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I am a quilter living in Woodbridge, Suffolk who has made quilts since I was a teenager. I also ring bells! Both are great British traditions....I will try to feature some of my antique Welsh and Durham quilts, the quilts I make myself, my quilting activities and also some of my bellringing achievements. Plus as many photos as I can manage. NB: Double click on the photos to see greater detail, then use back button to return to the main page.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Festival of Quilts

I have had some good news during the past week! Firstly, I received an email from Twisted Thread:

I am writing to confirm that we have allocated a 5m wall for you at the Festival of Quilts from 19th to 22nd August.
Your stand number is A42 which is right at the front near the competition quilts, and opposite the V&A.

This sounds a good position and I am really looking forward to this. If you do attend, please come and say hello to me. I am really pleased to be able to show the two quilts. It might also be an opportunity to spread the good word about the Quilt Study Group and traditional quilts.

Secondly, my daughter Sophie has found a permanent job within GSK as brand manager. She had been on the graduate trainee scheme. And Tom, who has just completed his Architecture Part II at London Metropolitan, has found a temporary job, working with the building construction for the London 2012 Olympics. This will be a good learning experience for him. It is a tough job market out there at the moment. I had my first supervision with my new job with a charity, so all goes well there.

Lastly, I got the all clear with my mammogram at Ipswich Hospital. Ladies, don't forget your regular check ups, they are so important!!

Finally, I'll leave you with a photo or two - I am writing some posts on 1940's and 1950's quilts. I am interested in the survival or otherwise of quilting during and after the war. I have four quilts to show you. Snowy, my textile quality control, has been busy checking them out - before they go upstairs once more to the cat-free quilt storage zone.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Floral Bordered Welsh Quilt

Here is a quilt that was only the second Welsh quilt that I bought - to me it has all the ingredients - great quilting in traditional patterns, a striking format and a lovely choice of fabrics. And the patina of years use.

The quilt is 88 x 70 inches. It is from the Pontyberem area and was handed down in one family. Pontyberem is a village in the Gwendraeth valley between Carmarthen and LLannelli. It was a mining village, with four major mines providing anthracite coal from the South Wales Coalfield.

The quilt is worn but in good condition. It has a thin carded wool as a filling, which is bearding slightly [NB :wool and other natural fibres like cotton break off once they migrate through the quilt top, so bearding is less of a problem, unlike artifical fibres such as polyester, which are very strong fibres and do not break off; bearding is thus more evident and more of a problem].

The fabrics are cotton sateens in a beige colour and a cheerful floral. The quilting thread is red to match the floral fabric, which gives the stitching a lively air. Notice how one side of the quilt is the reverse of the other side in fabrics used.

The quilt is stitched with traditional Welsh patterns, inlcuding spirals, leaves, chevrons and diagonal lines. Notice corner fans which have radial spokes and arcs with a zigzag effect. The central motif is made of four lined hearts - notice how lopsided one of the hearts is - it doesn't matter - the spiral is just a bit larger here to compensate. As I've said before, these quilters were working fast, were marking as they went across the frame and just improvised when things didn't work out exactly. It all adds to the charm and authenticity. I think we get to bogged down in perfection these days....

Dates - obviously pre 1936 because of the cotton sateen, but this quilt strikes me as being older, perhaps 1880-1900. Any opinions on this?? A lovely quilt.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Geometric Welsh Quilt

Here is a very striking Welsh quilt. It measures 67 x 86 inches and comes from Cardigan, about 1880 (see below). Four offset diamonds or squares in blue are set against copper fabrics. The blue and copper fabrics appear roughly the same colour, but if you look closely at the textured fabrics, you can see that there is a great variety of pieces in different patterns - so a true scrap quilt, but one carefully made. The reverse is cotton sateen in a bright and intense yellow.

The quilting is fairly simple but there is the general Welsh format with borders, corner fans and a central motif. The central motif is a sunburst or pit wheel pattern. The wadding is a carded wool filling.

