RAS Bicentennial Quilt

Ellen Baker's "Solar System" Quilt
Ellen Baker's 1876 "Solar System" Quilt - Gift of Patricia Hill McCloy and Kathryn Hill Meardon.
Smithsonian Institute / National Museum of American History


2020 will mark the 200th anniversary of the Royal Astronomical Society. One of the ways the society will celebrate this significant milestone is by running a project to make a commemorative quilt.


200 years ago it was not uncommon for family and community members to come together to stitch quilts, often as a way of marking an important life event. Inspired by the communal and social aspect of the quilting tradition, the RAS is looking for participants to help create a bicentennial quilt.


The quilt will be doubled-sided, measuring approximately 190 x 190 cm. One side will depict the solar system, a homage to astronomer Ellen Baker's spectacular 1876 Solar System quilt  (see main image) which she used as a visual aid when giving astronomy lectures. The other side of the quilt will be made in the tradition of patchwork squares stitched together in a grid. Each square will feature images related to astronomy and geophysics. Everyone is welcome to get involved, you don't need to be an expert embroiderer to take part.There are two ways you can contribute:


Solar System Side

Stitching sessions will be held, at least initially, in the society's offices at Burlington House and last approximately 2-3 hours. Stitching sessions will give participants the opportunity to create a square (see below) as well as contribute to the solar system side of the quilt, participants will embroider the sun, planets and their orbital paths. Hoops, needles, threads and black fabric will be provided but please bring any other materials you'd like to use to make your square.


Stitching session dates are below. If you would like to attend please email events@ras.ac.uk stating your sewing/embroidery experience (eg: expert, confident beginner, complete novice etc). Spaces at stitching sessions will be limited, we may not be able to accommodate all requests.

26 November 2019, Burlington House, London, 1pm - 4pm - FULLY BOOKED

1 December 2019, National Space Centre, Leicester, 4 x 1 hour sessions

28 January 2020, Burlington House, London 1:30pm - 4:30pm - FULLY BOOKED

19 February 2020, Burlington House, London 1pm - 4pm - FULLY BOOKED

18 March 2020, Burlington House, London 1pm - 4pm - CANCELLED

27 May 2020, Burlington House, London 1pm - 4pm - CANCELLED

9 April 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm

30 April 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm

14 May 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm

28 May 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm

11 June 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm

2 July 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm

30 July 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm

27 August 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm 

17 September 2020, online stitching session 2:30pm - 3:30pm

8 October 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm 

28 October 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm 

19 November 2020, online stitching session 2pm - 3pm

26 May 2022, Burlington House, London 10am - 12:30pm, 2:15 - 4:30pm


Patchwork Squares Side

If you're not able to attend a stitching session you can still contribute to the project by creating a square for the patchwork side of the quilt. Here are a few things to consider when making your square:

  • The RAS is not able to provide any materials or equipment to make the squares, you will need to source your own tools and materials.
  • You can use a variety of methods to create the image on your square: embroidery, felt, patchwork, appliqué, printing, fabric paint etc.
  • The square must be made from a light to medium weight fabric with no stretch. Woven fabrics such as cotton or linen are ideal. Knitted or crochet squares will not be incorporated unless they are attached to a cotton or linen backing.
  • Finished squares must measure 25 x 25 cm. 
  • Your design must fit within 20 x 20 cm of the square. A 2.5 cm border is required around the edge of your design. This is needed for the seam allowance when the squares are all stitched together.
  • Be as imaginative as you can when deciding what astronomical or geophysical image to create for your square, the bigger the variety we get, the better!


Ideas for squares:

  • Constellations
  • Nebula
  • Galaxies
  • Planets & exoplanets
  • Moons
  • Rockets
  • Telescopes
  • Satellites
  • Asteroids
  • Comets
  • The aurora


NASA, ESA  and the ESO have excellent image libraries in case you need some inspiration.



The hashtag for this project is #RASquilt - if you make a square and share it on social media, tag us, we'd love to see how you're getting along. If you have questions about the any of the above please email events@ras.ac.uk


When the time comes to submit your square, please include your name, email address and what your square depicts (eg: the constellation of Orion).


*** Due to the on-going coronavirus situation, the Society's offices at Burlington House are now closed until further notice, please don't post your squares to the RAS address. If you have completed your square contact events@ras.ac.uk for a secure address to post it to.

The deadline for submissions has been extended to 9 December. ***

* Please note that depending on the amount of squares we receive, we cannot guarantee that your square will be included in the final quilt.


Submitted by Patricia Burrell on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 18:53