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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.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Green and Bronze Star Quilt

The last room of the V & A exhibition was probably of the most interest to me; there was a good Sanderson Star quilt on display, draped over a quilting frame. I have always been impressed by this striking pattern and have four star quilts. One purpose of this blog was to spur me on to "do" something with the quilts. My idea with the star quilts was to compare the measurements and use some simple statistics to discover whether there was a common formula to this quilt. The pattern seems to often have been bought ready made and marked, as a quilt top - an early form of the "kit" format. The borders could be expected to vary a lot but was the centre star made to a common pattern and size? and were the quilting patterns also stitched according to a set style? I only have four quilts so in scientific terms a very small sample size - but of course one could measure other quilts and enlarge the database. The attraction is that this numerical evaluation is very similar to the scientific research that I did (and many, many student environmental/ecological research projects that I had to supervise and then mark).

Many of my quilts were inexpensive buys and what I term "study items". Indeed, they might be termed UGLY quilts. They are ertainly not beautiful designer items, but all have been bought for a reason. I mentioned earlier that the everyday quilts were used to destruction and not many survive in some cases. What was found on most people's beds? These star quilts seem to have been considered special - but as a utilitarian item many were still used hard. Viz the fact that of my four quilts, one is unused, one is very faded and rebound, one is worn and stained and the final one is very whiskered. All are north country quilts but again one from Durham, one from Northumberland, one from "Tyne and Wear" and the final one from Cleveland - so a bit of a geographical spread. I will try to do the measurements this weekend and then analyse the results and share them with you. As in an experiment, one can either prove or disprove the question - "are the quilts similar?" Even a "No" answer would be of interest. Or, perhaps it will be "yes, but..." That's the fun!

Here is the first quilt -it measures 80" x 93" and it is an unusual colour combination in cotton sateen of bronze and a lurid mint green. The colours do not show up well in the photos. The reverse is the bronze sateen. Cotton sateen was not maunfactured after 1936 so the colours and fabric suggest a 1930's date?? Any suggestions??

The quilt came from an auction in North Yorkshire but was one of five quilts from a house clearance in Barnard Castle in County Durham. Three of the quilts were used - this was one of two unused quilts. This is a "stamped" quilt and the blue pencil markings are still intact as the quilt has never been washed and appears unused.

The quilting patterns are:
Centre - rose in a ring plus small fern
Diamonds - rose plus feather or fern
Squares - diamond infill plus large rose
Border 1 - unknown fleur de lys scroll Border 2 - floral scroll Border 3 - Small twist Border 4 - large floral Scroll Border 5 Twist with central diamond
All the borders are "turned" with a different corner motif.
The quilting thread looks like sewing thread in a light brown colour. The quilting stitches are 8 to the inch, and not especially even, so perhaps not made by an experienced quilter. The wadding is thin cotton. Edges are machine sewn. The star and borders have been machine pieced.

I will be showing the other three quilts over subsequent posts.

Monday 24 May 2010

A Plain Welsh Wool Quilt

Here is a quilt that is one of my "study items". OK,.... its an UGLY quilt but I still like it. This quilt only cost me £5 and the postage was more than the cost of the quilt at £8.50. I had always wondered what cloth it was made of, as it seemed very rough and heavy. So I was interested to see at the V & A quilt exhibition the blue and red striped Welsh quilt with central panel from Jen Jones as the fabric seemed the same as that in this quilt. The fabric is a coarse woven woolen cloth, bright orange on one side and a medium purple on the other. The purple side is very worn, the orange side in better shape - however, the orange side has proved difficult to photograph for some reason.

I looked at the fabric with my microscope (used long ago for counting fossil pollen grains) and saw that the fibres looked animal and not plant, there seemed to be scales which would indicate wool. The microscope is set up for transmitted light so not the best for this kind of work!(Try passing light through a heavy lighting needed).