It is interesting to see that there are several areas where initials and perhaps numbers are embroidered in beige thread using a stem stitch. These probably relate to the family members or the quilters. I cannot make them out but one seems to be 80 or 08 - a date of '80?? The others seem to be initials, one is longer....might have to trace these...have a look yourself....Of course the embroiderer was Welsh and would not have spoken English so as I do not speak Welsh this complicates matters..

If only these quilts could speak - "Oh that... that's XYZ's initials, she...."

This quilt was one of several I bought from a woman who was downsizing her collection; of course the geometric and flannel quilts are the most desirable and collectable of the Welsh quilts, and its not hard to see why - very similar to the Amish quilts, isn't it?

Postscript - looking at the photos, I was struck that the signatures seem very fluid and wonder if they weren't done by machine stitching - not hand - treadle machine - what do you think? Looks like FMQ to me....and there is a loose end in one of the signatures. If by machine, should be able to work out direction of sewing, then orientation (so not reading upside-down) also study cursive handwriting styles of the period - it might become clearer.

PPS - this stitching is not quilting, it is embroidery using the sewing machine. You can tell this because the stitching does not go through all three layers, and, the quilting thread goes OVER the embroidery on the longer signature. the embroidery must have been done to the quilt top, or perhaps quilt pieces, before the quilt was put into the frame.

Monday 21 June 2010

Welsh Frame Quilt with Roses

Here is a frame quilt from Ammanford, S.Wales. Ammanford is in Southwest Wales, inland from Swansea. Other nearby towns are Llanelli and Llandeilo. This area must have had many experienced quilters as many of my quilts come from this general area.

The size of the quilt is 78 x 89 inches, not including the frill. The quilt was owned by Catherine Philips who lived in Ammanford until her death in 1975 at 85 years of age. The quilt was sold to me by her granddaughter, Ann Fairburn of Ammanford. The quilt is believed to have been made by Catherine's mother, but the exact age is unsure.

The front of the quilt is a frame format with pink fabric combined with a centre and borders of a red roses fabric. The reverse is a plain pink cloth. The reverse has both stains and fades - whilst the front is in pretty good condition - so presumably the patchwork side was considered the "best" side.

The quilting is the part of the quilt that appeals to me most - just look at the designs - hearts, beech leaves, spirals, and more. And look at the repeated block which has a four lobed shape - very effective. The stitching really is very good and looks to be the stitching of an experienced or professional quilter. And notice that the joins in the patchwork borders have been neatly and expertly mitred - not the more usual butt join.

The question of frills has interested me. Jen Jones in her little Towey book states that frills indicate a 20's or 30's age. Yet the Quilters Guild Quilt Treasures states on page 218 that ....a wholecloth quilt with a frill would indicate a date between 1890 and 1910. On BQHTL, I floated the question as to age of frills - and several came up with dated quilts with frills - late 1800's, 1908, 1880's -so some quilts with frills appear to be earlier in date. Certainly frills were popular in the 20's and 30's but the frill alone can not be used to assign that date. (By frill, I mean a ruffle - a seamed piece of cloth which is gathered or pleated and then inserted into the edge of the quilt and top sewn.)

Some of these Welsh quilts have a real personality, a liveliness, an individuality - this one certainly speaks to me. The fact that it has obviously been used and loved for such a long time makes it more special.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Results - Star Quilts(Long)

Here are the general results from my measurements of the star quilts. I measured my own four quilts and also added the two quilts as set out in patterns in the two books mentioned earlier. I will give the full results in a paper that I am writing - and if anyone else has a star quilt, I would appreciate it if you would share it with me so that the database could be enlarged.

