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Newcomers and Visiting Scholars



A quilt, known as The Masters’ Wives’ Quilt, is in the care of the Museum of Cambridge. It was made by women in Cambridge in 1882 as a wedding gift for a royal prince, a grandson of Queen Victoria. The quilt was never presented, as Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, second in line to the throne of the United Kingdom, died between becoming engaged to be married in late 1891, to Princess Mary of Teck, and the projected wedding date in 1892. Mary later married his younger brother Prince George who became George V in 1910.

Carolyn Ferguson has researched this quilt for the Museum of Cambridge and has come to realise that among many Cambridge women and girls who contributed embroidered squares to this quilt were 13 wives of Cambridge College Masters. Many of the squares used the language of flowers, typical of Victorian times, to convey emotional sentiments such as love, fertility, and faithfulness. Others portrayed elements of College crests or buildings. There is some uncertainty about the precise location of the quilt over the years before it was acquired by the Museum at auction.

Following an inspiring talk given by Carolyn Ferguson on The Masters’ Wives’ Quilt, to Tuesday morning meeting attenders at the University Centre in the Lent term 2015, the idea that we might make an international quilt was born. The committee subsequently supported the idea and asked Janet Edwards to coordinate the project with Andrea Bronskill. The aim was to complete the quilt by the end of 2016. This was achieved: 94 Squares have been embroidered by 71 women representing more than 28 countries.

Embroiderers were given fabric squares (6”x6”) and selected embroidery threads of colours of their own choosing and were asked to design their square to reflect something significant to them. The following suggestions were made: emblems, symbols, flags, flowers of home countries might be chosen as designs by members from other countries and that local members might choose a design associated with a Cambridge College, crest, building or other symbol of local or personal significance. Some embroidery was done at the craft groups run by NVS and at specially organised open house sewing sessions.

Find out more about this amazing project by browsing the booklet that accompanies the quilt, which offers detailed photos of all the squares and acknowledges the support received by NVS volunteers and crafting professionals.