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World War I quilt to return to Rylstone [a misnomer?]

Posted by on 3 July 2015

This article, with a slightly misleading title, was recently published in the Mudgee Guardian. The original Rylstone Autograph Quilt will not feature in our upcoming exhibition; however, it has been photographed fairly extensively. The quilt remains in the collection of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra although is not displayed in public galleries.

World War I quilt to return to Rylstone

An autographed quilt created by Rylstone residents 100 years ago to raise money for the war effort during World War I will return to the town for a History Week exhibition September.

The Rylstone Autograph Quilt owes its existence firstly to a group of dedicated women and their community that supported them in 1914-15 and secondly to an incredible piece of luck in the 1970s.

The Rylstone WWI Autograph Quilt was the result of efforts by Mrs James Dawson, supported by Mrs Fletcher, wife of the Rylstone Shire President, and Mrs J. W. Farrar 100 years ago. Individuals signed the quilt in pencil, and then paid to have their signatures embroidered over.

It was completed for July 30, 1915, called “Australia Day” – a special day where the Australian community raised money to support the war effort. Most of these funds were collected for the Australian Division of the Red Cross.

Its makers and all those who signed it would probably be surprised that it still exists 100 years later. Its preservation has been a miracle.

A Mrs Simpson found the quilt in a collection of linen purchased at auction in Sydney in the 1970s and recognising its significance, sent it to the War Memorial in Canberra where it is now in safe-keeping.

In September during History Week, Rylstone and District Historical Society will present an exhibition at the Rylstone Memorial Hall celebrating the stories of soldiers and local families linked to the Rylstone Autograph Quilt.

Historical society president, and curator of the exhibition Helen Marsonet said the discovery six years ago that there was a Rylstone autograph quilt in the collection of the War Memorial has led to a massive project researching the signatures.

“Information has been pouring in which will contribute substantially to the Rylstone family history archives. There are over 900 autographs embroidered in white embroidery thread on a white sheet in stem stitch and chain stitch, with decorative motifs of grape leaves, flowers, stars, sun rays and circles,” Mrs Marsonet said.

“The decorative motifs reflect the period.

“Grape vines were probably chosen as a sign of mourning. Similarly the sun and stars dotted over the quilt may symbolise the heavens.”

Images of the rising sun featured prominently leading up to and following the Federation celebrations of 1901. With the surge of national pride, the emblem as a symbol of an emerging nation began to appear on buildings and in the brands of many commodities.

The first rising sun hat badge was issued to Australian troops serving in South Africa, and was later adopted as the official emblem for all military forces within the Commonwealth of Australia – and a variant is still in use today.

“The quilt contains the names of at least 75 soldiers from the Rylstone district who enlisted between August 1914 and July 1915. Two stitched circles bear the names A.C.Robbins, A.H.Freeman and J.D. Sandstrom. All three were early Gallipoli casualties. A central circular shape bears the cipher of King George V and For Our Dardanelles Australian Wounded 1915.

“Two circles bear the names of well-known Australian commanding officers also killed on Gallipoli in the first days – General Bridges and Colonels MacLaurin, Braund and Onslow-Thompson.”

The Stitches in Time exhibition in Rylstone celebrating 100 years since the quilt was created will feature the signatures from the quilt in the form of large projections. There will be stories and photographs and a memorial to the recently identified soldier Athol Kirkland given to the family by the residents of Pinnacle Swamp.

Other items will include WWI objects, uniforms, and other attractions. During the exhibition, embroidery in the style of the quilt and sock knitting will be demonstrated. The exhibition will be open daily from 10am to 4pm from September 4 to 11.

Anyone curious to know if the signatures of their forebears are on the quilt, or who can provide further family history information, are urged to contact Helen Marsonet at Rylstone and District Historical Society at or PO Box 66 Rylstone 2849.


Source: Mudgee Guardian, newspaper article (


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