There are some older Sanderson Star quilts illustrated in books, and it is perhaps instructive to look at these and see how the pattern has evolved over the years.In FitzRandolph, Plate 12 is a Star quilt made by Sanderson herself(no date given) and passed down in the family. The quilt is square and the infill quilting simple, in that the background is covered with squares on point only, with no corner flower motif; there is a light sashing border around the star. Borders contain twist and Gardiner running feather, the corners are turned by roses or a block of infill. In Quilts and Coverlets (Beamish/Allen) there is a star quilt made by Elizabeth Allison c. 1890 in blue/white. Again square, with plain infill only on star background, patterns much as above but with a weardale chain on the outer border. Also in the same book, a later quilt c 1929 in pink and white, patterns much as above. So generally, it seems as if the earlier/standard, stamped star quilt was square, with a limited range of quilting patterns including the Gardiner running feather and twist; the corners were not turned but a separate motif was used. Later in the book is shown another, star centre in red and white, where the quilting motifs are nonstandard, and the star is bigger, similar to the pink and black star in my collection (no date here) but presume it is a later quilt.

So:Rectangular and wider range of patterns indicates a later quilt. From the late 18th c cast iron beds and cotton mattresses were available; in the 1930's innerspring mattresses became common.As beds became larger, so did the quilts. This progression from square to rectangular quilts has been well documented in Amish quilts.

Now to the results of my measurements: Firstly it is good to take the measurements as it does illustrate certain trends which are perhaps obvious on reflection, but not at a cursory glance (a bit like tracing quilting patterns). Secondly, this pattern might look simple but this is deceptive, it is actually quite a complex pattern. It is also a pattern that cannot be drafted with a bit of experimentation with squares, triangles and diamonds. It is a "one off" pattern and it is no wonder that skill levels had to be high, or a pattern carefully followed,to achieve this design. For instance, those corner squares in the central block are not squares at all - they are rhombuses; the outer corner is a right angle but the inner two sides are not "straight" at all. The "diamonds" making up the star are also different to ones seen in other patterns - they are truncated. The central star is not pieced, it is one single pattern piece. And there are a lot of inset corners - where the star points meet the central star, and also where the triangles and rhombuses meet the junction of the two star points. My guess is that a full size pattern had to be drawn up, or full size templates used, and many hadn't the skill to do this. In the pink and black quilt, notice how the upper end of the diamond shape is a different shape to the other quilt stars - it is blunter with the upper angle a more wider angle - this makes the central star shape much larger in turn and less dissected.

The star was usually sewn by machine and was undoubtedly difficult for many to piece - the pink/black quilt is hand pieced and some quilts do seem to have had hand sewing to finish off the inset corners.Cotton seems to be a very forgiving fabric, and the pattern is so striking that any minor imperfections are not important. Many quilters undoubtedly struggled to get the outer points of the star right - an inner border of the light colour helped to disguise any imperfections in the piecing - some of the points are rather blunt (ie cut off) but again this doesn't seem to affect the impact of the design.

Taking measurements also served to point out something else which should have been obvious - that is, the centre block is roughly square but the quilts in my collection are rectangular - so the borders are wider in one direction than the other to make a rectangle. This means that the borders on two opposite sides are not the same as in the other two sides. In most of the quilts, the dark borders are kept to a similar measurement or only enlarged slightly, but in the lighter coloured border, the borders in the longer direction are considerably wider - I think because this difference in width is less visibly different than if done in the darker colour.

Quilting patterns do follow a usual sequence, the exceptions are the pink/black quilt and the one given in Chainey which is a white/yellow quilt. In the case of the pink/black quilt, given the different measurements, it seems as if a quilter was determined to make the striking quilt she had seem and drafted her own pattern - and used her own somewhat "country" patterns. Or was there an alternative pattern available? We know that many of the star tops were professionally marked and could be expected to be marked with a small library of quilting patterns,however this one uses a different repertoire of patterns. The pink/black quilts also uses two different patterns in one border - very unusual. The Chainey quilt also uses flower pattern with coins - perhaps the taste for quilting patterns changed too over time and the stamped patterns were considered old fashioned or not up-to-date. (For example, in the twenties and thirties you have more stylised "windblown" flowers - influence of art deco and art nouveau).

