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Extremely rare mid 18thC infant Layette basket lining

Extremely rare mid 18thC infant Layette basket lining

I am so excited to have examined this rare quilted piece, given that I have only seen one once before. If you collect quilts I imagine you do not have one of these.

In the 18th Century [and I think this is dated to the mid 18th Century], the birth of a baby, and hopefully a male, was a very important event and marked at least in the wealthiest families, with much fuss and finery for the newborn.

Now, I have examined many items that belonged in the layette that were prepared for the infant. It is reasonably easy to find satin pin cushions of the time, with a message for the baby pricked out in pinheads. Cot covers, Christening gowns and tiny shoes are more difficult to source. I have been lucky enough to examine these over the years.

Often they all have the same general appearance, in that in the middle of the Century they were made of cream silk satin. Almost everything was! 

If you are lucky enough to have a copy of the V & A book 'Quilts: 1700 - 2010' [See 'The Study' for full reference], turn to page 170 and you will see images of a satin quilted cot set, with a fitted counterpane, pillow and matress. They are quilted in exactly the same way as my piece.

What we have here is a lining for a layette basket. Amazing! Remember the the infant layette consisted of many pieces presented to the newborn; mitts, shoes, gowns, swaddling bands, the pincushion and lots more essentials for the little one. [See my Blog called 'The Language of Infant Clothes' in three parts to see the vast range of accessories a mama needed to dress her baby in the 18th Century.]

So many babies didn't survive to their first year. The more lavish the welcome, it was believed, the more likely good luck would greet the child.

All these pieces had to go somewhere, and the layette basket was the receptacle made especially for them. And here is the lining of the basket, made in exactly the same way and with the same fine materials as the clothing & accessories.

I would imagine that the basket would be straw, or possibly wood, which would never be on display - this cover would completely hide the structure. It would be shallow, so that pieces could easily be found, and just the right size to be immediately at hand to cater for baby's needs.

The structure of the lining is a