The quilt measures 72 x 82 inches and through the holes one can easily see a woolen blanket as a filling. In places the worn edges have been rebound with an artificial mustard or gold coloured knit fabric, complete with a seam - it looks as if it is a reused garment of some sort.

Stitching with a red thread is present although it is coarsely done, and some has pulled/fallen out and is now no longer present. However, the quilting does follow the Welsh wholecloth pattern in that there is a central motif and two borders. The pattern is really hard to discern but looks like a crosshatched infill on the edges with a central motif of a "propeller" i.e. four paisley or tear drop shapes. The stitching is crude but between the paisleys there seems to be a rough series of fan shapes, possibly a rough tulip shape.

This quilt must have been very warm as it has obviously been used a lot. The purple side must have been the upper side as it is worn whilst the orange side is in much better shape.

I bought the quilt from a dealer who lives in Llanddowror, Carmarthenshire; she bought it at a house sale along with other quilts and blankets.

It's all very well having beautiful wholecloths - but I think this is probably more similar to what could commonly have been found on a bed - a sturdy and warm quilt made of locally made woolen textiles.

Welsh Quilt that went to Australia

And came back again! Here is a lovely quilt with very nice stitching. This quilt was made just outside Carmarthen in Wales. It was taken to Australia by a member of the family and was later bought by a dealer and brought back to Wales. I bought it when a woman was selling off some of her quilt collection.

One side of this quilt is white cotton sateen - presumably the "best" side as it shows up the quilting beautifully and is in good condition. The reverse is patchwork in shades of beige and cream. Today we find patchwork more interesting and assume that this was the best side. But patchwork in England and Wales had a connotation of poverty, of mend and make do, so this side was probably the everyday side. The fabrics here are a variety of cotton twills, plain weaves, and dimities. One or two of these fabrics were not as strong as the others and are very whiskered. Luckily this is not too apparent as the light fabrics and wool disguise this.

One thing to note about this quilt is that it is all handsewn - there is no machine stitching. The patchwork is all seamed by hand as is the edge and the quilting, of course. This and the elaborate quilting might indicate an earlier date of 1880-1890.

The quilting on this quilt is wonderful. The central motif is an eight petalled flower motif set in an octogon. There are surrounding leaf motifs, circles, fans and spirals. The border is church windows with a leaf motif.

The wadding is lambswool, and if you hold it up to the light you can see some tufts of darker wool amongst the lighter ones. The quilt measures 80 x 80".

I hope to discuss the difference between America and Britain in the cultural status of quilts in a later post. As an American, I was rather shocked to find that patchwork and quilting has a strong association with poverty in this country. One of my old university friends, a lively Welshwoman from the vallies,on hearing that I was interested in Welsh quilts, snorted and said why was I bothering with those old things?

Sunday 23 May 2010

Ringing Quarters

What beautiful weather we've had! and it made for some hot work, ringing the bells in the belfries, with sun streaming through the windows.

A quarter peal is a continuous piece of bellringing, which usually lasts for about an hour. Often these are to mark special occasions, or before a church service. We usually ring a quarter every week at Pettistree, before the evening practice. This gives everyone a chance to improve their skills and ring new methods. We have rung the surprise minor alphabet (Allendale to Zealot Surprise Minor) so we thought that we would mop up the rest of the Regular 41 methods. So we made a start by ringing Netherseale - twice on subsequent weeks so everybody had a go.

On Saturday five of us ringers were invited to ring a quarter of Cambridge Minor (six bells) at Orford for the Orford ringing master, Richard Moody to practice this method. After the quarter,there was a pleasant evening meal at the local pub, the Jolly Sailors, - plus some beer to re-hydrate ourselves. Then today we rang Cambridge Surprise Major (eight bells) for evensong at Ufford (its the Ufford stocks that I am pictured in,in my profile photo by the way).

I include some photos of Orford church, Ufford church and also some old ringers graffitti in the belfry. We not allowed to do this any more! but it seems that people have always wanted to write their name on the wall.