I have not included the statistical results here, but will include these (for what they're worth) in a paper. Also please note that normally scientific measurements are taken in metric; however as I felt the quilts had been made by people who worked in inches I decided to use the Imperial measurement system here.

Average measurements and range of measurements seen
Quilt size average 77 1/2 x 85 1/2
Star block - average 30" square range 28 - 33
Short side of diamond - average 4 1/2 range 4 to 4 3/4
Long side of diamond - average 10 1/2 range 8 - 14 1/2
Length of diamond average 11 1/2 range 9 - 12 3/4

B0 (sashing- light) average 2" range 1 3/4 - 2
B1 (dark) short side average 3 1/4 range 3 - 4
B1 (dark) long side average 4 range 3 - 7 3/4
B2 (Lt)short side average 4 1/2 range 3 1/4 - 8 1/2
B2 (Lt)long side average 5 3/4 range 4 3/4 - 6 1/2
B3 (dark)short side average 4 3/4 range 3 - 7
B3 (dark)long side average 5 1/4 range 4 - 7 1/4
B4 (light)short side average - 4 1/2 range 2 1/2 - 6
B4 (lt) long side average 6 range 4 3/4 - 10
B5 (dark) sort side average 6 3/4 range 5 1/2 - 9 1/2
B5 (dark) long side average 7 1/2 range 5 - 10

So the outer borders do tend to get wider, and there is a lot of variation in the measurements of the different quilts, as seen in the very large range measurements - for example, the outermost border varied from 5" to 10" among the quilts.

Angles of the diamonds- I measured these with a protractor and due to the flexibility of cotton these did vary a lot. But here are the average measurements: Side 120 degrees, top angle 80 degrees. The pink/black quilt had different measurements of 100 degrees for the side angle and 122 degrees for the top angle. All the quilts had a tip angle of 35 degrees.

In summary - although there is a basic pattern, the complex nature of this pattern causes the quilts to have a great variety of measurements. The advent of larger beds seems to be reflected in this square pattern becoming rectangular; this was achieved by making the light borders (and to a lesser extent the dark borders) wider in one direction. The later quilts have a wider variety of quilting patterns, and more decoration in the form of corner motifs in the infill, also turned borders rather tha separate motifs. There seems to be a later, alternative pattern in which the central star is larger and the diamond has a blunter inner angle. More quilt measurements should expand this research and allow us to see whether the stampers did have a standard pattern; also as to the existence of the alternative pattern.

Illustrations: centre of green and bronze stamped quilt; centre of the pink/black quilt; pattern as set out in Lodge's book as detailed in an earlier post.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Pink Welsh Wholecloth Quilt

I am still working my way through the star quilt measurements and hope to finish this soon and let you know the results. Here is another Welsh quilt for you to look at, some nice stitching here. This quilt has no provenance but the dealer thought it was from South or West Wales, circa 1900. It was not bought from an individual but from an auction.

Both sides are of plain pink cotton sateen; the wadding is a thin layer of wool against which the quilting stitches really stand out well. One side is has some fades where it was folded.

This quilt is slightly unusual in that it is not square, it is very long - measurements are 233 cm x 167 cm that is 92 x 66 inches. There are some nice patterns on this quilt - the central motif is four paisleys in a circle, surrounded by circles, spirals and orange peel.The accompanying fans echo this and have a nice leaf pattern in the corner. The outer border is attractive - leaf shapes surrounded by circles and spirals, with spirals between. Notice how there are extra borders top and bottom to achieve the extra length, also that the borders are separated by a double line of stitching which really stands out. The outer edge is neatly machine stitched with a single line of machine stitching and the panels are joined by machine. As usual, the quilter tried to make the most of her cloth and the selvages do show at the panel joins in some places. Quilting thread is a matching pink colour.

This quilt has seen only light use and apart from the fades is in good condtiion; it was made by an experienced quilter. Most likely, she marked out the major fields in chalk on her frame and then used favorite patterns to fill these areas.

Ps. Most of you will know that if you double click on the thumbnail photo a full screen image will appear. Just use the back button to return to the post when you have finished viewing the image.

