Talking Quilts, the national oral history project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, that seeks to capture, preserve and share the stories of present day quilters, is coming to Scotland from February to May, 2015. The Project will be delivered by a team of volunteers who will work closely with a national Project Manager.

Talking Quilts will capture the stories of today’s quiltmakers in their own words through recorded and transcribed interviews, together with photographs of their quilt, creating a freely available digital archive. Volunteers will be trained in oral history methods for interviewing, transcribing and digital data storage. It will provide opportunities for the public to learn about our quilting heritage, as well as the importance of quilting as a diverse social practice and its emergence as a creative art form.

“The enthusiasm that Talking Quilts has been met with throughout the UK, from both the quilting and non-quilting communities, has been wonderful” said Project Manager, Vicky Martin.

Talking Quilts Co-ordinator for Scotland, Jane Rae said, “Scotland has a strong textile tradition and we are keen to make sure the stories of local quilters are recorded. Together we will be making history.”

Talking Quilts volunteer Dorothy Baird talks to visitors to Ryedale Folk Museum about quilting

Many volunteers have come forward throughout Scotland but there are some areas where the Project would like a stronger representation, specifically the Highlands and Western Isles. Talking Quilts is looking for people in these areas who are willing to share the story of a quilt they have made. “We know that many quilters have a special quilt that tells a story, it may remind them of a particular event, time period, place or person, it might be the first or only quilt they made, or one where they tried something new.” Vicky says, “Talking Quilts is all about using that object to start a conversation, bringing it to life and then sharing that story.”

Talking Quilts is looking for volunteers in the Highlands and Western Isles who would like to take part as Interviewers, Interviewees and Transcribers. Full training will be given and comprehensive guidance on how to do this is also provided in a Talking Quilts Handbook. If you or anyone you know has a story to tell or you wish to sign up then please get in touch with Vicky by email or telephone 07980 260165.

The UK has a rich quilting heritage that dates back hundreds of years. Whilst there are excellent sources of published information about our textile history, we lack an archive that captures the memories and stories of everyday quilters. As communications are increasingly digital, the need for recording and preserving stories for posterity has become ever more important.

Talking Quilts volunteers Nick and Glenda practice using the audio recording equipment at a training day

The Project is supported by The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles and is inspired by the Quilters’ Save Our Stories (QSOS) Project organised by Quilt Alliance in the USA, which, for 11 years has recorded more than 1,000 interviews across the country and archived these at the Library of Congress in Washington. In the UK, Talking Quilts builds on a successful pilot study carried out using adapted QSOS methods by Dr Pauline Macaulay with volunteers from London Quilters.