Friday 21 May 2010

Edges on British Quilts

Sheila asked me to tell more about the edges of the quilts that I am showing. This reminded me of an Area Day we had at Bentwaters, an American Airbase near Woodbridge, in the early 90's. One of the speakers was Dorothy Osler - she was asked the difference between American and British quilts. Unerringly, she singled out my quilt and Kay Michalak's quilt - the ones made by two Americans present! The skinny borders and block format were an easy giveaway as were the use of light background fabrics - but in earlier times it could just as easily have been the binding treatment. American and Canadian quilts (plus modern quilts which are usually in the imported American quilt revival style)have bindings applied to the edges.

British quilts (until the 1960's when American quilting books became available here) generally had a butt or knife edge unless a worn edge had been repaired. In the butt edge, the wadding or batting is trimmed back and the edges turned in. Purists insisted the edges be secured by neat hand stitching but many preferred a line or two of machine stitching to give a sturdy and firm edge. The funny thing is, after the careful hand quilting the machine stitching is often very slapdash!! Another treatment popular in the 20's and 30's was the frilled edge - here a ruffle was enclosed in the butt edge. Beds were getting larger and the ruffle was an easy way to increase the effective size of the quilt. Frills often got very worn and many quilts have had frills chopped off at some later date.

Generally speaking, north country quilts had machine stitched edges whereas Welsh quilts had hand stitched edges (just a generalisation of course). I apologise about these photos which are not very exciting! They show a frill, the welsh strippy with a hand stitched edge, and north country quilts with one and two lines of machine stitching. Also one quilt from Rothbury Northumberland where the quilter made a curved line with the sewing machine!!

Thursday 20 May 2010

Teaching - Amish and Hand Quilting

I enjoy teaching, and sharing the enjoyment I get from quilting and making quilts.

On Thursday May 13th I went to Diss Quilting group with "Making an Amish Wallhanging". Its good to see people using colours that might be unfamiliar to them; also exciting to see the results - all so different. Good to see Cynthia and the other ladies.

My longtime interest in the Amish springs from the fact that Mother's family was Mennonite (although they left the church) and their name was Dalke. Great grandmother Maria Dalke and Great Grandfather Deitrich Dalke had an arranged marriage, but although they had several children it was not a happy one. When the youngest child left home Dietrich divorced his wife - not a pleasant thing in those days with no social support. Maria received no help from the Mennonites - luckily she had inherited a farm and was able to evict the tenant and scratch a living on the farm in Enid, Oklahoma. My grandmother Marie did speak Low German, but my mother Ruth never did (she was born just after the first world war when anti-german feeling was high). The creative streak definately stems from Marie who was a weaver with a large loom. Mother has quilted for a long time and went to university and took art and business studies. I am including one or two of my quilts made in the Amish style (which I do not sell after a bad experience).

On Tuesday the 18th I went to Bury St Edmunds - Harlequin Craft Centre - a recent endevour by Julia Sharpe. We covered Hand Quilting where I showed several styles of hand quilting including my way, the rocking stitch.

I include photos of two basket quilts and a sunshine and shadows quilt.

Monday 10 May 2010

V & A Quilt Exhibition

I went to London yesterday to see the V & A Quilt Exhibition with my daughter, Sophie. Ongoing engineering work meant that the train journey was very slow. However, the exhibition was as good as everyone had reported. The antique quilts were spectacular and the modern quilts interesting, although not many people seemed to be looking at them. I especially liked the final room with the quilting frame, the wholecloths and the recordings. Also found the Changi quilt and Fine Cell work very interesting. Only downside was the very dim lighting which made it difficult to pick out the details on some quilts. Got told off for trying to take a photo...

Later we met up with my son Tom and Lily. Sophie and I went shopping on Oxford Street and in a marathon exercise found a suitable dress to attend a wedding in Stafford next week. Finally we metsophie's friend Paul for a rest and a cup of coffee.

Then it was time to repeat the long journey home - but worth it I think.