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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.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Pink and Blue Paisley Quilt

This quilt is from the 1930's - and is made in a soft blue paisley on one side and a pink paisley on the other - typical of the 30's fad for pastel colours. It is one of the quilts that has gone across to France for Jane Rollasons Quilt Expo "In the Heart of the Vineyards". The quilt is reputed to have been given as a wedding gift but never used. It comes from the Dryslwyn, Llandeilo area of Carmarthenshire, South Wales, where it was part of a collection of quilts.

The quilt is all hand stitched but the designs are hard to see due to the patterned fabric. It has a central medallion with spiral infill, a corner leaf, church windows with spiral infill and corner fans with spiral infill and a simple twist. The edges are hand stitched. The wadding is carded wool, but thicker than some of the other quilts, so a very warm quilt.

Monday 23 August 2010

FoQ 2010

Karin and Alexander Hellaby (of Quilters Haven, Wickham Market)
Hawaiian quilt from afar at FOQ

A Raffle to win a pennant...

The finished Allendale stall - two north country quilts plus two Welsh quilts on the table

Filming at the V & A stall for Twisted Thread

The V & A stall, where the cute trolleys had sold out by Saturday, and where price adjustments were welcomed by some and infuriated others...

Jane Rollason and Michel - the Welsh quilts were off to her Exhibition in the Heart of the Vineyards - 18/19 September 2010.

Susan Briscoe and her lovely Japanese fabrics

An example of a kimono and obi using Susan's fabrics

Welsh quilt made of dyed fabrics, by Hazel Ryder - made to celebrate 25th wedding anniversary

The Hawaiian quilt

Hanging the Allendale quilts

I've returned from the Festival of Quilts - four days plus half a day to set up - and really enjoyed it - but more work than I had envisaged. And unlike many others, I didn't have to sell anything or teach! But, I really enjoyed talking to everybody about the antique quilts.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon - the main problem was getting the two quilts hung -it didn't take long once the team had arrived. The table was a bit nasty looking and I had not brought a cloth to put on it - but I decided to fling the turkey red Welsh quilt over it and that worked well. I had brought the Welsh quilts to hand over to Jane Rollason and I was able to drape a Welsh quilt over the table each day.

Most of the interest centred around quilt marking methods, how long did it take you?, where I had gotten the quilt, how to wash quilts, tracing quilt designs and quilting in a frame.

I was also pleased to see that my Hawaiian quilt looked very good when hung and had arrived safely. The traditional category covered a lot of quilts, some more traditional than others; it was noticeable that none of the winning quilts were hand quilted. As Lilian has noted, a truly traditional quilt scores low on creativity so has a lesser chance of winning.

I was pleased to read the judges comments (always food for thought) one said "great visual impact, excellent applique, well quilted" while the other said "very well executed and excellent hand quilting". This year and the two previous years, the edge treatment has not been marked as high; I know that I could get it really right but as I'm still working I just feel I don't want to spend my time in that way. It was also interesting to note that, as the ventilation was so fierce at the NEC, by the final day almost all the quilts had rippling edges - luckily they were still OK when they were being judged on the first day!

I include some photos but I didn't take too many! The artificial light doesn't seem to work too well with my camera - or perhaps I had the wrong setting....

At the end I was a bit worried about collecting the Hawaiian quilt and also taking the Allendales down. I had no Phillips screwdriver to unfasten the battens from the display boards - but a couple of hard, swift pulls on the battens was enough to bring them down safely (made me feel like a real action woman). The quilt collection was the usual chaos - but I was able to collect the quilt and leave by 6 so was home at 9.15.

