The Welsh Quilt Centre

Need a breather between one holiday and the next? Take a virtual visit to the Welsh Quilt Centre. Last October I had the good fortune to visit some dear friends in Hereford, England. They suggested a hiking trip to Tenby, Wales, and having no idea of the distances between things I asked if we could also drop by the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter.

On the road to Lampeter

Good friends that they are they said “Of course!” and after a four-hour drive on winding, two-lane roads we arrived in the charming town of Lampeter. The Welsh Quilt Centre sits regally on the high street (AKA the main street) in Lampeter’s historic town hall.

Welsh Quilt Centre—museum and shop to the left, café to the right

The museum was founded by Welsh quilt collector and historian Jen Jones in 2009, and officially opened by The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in 2010. Jones came to Wales from New England in 1971, at a time when the Welsh weaving and quilting traditions were at a standstill. Through her writing, speaking engagements, and activities within her shop and the Welsh Quilt Museum, she’s helped spread the word and revive appreciation for these textile tradtions. In addition to the museum there is a lovely café and a terrific shop selling vintage Welsh quilts and blankets along with books, gifts, and items by contemporary textile artists and craftspeople. But it was the exhibition, As Good As It Gets, which most excited our group—even the non-quilters loved it.

All but one of the quilts on display were whole cloth quilts and most were stitched as part of an initiative by the Rural Industries Bureau of Wales in the late 1920s through 1939. Wales was economically depressed and quilting was one way for women to add to the income earned by their husbands, fathers, and brothers in Welsh mines.

Welsh quilt teachers and institute leaders

The Institute set up classes to teach quilting to women throughout the country— the teachers were mostly Welsh quilters who learned their skills from their mothers and grandmothers.  An exhibition of the Welsh quilts in London in 1929 drew tremendous interest and orders for the quilts came from individuals, the very posh Claridge’s Hotel, and even the Royal Family. It wasn’t only quilts that were in demand—table runners, cushions, bathrobes, and even hot water bottle covers were stitched and sold, too.

Detail of Peach and Blue quilt
Brilliant Pink Sateen Quilt stitched by a class in the 1930s

Fabrics used included silk, satin, and taffeta, and more, and while the fabrics were selected by customers and the quilting reflects the design sensibility of the times, some freedom was given to quilters to stitch patterns distinctive to their region and tradition.

Metal templates made by a husband of a quilter to help his wife with a double wedding ring quilt.
Detail of Double Wedding Ring quilt made using sample books for undergarments.
Gold quilt from Gwaen Can Gurwen, c. 1912

Ultimately, though, the restrictions on design and demands for perfection are said to have led to a loss of spontenaiety common in earlier Welsh quilts.

All signs are posted in Welsh and English

The Welsh Center also hosts exhibitions in two smaller galleries, as well as three workshops each year.  The Musuem is on hiatus from mid-November til May—check the website for details before venturing to Lampeter. (Though the galleries are closed, the museum is currently hosting a holiday sale.). Information about some of the exhibitions for 2018 can be found here.

Have you ever been to the Welsh Quilt Centre, or seen quilts at another international venue? We’d love to hear about it!




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27 thoughts on “The Welsh Quilt Centre

  1. What a nice surprise to find an article about this!
    However, it shows only the wholecloth quilts – and although they are wonderful and the skill involved in making them impressive, there is also a tradition of pieced quilts in Wales. Do you have any pictures of those to share with us?

    1. I’m sorry, Zelda, I don’t. This exhibition was of the whole cloth quilts made during a particularly time period. I just learned there is a Welsh Quilts Facebook page, however. You might want to join it—I’m sure the members share many kinds of Welsh quilts. You’re right, the pieced quilts are beautiful, too!

      1. Oh that’s fine, thank you so much for sharing the special exhibition photos – I just wondered if you had had the chance to see the others too! It’s a great venue – did you go to the cafe next door?
        Welsh quilting has so much variety, I am just glad Jen Jones has brought it into the public eye. And we DO all get along together in my rainy little country, regardless of which side of the creative fence we fall, which is lovely 🙂 I will check out the page you mention!

        1. Sadly, there were no open tables in the café when we went, so we had to dine elsewhere. This visit definitely piqued my interest in Welsh quilting. I bought and have learned a lot from Jen Jones book and hope to visit again, someday. Cheers!

    1. Go, Laurie, Go!!!! (As one of the finest hand quilters I know, I thought of you when I saw these.)

  2. So glad to see the traditional Quilting! Modern can be great, but let’s not let go of traditional! Can’t we all get along?

  3. The first quilt that really piqued my interest in quilting was a small Welsh quilt in white that I loved and wanted, but never made. Many quilts and years later, it’s a treat to see such a special exhibit.

  4. If a big quilt takes 500 hours, a Welsh quilt must take 1000 hours at a minimum. These quilts are simply stunning! Thank you so much for giving us this great museum tour!

  5. More than impressive. Wish I wasn’t quite so old… I might give a big hand quilt a go. Used to do hand quilting until I bought a longarm.

    1. Just realized this is not my welsh blog but the Moda blog…. ignore the ring bells part of my comment……

  6. Before the era of heavy machine quilting, which renders a quilt totally stiff, heavy hand quilting makes a quilt soft and supple. This is breath taking. I am proud of my Welsh heritage.

  7. I toured Wales with a college friend–we are both quilters–three years ago. Having done some research ahead, and read ” Welsh Quilts and Their Amish Connection” we put Lampeter on our itinerary but were disappointed to find that it is closed on Monday when we planned to be there! However, we were able to locate Jen Jones home and shop and had a private audience with her and viewed her collection and stock. Very impressive! While there, I experienced a sudden recollection of a quilt/comforter that my parents had when I was growing up that was made with a sateen, though not heavily quilted and which I believe is a Welsh style quilt. Sadly, I have no idea what ever happened to it. I have a pieced quilt (Jacob’s Ladder) made with dark colors of chambray which came from my great grandparents farmhouse in Greenfield, Indiana. They were Quaker and of Welsh descent. The Quakers were persecuted in Wales and emigrated to Pennsylvania, then moved west. The Amish also moved west and frequently settled near the Quakers and learned quilting skills from the “English”. I believe this quilt to be of both Welsh and Amish influence. It is also of a wool blend probably from a period when the Quakers refused to use cotton because they were anti-slavery. Lots of history here!! My friend and I are definitely going back to Lampeter–but not on a Monday!

    1. Janet, this is fascinating as it very closely mirrors my experiences. I’m in the process of writing a book at the moment – would you be Ok about contacting me, please so we can talk a bit more?

        1. I’m on facebook quite a lot (the green icon, not the three dragons one) or my email is zelda @
          Thank you so much!

  8. Gorgeous craftsmanship. Whole cloth quilts have always been my favorites and these are so elegant. Quite an inspiration. Maybe I have some Welsh blood in me.. I wish you much success with this project.

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