A Replica Rajah Quilt and Convict Bonnets.

I was thrilled this morning to receive a phone call from Leanne McKenzie of Coffs Harbour. Leanne and her husband Kevin, came on Louisa’s Walk last November. The purpose of Leanne’s call was to tell me that she is going to make a small, replica of the famous Rajah Quilt and she would like to donate it to “Louisa” to carry in her basket! I was quite overwhelmed at such a generous offer and naturally I enthusiastically accepted.

Leanne is visiting the upcoming Sydney Quilting Exhibition where she is hoping to purchase some replica fabrics of the era. I told her that in my research I had discovered that twenty of the pieces were sewn in the wrong way round. At first, experts were puzzled by the fact that twenty pieces had faded in contrast to the others; on closer examination it was discovered that those twenty pieces had been sewn in reverse side up indicating that this work had been executed in poor light. I should imagine that, except during the times when the women were allowed up on deck, the light would always have been very poor which makes the intricacy of the quilt all the more amazing. I also reminded Leanne that on the reverse side of the quilt tiny pinpricks of blood can be seen where the women had pricked themselves with the motion of the boat. I am sure that Leanne will replicate these in her desire to be authentic. However, she did tell me that the original quilt is not lined so, on the reverse, there are a lot of raw seams. We both agreed that, in order to survive life at the bottom of Louisa’s basket, it should be lined, so that will be one compromise to practicality we will allow. For updates on the progress of the quilt – watch this blog post. If anyone has comments or questions to make about Leanne’s project please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will pass them on to her.

I am not sure how long it will take Leanne to make her miniature, replica Rajah Quilt but all those of you who are yet to come on Louisa’s Walk will have the privilege of seeing it when she has!

On another related topic. Chris and I went down to the Mawson Pavilion on Hobart’s waterfront, after the afternoon performance of Louisa’s Walk today, to visit Christina Henri’s “Roses From the Heart” bonnet display. Christina, a local artist and historian has undertaken to mount a display of 25,566 convict bonnets by the year 2010, representing each of the women sentenced to transportation to the Colonies. Despite a broken leg, Christina had mounted a beautiful display of some of the thousands of bonnets she has received so far, some skillfully embroidered and decorated with lace. All bear the name of a convict woman who was transported to the Colonies all those years ago.

Naturally, this project has appealed to Australians who have a female convict ancestor but it is not limited to them. If you enjoy sewing and want to feel a link with these brave, enduring women who form the backbone of our nation, why not contribute a bonnet and be part of this unique tribute? A pattern can be downloaded from Christina’s web site @ www.christinahenri.com.au or email Christina to find other ways to support the project: cjhenri@iinet.net.au. Louisa will also be carrying copies of the pattern to give out after Louisa’s Walk. Perhaps someone could do a Louisa’s Walk bonnet?

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  1. Sandra Doyle
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Hi I was interested in the minature rajah quilt. I have made a couple of convict bonnets and donated them already. I would like to try to make a replica rajah quilt using materials from today (similar) as I believe it is my tribute to the many trials these women faced. I believe it would send a message that we women of Australia love all the hard work they put into this quilt and can still use the patterns in modern day times. I would need some close up pictures so as I can draw up the patterns especially the middle section and the florals on the bottom border. Is this possible or am I breaching some sort of copywright. Thank you Sandra from Goulburn

  2. Dawn Friend
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    My husband’s ancestor that was on the Rajah. I also have photos of a quilt that she supposedly made probably in Australia. One of her elderly descendants has the quilt. It would be great if somebody could verify the authenciity of the quilt.

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