I did wonder on Saturday whether my voice would last - I am not used to talking so much!! Very pleased at meeting everyone and startled that there are so many who read (and apparently enjoy) this blog. My main aim was to promote antique British quilts - I know that they're not everyone's cup of tea - but think that I succeeded, together with the museum stall which had a nice selection of wholecloths. Well worth doing.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Off to NEC for Festival of Quilts

I am packed and ready to set off to the FOQ - three hour's drive! As well as the two Allendale quilts, I am taking eight Welsh Quilts for Jane Rollason's French Quilt Expo. I will post photos of these quilts when I get back ...I am also taking the camera so hopefully will be able to post some photos of the show as well. Mike is passing up the quilt show and Birmingham (he has been before) and will be staying here to look after the cats.

Do stop by to say hello if you are going to FOQ - I would be glad to meet everyone! My stand is A42 and is just across from the V & A stall near the front.

Monday 16 August 2010

Pink Birds Quilt

Here is a quilt with an especially nice cotton sateen fabric - set in a pink background, it has swags of twigs, flowers and leaves with small pink birds set amongst them. The pink reverse shows the fantastic quilting patterns. This quilt still has its original sizing and hasn't been used, but does have some dust marks on the pink side. Is provenance is unknown, but does come from South Wales. Its size is 71 x 89 inches.

The quilting patterns are especially nice - there is a huge central medallion with leaves, circular scrolls and spiral patterns. A figure of eight scroll is simple but effective - and easy to sew without marking. At the outer edge is an attractive church window border with cross hatched infill. The corners have an attractive four lobed design. The wadding is carded wool, and the edges are hand sewn.

No wonder the owner of this quilt couldn't bear to use this quilt - the choice of fabric, and the quilting, make it a perfect quilt and one to be cherished.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Tulip or crabs claw??

I had an email from Clare C - she says "Took a quick look at the blog and noticed the pink and gold Llanelli quilt. What a find! I was very interested to see the strange compound flowers in the outer border. The central rose is very familiar, but I have only seen the rather unusual "claw like" petals/leaves in much older quilts from Pembrokeshire. The Quilt Association has a super example, with a five armed starfish on it too. So I have always thought of them as "crab claws".

The quilt she is talking about is of course the Starfish quilt - a floating centre diamond quilt shown in the book Making Welsh Quilts - I was pleased to see this "in the flesh" when we went up to Llanidloes for the Sykas workshop on fabric dating. Each member of the Quilt Association was invited to choose a quilt to research - and Susan L. did not know which quilt to choose. To her surprise, she was assigned the Starfish quilt! As there was a bit of time to spare at the workshop, while Phillip was there the quilt was brought out for us all to look at - Phillip was able to tell us that it is not cotton as previously thought, but wool worsted cloth of a fine quality, and older than previously thought. The thread is round, so dates after 1830. It is handsewn, with a linen twill backing. The quilt has never been washed although there was some water and a little moth damage to be seen (apparently moths do not like clean items). Probable date from several lines of reasoning - 1830 - 1850. The wadding is fine carded wool. I was most impressed with Phillips handheld digital microscope, it was very useful for looking at details of thread and fabric.

Susan and I had wondered at the time whether the crab claw was correct - there is no provenance to the quilt, but it has always been assumed to have a maritime connection, hence the assumption of starfish and crabs claws - I think they look more like stylized tulips or flowers myself.

I can say that the Sykas workshop on fabric dating was the best and most thorough that I have been to - a real eye opener with a fabric academic - if you do not have a copy of The Secret Life of Textiles I would recommend it (now out of print but copies still available I think). There is also a brochure by Phillip available to download at:

Or, go to, go to Resources and look for Identifying Printed Textile Booklet. There are also booklets on Woolen textiles and lace.

I also have transcribed my notes from the two days and find these a good resource to look back upon - I wish Philip would write a book about dating British/English fabrics - Britain produced most of the world's fabrics and flooded world markets so such a book would be useful everywhere. Sadly, the textile industry that produced so much of Britain's wealth, was never protected by the government and has now all but disappeared.

Monday 9 August 2010

Quilting/Princess Feather

And I thought that this blog was going to be about Welsh Quilts!

