructions on how to piece and embroider the quilt, entitled 'Pictures and Patchwork' by Priscilla M. Warner, the Dryad Press, Leicester, 1950, as well as a set of metal hexagon templates made for Deborah by her husband.
Fiona has no doubt that this quilt contributed to her evolution into a professional quilter, as it was obvious that creating something beautiful by hand was of intrinsic importance to her mother.
Fiona sewed from an early age and in her late teens embarked on her first quilt of hand-sewn hexagons (as did her twin sister Clare). These took several years to make, and ensured they only sewed with a machine from then on.
Fiona Gavens’ quilt “Ghost Blanket” was awarded the Expressions: Wool Quilt Prize in Art Quilt Australia 2021
DescriptionHexagon quilt constructed over papers; all seams oversewn with featherstitch embroidery. The materials are vyella* and clydella** scraps from childhood dresses of the maker's first four children, augmented with scraps from the dressmaker and a book of samples. There is no wadding. The backing is plain, pale blue, brushed cotton.
The quilt is in good condition, with very light stains on two patches, and a stain on one corner.
*Vyella is 55% wool, 45% cotton.
** Clydella is the trademarked name for 81% cotton and 19% wool fabric produced by William Hollins & Co. of England.