A group of talented craftswomen have helped bring history back to life.

The team of volunteers at Hardy’s Cottage are always looking for ways to make the place feel more homely and to look lived in, as if perhaps the Hardy family have just stepped out for an afternoon walk. This includes making sure any objects that are damaged are repaired or replaced with something that would look authentic to the Hardy family.

Dorothy Maggs, a regular volunteer for the National Trust at Hardy’s Cottage, noticed the patchwork quilt cover which had been on Thomas Hardy’s parent’s bed for many years was very faded and damaged by the sun. She suggested approaching Dorchester Stitchers to see if they were interested in making a replica replacement.

Dorchester Stitchers are a group of talented local ladies who formed 10 years ago. The group of 23 accepted the challenge and have spent more than 100 hours completing the quilt. They sourced fabrics that were similar to the original patchwork, they then cut out 296 triangles, 168 octagons and 82 diamonds. The finished cover measuring 5’7” by 6’8” is now displayed on the bed in Hardy’s Cottage.

One of the pieces for the patchwork was made by Rachael Raine, visitor experience officer at Hardy’s Cottage, when she attended one of the Dorchester Stitchers’ meetings.

She said: "It is much more difficult than I would have imagined. I have no experience with a sewing machine so I was impressed that I managed to make an octagon for the patchwork. The Stitchers were very patient with me and even though my piece was a little wonky, they still included it in the final quilt."

The design is appliquéd on to a plain cream background and in the centre panel are birds cut out from fabric. It is not padded but backed by calico. The design is rather unique for a patchwork, although there is a very similar quilt at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

The Stitchers started the project in October 2017 and it was finished by March 2018 and handed over to Martin Stephen, Visitor experience manager for Hardy Country, at the Stitchers AGM in April. Martin expressed his delight on seeing the finished article saying "it will lighten up the room again with the beautiful design and vibrant colours. It will be admired by the many visitors to the Cottage".

Alison Blacktop, leader of Dorchester Stitchers said she was thrilled to be given such a project and it has given enormous pleasure to the entire group.

The Stitchers are planning to visit the Cottage soon and see the quilt in place later in the spring. Dorothy Maggs will be taking close care of the new quilt, and turning it over regularly so it is not damaged by the sun.

A second patchwork quilt is currently being made by the Hardy’s Cottage volunteers for another of the beds. Hardy’s Cottage is currently looking for new people to join the team of volunteers at the cottage. If you would be interested in joining the team, email hardyscottage@nationaltrust.org.uk