I started to make quilts as a teenager in the 70's, using Ickis's The Standard Book of Quilt Making - where everything was hand pieced and handsewn.Here is a photo of Mother and Carol quilting the first Storm at Sea quilt - they both have one hand below the quilt top but whether doing the rocking stitch I cannot tell....the date must be about 1972, or when I was in High School. I did not do any more quilting until I went back to the US to visit in 1989 - Trudy Hughes' book Template Free Quilting had come out and what a revolution it was - rotary cutters and machine piecing. I bought a cheap sewing machine (agony and pleasure in equal measures) and brought home some fabric from Joann's in pink and blue. And tried to come to terms with the 1/4" seam...when it came to quilting, I couldn't remember how we had done the quilting in the big frame on Carol's quilt - so I did stick stab - it was very tiring and not very even although the stitches were small. I didn't like that uneven effect.

So I decided to teach myself to quilt properly - not easy as there were few books about - Michael James Handbook of Quiltmaking had the best description - I bought some preprinted panels and made a quilt - by the time I had finished the quilt I was doing the "rocking stitch". I have asked a lot of well known quilters how they quilt - Lilian H withdraws the needle - Jacqui H. does it flat on a table - me, I've been doing the same way for 25 years now and don't think that I will change! I use one thimble on top, a naked finger below...and I quilt using a Q-snap floor frame. I have used up one frame - it got old and the plastic started to perish - but not very expensive to buy another on Ebay (someone else's purchase that was unused). This suits me as it is easy to put up/take down and is not very big - once a quilt is basted it can live in the frame in the corner of the lounge. It can be covered with a sheet if necessary. I know one or two people say that it is not tensioned well in the corners but I've never found this to be the case. The quilting area is tensioned well and the caps swivel to adjust the tension - the entire quilt frame can be rotated to bring a new area to hand - and the quilt can be easily repositioned when a new section is needed. I find these days that I mostly quilt away from myself - the rhythm is better this way and I don't have to use the under finger as much. In earlier days I quilted with a large hoop and this was OK - but I do need a frame of some sort to quilt. It is very important to thoroughly baste the quilt, either with safety pins or with thread basting.
The princess feather quilt pattern is one that is taken from an antique quilt shown in McCall's Book of Quilts - one of the best books I've come across. At the time that I made this quilt (1993) I was not into old quilts so modified the border to something a bit newer looking. Applique quilts do need a strong border to contain all that energy...and a hefty binding as well. The quilt was an experiment in applique methods - I made up a cardboard feather template from the pattern given in the book - the first block was marked around this using a Pigma pen in brown and then needleturned - the markings occasionally did show. The second block was made using the freezer paper on top method - using a concertina of freezer paper I cut out eight paper feathers and ironed these on top of the applique fabric. This method worked well and I could reuse the paper templates so I did the other two blocks this way.

The interesting thing was, I bought a similar Princess Feather quilt on eBay that was sold as a Durham quilt - no provenance and no date - but I realised that the pattern was exactly the same as in the book except that two corner swags were omitted - it also has a binding which is not traditional for British quilts. On closer inspection, one can note that the feathers are not made as large as the original quilt - the templates have been enlarged but not to the full extent called for in the pattern. More curious is the fact that the quilt is not made to the block system. One can clearly see in the original quilt that there are four blocks plus a strip with the border. In the "Durham" quilt, there are simply two lengths of fabric seamed together - so more in the northern wholecloth tradition. The colour scheme is also not very American! The background cloth is a teal colour, with the applique in light and dark olive greys.The pattern has been followed very closely, however the two corner swags have been omitted. The two small diamonds have been included however. The applique stitching is adequate, however as the darker olive fabric is coarse the sewer struggled a bit in places. White sewing thread has been used in the applique with a whip stitch used.

