This is a utilitarian patchwork quilt in the medallion style, with a diamond in a square featuring centrally. It was made in the South Wales valleys in the early 20th century of lightweight cotton printed fabrics from several different periods. Many of these are tailors’ samples of dress fabrics, using different colourways of same print. The reverse of the quilt has been made with plainer fabrics in stronger colours.
The quilter was Sarah Ann Davies (1862 – 1944), who was born in Pontrhydyfen. Her mother died of tuberculosis when she was 2 years old and she was lovingly raised by her step-mother. Poverty decreed that aged 10 she left home to become a dairymaid at Llangyfelach and later at Castell Nedd. On her rare days off she would return home exhausted. Her step-mother would greet her lovingly but having sat her near the fire and provided a cup of hot tea she would be handed a half knitted stocking or a piece of sewing to work on.
Sarah Ann married David Davies in Aberdare and began sewing quilts for her own rapidly growing family. David worked as a collier until, wearying of the continual industrial unrest in the area, the family moved from Aberdare to Abertridwr where he found work at the Windsor Colliery. In all Sarah bore eight children several of whom died in infancy. Throughout her life she battled hard against the crippling poverty that was her lot. Standards were upheld, however, and the house sparkled - not a penny was wasted and every scrap of everything was put to good use.
The Quilt Association has several of Sarah’s patchwork quilts, which were assembled from “recycled” fabrics and pattern books from drapers’ shops in Abertridwr. This wholecloth is perhaps an exception – made for best. As her daughters grew, Sarah taught them patchwork and quilting. Her daughter Eunice recalled as a child being taught to sew the patches together and, when the faces were complete, the quilting frame being brought down from behind the horsehair sofa for the quilting process to begin.