Friday 11 June 2010

The Summer Quilter magazine

My article on the Allendale quilts appeared in The Quilter - the magazine of the Quilters Guild and I received it in the post yesterday. It looks good and I'm pleased with it. My eagle eye noticed a few corrections/alterations to the text and I was interested in what had been changed. As a lecturer I was forever correcting text!

I have been promised space at the FOQ to exhibit the two quilts (August) but am still waiting to hear the details.

In the meantime, if anyone from outside the UK wishes to read the article, send me your email address using the email contact on my profile page (I will not publish this message) and I will send you a scanned copy. If you do live in the UK, can I encourage you to join the Quilters Guild - I've always found the area days, the Quilt Study Group and the magazine very interesting.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Ringing Outing to the Brandon Area

On Saturday, Kate the Southeast District Ringing Master arranged an outing to the Brandon area. This is an area near Thetford Forest and Lakenheath Airbase - just at the Suffolk/Norfolk border. A good turnout and some good sunny weather. We rang at Brandon, Mundford, Northwold, Hilgay and Hockwold.Of course we had the customary lunch at a pub - the Crown at Northwold.This pub had a giant - and very friendly - pub cat. It was lovely to sit outside in the sun - good food too.

My favorite tower was Hilgay, where the bells are not often rung these days - approached along a long avenue of lime trees. Much hilarity here. Ringing chambers are often a repository for various items from cleaning, flowerarranging etc. - here there was a nude store manikin (female)with a beard and "Joseph" written on the chest - very surreal.Perhaps part of the nativity scene at Christmas?? Anyway, it suddenly broke in half as it was being returned to its storage space, giving rise to some very odd photos....The ringing chamber was very old fashioned and hadn't been touched in years - a real sense of history here. Afterwards, Mike and I went for a walk along the Great Ouse, where there were swarms of dragonflies or darters. I looked on the internet and identified them as damselflies, the banded demoiselle, common where there are slow, muddy bottomed rivers. Another nice day in the English countryside - at the best time of year when the weather is kind and the days very long.

Pink and Black Star Quilt

Here is a quilt which was sold as a "cutter" quilt - the reason is that although the pink sateen is still in good condition, the plain black cotton is very worn and whiskered, to the extent that the wadding is clearly visible in many places. The quilt is partly hand pieced, the quilting is good and the quilting patterns are different to those usually seen for this pattern.

The quilt was bought from Christine at the Linen Cupboard. It comes from the Shotton family, from Wylam in Northumberland. The seller had it from her mother who was born in Wylam. The wadding is of cotton and the quilting thread is pink. The stitching is very neat and made by a competant quilter.

The reverse of this quilt echoes the front,having black and pink borders except that there is no central star. The edge of the quilt is hand sewn, and the borders are put together using the sewing machine. However, the central star is hand sewn and the quilter seems to have made hard work of it in the corners - or is it just so worn that it has pulled a bit? Anyhow, a lot of thread and stitching is showing at the inset corners. The other point is that the star has no sashing around it, so that the points of the star touch the next border - the star does not "float" like the other three quilts. The wadding is a thin cotton and the stitches are neat and small, about 16 stitches to the inch.

The quilting patterns are not the same as is seen in the other three quilts.
The centre has a daisy with a central circle and other circles drawn around coins. In the diamonds, there is a rose plus double outlining. In the squares - there is a four lobed flower with a simple twist on each lobe. Borders 1 & 2 - small and large twist. Border 3 - Chevrons and a "rose in a square" border pattern. Outer border 4 - Twist plus a trefoil filler.

This quilt must have been a very striking quilt in its day. It was carefully made by an expert quilter, and received many years of use on a bed.

Friday 4 June 2010

Very faded Star Quilt

Here is a quilt from Tyne and Wear. It is so faded that it appears white. It must have been made with a coloured fabric originally, as why bother to piece white fabrics? The star and borders have a VERY faint "blush" so perhaps it was originally pink - a popular combination, pink and white. Evidently the edges were worn, as it has been rebound on two sides in a satiny ribbon at some point.