I think this quilt was clearly made following the pattern in the McCall's book - that means that this quilt dates from 1964 at the earliest as that was when the book was first published . What a pity we do not know who made it and why - it is nicely done although the fabrics are not the liveliest - using up what was to hand?? The backing is very obviously pieced together using large scraps.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Echo quilting

As I expect you know, applique quilts are a problem to quilt - the applique is so lively that the quilting has to take a back seat, so to speak, and it is either grid quilting or echo quilting.

I have done echo quilting on several applique quilts and the choice is to mark in some way or to "eyeball" it (estimate by eye) . My first Hawaiian quilt was eyeballed at about 3/8th inch -because I thought that was the more traditional method for Hawaiian quilts - but it looked at bit haphazard to me. So I went back to marking, using a method I used earlier in a Princess Feather quilt (see photo). I quilt in a large frame so easy to do.....

The method is to use a small ruler and use straight pins to mark a line at the chosen distance - in the photo of the red and white quilt, it is 1/2 inch. Use as many as needed, I usually insert a pin every inch or so. You'll have to look carefully at the photo to see the heads of the pins showing where to quilt next. This does not take long to do, is accurate and of course leaves no markings and looks very fresh. Just aim for the pins and remove as they get in the way. Of course, do not use old or rusted pins. Do a small area at a time or you'll get bored....

Thursday 5 August 2010

Getting ready for FOQ

Progress being made on the trip to Birmingham in three weeks time. The red and white Hawaiian quilt was posted off for the competition. And the other two quilts are ready to go - will need final defurring session, I know. Here is Snowy testing the antique Allendale quilt - it has gotten cool here (not really like August at all, but that's England for you) so cats are back to heat-seeking activities.

I received my three patterns from Cissy at Poakalani yesterday - I ordered sunflower, Molokama and Pillani - these should literally keep me busy for at least three years...not small quilts....I am going to have to bring back some extra wide fabric from my trip to Florida - it seems more satisfactory than seaming together panels - the joins are unsightly and also difficult to deal with.

Here is the latest project - Pua Pake or Chrysanthemum - it is all pin basted now and next has to be thread basted before applique can start - otherwise the pins get in the way of the applique and also tend to drop out - I am not too happy with the quality of the yellow fabric, it is a bit skimpy. It does seem to be difficult to find suitable fabric these days - not so many plains about. Fabric of better quality is especially important with wholecloth and applique quilts.

My next project will be to design and then mark out my Welsh quilt; Jane Rollason has also asked me to loan her some Welsh quilts for her French expo - eight I think - her Durhams are all pastels and she wants some strongly coloured Welsh quilts to contrast - I think finding brightly coloured quilts will not be a problem! I will deliver them to her at FOQ - getting them back from Jane who lives in Yorkshire may be the greater problem - however, a trip to Macclesfield for the BQSG weekend meeting might be the solution.

Sunday 1 August 2010

1920's Roses Welsh Quilt

This quilt was originally from Carmarthen.It measures 76 x 78 inches, It was owned by an elderly lady and stored for many years in a plastic bag on top of a wardrobe. It doesn't seem to have been used at all, although there are some brown spots (not very visible due to the busy fabric - see the third photo and see if you can spot them).

The quilt is hand stitched with spiral patterns and diagonal lines as chevrons. There are lovely cotton sateen floral fabrics in pinks, reds and blues in two slightly different patterns. The wadding is carded wool. The quilt's edge has been neatly hand stitched.

The quilting patterns are simple here, but very effective and immediately recognisable as Welsh quilting. The spiral is an age old symbol - so old that the original meanings are now lost in time.

The spirals do remind me of the Neolithic Cup and Ring markings carved on outcrops in Northumberland and elsewhere - I am thinking especially of Goat Crag near Ford. Were they signposts? Ownership markings? No-one knows, but the carvings are only in visible places (ie not hidden away) so must have had great meaning for the local people and also the travellers journeying on nearby coastal routes.

Yes, a simple pattern but a very effective one, and one that imparts a great richness of texture. I love the way that the curved lines echo each other - there are more time effective ways of covering a quilt surface - but few as pretty.