Snuggle up to a colorful quilt collectionIn America, Amish quilters are renowned for their intricate, colorful patchwork in cotton. In Korea, patchwork remains popular in silk, and was prevalent in the tablecloths and the formal attire of aristocracy and royalty in times gone by. Quilted needlework was also a common feature in monks’ garb, albeit in austere colors.
The Chojun Textile and Quilt Art Museum, beside Mount Namsan, Seoul, houses more than 1,000 hemp patchworks, tablecloths and blankets, some dating to the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910), as well as foreign-made quilts. Since it opened five years ago, this private museum has also supported a quilt-making academy, located one floor above the museum proper.
Kim Soon-hee, who has devoted her life to preserving and teaching traditional knitting techniques, founded the museum in her home with donations from friends and acquaintances. Here, she displays the quilts and patchworks she has collected over four decades.
“Anywhere in the world, you’ll see that patchwork and needlework are mainly within the women’s sphere,” Ms. Kim says.
Traditional hemp and other cloths in myriad bright colors are kept inside wide glass cases. “To keep them intact, we need to maintain temperatures of 14 to 15 degrees” centigrade (57 to 59 Fahrenheit), Ms. Kim explains. “If it’s humid or muggy, the colors may change.”
Jogakpo, or square-pattern hemp in a rainbow of colors, and bojagi, or silk tablecloths, cover the museum’s walls and fill the display shelves along with ornamental embroidery.
“We are the only nation that has strings attached to bojagi,” Ms. Kim says. “It’s our idiosyncratic feature among the 20 or so nations that use bojagi.”
A pair of wedding hanbok, traditional Korean gowns, for bride and groom are also on display, along with wedding headpieces, silk tote bags and shoes. Exquisite pojagi embroidery originated at wedding ceremonies, the museum’s curator says; Korean ancestors handed down these brilliant stitch designs and needlework. “One patchwork blanket was made by stitching together 3,400 separate patches. It’s like an intricate puzzle.”
The museum has sponsored numerous special exhibits of textile art from Korea and abroad, and has displayed quilts made in the United States, Nepal and Afghanistan. A blanket-sized quilt called “crazy quilt” is now displayed on a wall next to the wedding hanbok. Made in 1902 in Waltham, Massachusetts, the quilt includes patchwork produced by a woman and four daughters, whose pictures are also stitched onto the quilt fabric.
“Western women back then used quilt work as stress relief,” Ms. Kim says. “Quilting was a time for self-discipline.”
Next to the museum, a small room contains dolls originating in more than 30 countries, including Russia, Peru, the U.S. and Japan, all places to which Ms. Kim has traveled.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Sundays and public holidays. Admission is 5,000 won ($4.25) for adults. 2,000 won for children. Take subway line No. 4 to Myeongdong Station, exit 3. For more information, call (02) 753-4075.
by Choi Jie-ho