Anonymous Needlework: Uncovering British Patchwork, 1680 - 1820
During the eighteen century there was a significant growth in patchwork materially and linguistically. It was the century when patchwork was stitched at all levels of society and has been identified as the time when patchwork moved out from the small domestic world of decorative sewing into the wider public sphere, leaving behind other needlework as it became embedded in the language and writing of the period. This research examines the social and cultural contexts relating to the making of patchwork in the long eighteenth century and in doing so contributes to the story of women and their material lives in the period. Noted for its longevity, surviving as a widespread practice across the century, patchwork was a democratic needlework that was practiced by any woman capable of stitching a variety of fabric pieces together to make a larger whole. A widespread understanding of the term and familiarity with the practice enabled it to be employed successfully in the literal and figurative language of the period. Patchwork was heralded as a fashionable activity in the early eighteenth century, but was later used to represent the ideal of the moral and capable housewife, devoted to her sewing skills and thrifty in her practice. The figurative style of the period allowed the simultaneous use of the word in differing ways so that patchwork was used both positively and negatively in literature, drama, critical review, political debate and theoretical discourse.