Joanna Southcott’s quilt

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Joanna Southcott’s quilt

This unfinished patchwork quilt was made by Joanna Southcott in 1811. Born in Devon in 1750 she lived for many years in Exeter. She became infamous during her lifetime for her prophecies and published 65 books detailing these. At the age of 64 she announced she was pregnant by immaculate conception. However, after ten months her symptoms of pregnancy disappeared and she died shortly afterwards.

Patchwork became a popular form of ladies’ needlework in England during the early decades of the 18th century. Until around 1800 quilts were rare and expensive and as such would have been owned by the rich. In the late 17th century homogenous quilts that showcased extravagant Indian textiles were popular. In the early 18th century however a series of laws were passed to restrict the importation of foreign fabrics. As a result the remnants of these coveted fabrics would be displayed as patchwork.