The quilting is in white thread so no clues there! The borders and the star are machine pieced. Quilting is 10 stitches to the inch and the quilting patterns seen are:
Centre - rose in a ring
Diamonds - rose and fern
Squares - infill plus a large rose in a ring plus ferns
Border 1 - small running feather border 2 - twist plus corner scroll Border 3 - Small floral scroll Border 4 - Twist Border 5 - large floral scroll

The fabrics are cotton sateen and the wadding is cotton. Interestingly, the repair binding has been put on with a machine zigzag, so must be a later addition. A missing part of the border quilting pattern shows that the quilt has been cut down where there was wear - this quilt has seen some long service on a bed!! The quilting is nicely done, however. Undoubtedly a nice quilt in its day, with pride of place.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

A Pink and White Sanderson Star Quilt

Here is a quilt which, although worn and stained, is still visually very pleasing. I am constantly amazed at how sturdy the sateen cottons were - the antique fabrics often seem of far higher quality than our modern fabrics! There is still a lot of wear left in this quilt - and the cotton sateen has an incredibly soft feel to it. The cotton wadding in this quilt is thick, and the quilt is heavier than the other three quilts, plus the stitching is not as fine due to the thicker wadding. Actually, if you look closely at this quilt, you realise that it is not pink and white - it is in reality a light pink and a dark pink quilt. And notice that the star is light and the central background is the darker colour - a reversal of the standArd star quilt.

This quilt is also very unusual for a star quilt in that it has a frill. This was a popular edge treatment in the 20's and 30's. The quilt is of a later date and therefore the patterns are rather derived and a bit different the usual ones. The quilt itself came from the Robinson family, from Hardwick near Stockton, Cleveland. The quilt had been passed down in the family. I tried to get more information from the seller and wrote a letter but never got a reply. The size is 220 x 240 cm or 87 x 95". The seller said that it was 60 years old which would imply that it was made in the 1950's but it does look older than that... and we know that the cotton sateen was no longer manufactured from 1936 (as it was too labour intensive to make).

Quilting patterns seen in this quilt are:
Centre- rose in a ring plus ferns
Diamond - rose in a ring plus ferns
Sqares - infill plus rose in a ring plus a scroll
Border 1 - small running feather Border 2 - small twist plus corner scroll Border 3 -- small floral scroll Border 4 - twist Border 5 large floral scroll with a corner rose. The quilting thread is light pink and the stitching is about 8 stitches to the inch.

The reverse is pink and white strips i.e. a strippy reverse.

Pattern for Sanderson Star Quilt

There are two books which set out the pattern for the Sanderson Star; both are out of print. However, you should be able to find copies on Ebay or Amazon used books.

They are:

Diana Lodge, Quilting, Traditional Needle Arts Series, Mitchell Beazley 1995 pages 76 - 83. IBSN 1 85732 566 4

Barbara Chainey, The Essential Quilter Project Book, David and Charles, 1997, pages 134-141. IBSN 0 7153 0485 2

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Bank Holiday Outing to Norfolk

Yesterday we went on a trip to Norfolk, ringing at four towers as arranged by Mr. Norris. We rang four quarter peals: Cambridge at Brooke for their flower festival, Plain Bob Minor for Alaric at Dickleburgh, his first quarter on six, then Norwich at Bressingham and spliced surprise minor (Cambridge, Beverley and Surfleet) at Banham. Nearly a lock out at the last church! Finishing with a curry at Bungay.

I used to think it was just a story, but it apparently is true that a distant ancestor, Robert Fuller left Redenhall in Norfolk and sailed to Massachussetts on the Mayflower. His grandfather was the town butcher and helped to pay for the bells at Redenhall. So a real family connnection at Redenhall, and probably also at Bungay nearby - what a handsome church! Perhaps that's why I like bellringing...

More on the star quilts tomorrow....