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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.

Monday 30 May 2011

Allendale Quilt Designs

The Gardiner style is instantly recognisable, but as these quilts were marked by hand, there are no two identical patterns. In her book "Traditional Quilting", Mavis Fitzrandolph says that Gardiner evidently had a good understanding of what would be effective in quilting, and a remarkable talent for design.

These "complicated and elaborate" quilts generally have large central motifs, with much freehand curlicue infill. The centre is rarely confined, but instead "flows" into the central field of square diamonds. Elaborate corner motifs are present, with borders of swags or goosefeathers. Elizabeth Sanderson was said to be able to mark one or two of these tops per day with the help of her assistants, thus thousands must have been produced over the years. Certainly, large numbers of quilts in this style have survived.

Generally, while everyday patchwork and strippy quilts were "hand laid" or marked in the frame at home, more special quilts were sent away for marking. It is therefore supposed by Fitzrandolph and others that most local quilters lost the ability to draw out the more complex patterns, or to turn the corner in a border. Indeed, many of the later wholecloth quilts have more simplified designs and lack the elegance and skill of the earlier, Gardiner-style quilts marked at the turn of the 20th century.

Allendale quilt with swags and central design with flat-iron motifs.

White Allendale quilt with swags and fleur-de-lys motif and elaborate corner design.

Friday 27 May 2011

Allendale Quilt Stampers

I am going to begin a series of posts on Allendale quilts - these are the quilts that were marked by professional quilt "stampers" in the Allendale area of Northumberland. Over the course of several posts, I will relate some background information, and then present several stamped quilts to you.

Allendale, in the northern Pennine Dales, Northumberland, was an important lead mining area, but also famed for its experienced quilters. As the mines declined after 1860, many people emigrated or moved elsewhere in search of work. Those who stayed had to find other sources of income.

George Gardiner was a successful shop owner and hat-trimmer in the village of Dirt Pot. He became famous for his quilt designs, developing a quilt format that would be used for the next 100 years. He had many apprentices, the best known of whom was Elizabeth Sanderson, who worked from c. 1875 to her death in 1934.

These quilt designers were called stampers because it was commonly supposed that there was a special transfer method to put the blue markings onto the cloth. In fact, a durable blue pencil that would not easily rub off was used for the marking. The markings had to withstand parcelling, posting, peddling and finally quilting, sometimes by inexperienced quilters. the markings did eventually come out, although many quilters were proud of having a specially marked quilt and preferred to keep the quilts unwashed.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Magenta/Deep Pink Durham

I don't know how to describe the colour of this quilt! In some lights, it looks a purple or magenta colour, in artificial light it looks like a deep pink colour. But it is very nicely stitched and designed, and looks unused, as if it were simply left folded up and stored away.The size is a generous 85 x 95 inches. No provenance, but the quilt came from a dealer in Teeside, Cleveland.

Here is the central medallion, very striking with a star effect sprouting shell motifs. The centre circle has concentric circles and there is crosshatching (smaller than the background grid and different orientation) to complete the effect. This rather looks like a petal/flower shape as well as a star. Notice how the motifs have been double outlined for emphasis.

Here you can see that the two sides are different shades of pink/purple - light and dark, as is usual in north country quilts.

The outer border is a fan or shell (pecten or scallop shell) pattern. You can see that there is a slight fade here and there where the sun caught on the folded quilt. Again, the shells have been double outlined.

The stitching is very nicely done, probably a professional quilter. The panels are machine stitched and there is a machine sewn line around the edge (this made for a firmer edge).

Quite a simple design, with only a few motifs and a lot of background stitching. I don't think this is of any great age - probably 30's or 40's. But it is what I would call an honest, better quality Durham quilt. Someone thought it was too good to use - or did they prefer their store bought blankets?

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Brown Durham

And here is the third quilt of the three that I bought all those years ago in the early 90's. This quilt is probably the most traditional one in terms of design; the quilt is large at 84 x 89 inches. The cloth is a dark brown cotton sateen, rather worn and now very soft, and the filling is cotton. You can see that the centre medallion is a dramatic one with a centre device of a wheel with circles, and large feathers. The border repeats the very centre and the motif is fans with circles.

Another look at the borders - lots of circles here. At first I thought they were coins - but the circles are too large. It occurs to me that perhaps the quilter marked around the wooden spool of thread but any household circular object would do.

A closer look at the centre of the quilt- there are ten large feathers - eight would have been more usual but here the feathers are too small, so there are five on each side to fill the space effectively.

The border of fans - the star quilt in Barbara Chainey project book has a similar circle device so it seems that circles were part of the quilters' repertoire although I would have thought them a bit tedious to quilt! You can see that this quilt is rather worn, especially on the edges.

The edges are the usual knife edge and there is one line of machine sewing at the edge. The panels have been sewn together using the sewing machine. A fairly traditional Durham quilt, and typical of many that were found on beds in the early part of the 1900's before store bought blankets took over.

A close look at the edge and the cotton sateen. This cloth does go very soft and velvety as it wears and seems much stronger than modern fabrics. This kind of fabric, cotton sateen, was discontinued in 1936 in the Second World War as it was very labour intensive to make. There was some fabric still out there, unused, but cotton sateen does usually date quilts as being made prior to this date.

Monday 16 May 2011

Framed Black and Pink Durham Quilt

Here is the second of the three wholecloth quilts that I bought from Suzi McFarland in the early 90's. This is a frame quilt in pink and black. The thread is pink so the side with the pink centre and black border is the top side. This quilt measures 74 x 88 inches and from the feel of it, has wool as the wadding.

You can see the quilting motifs more easily on this side - there is a handsome medallion in the centre - a sunburst. In the corners are fleur de lys motifs, all with diamond infill. You can see that this quilt has been used and has a fade in one area. Ihe pink is an attractive peach or apricot that starts to look almost orange in some lights.

Another look at the corner motif, these are useful for being bold designs that cover the cloth well without too much work.

And in the border, a very handsome shell pattern. A quilt very much in the north country idiom even if it lacks the usual motifs. No provenance. The tops are put together by machine and the quilt has one line of machine stitching around the edge of the quilt.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Pink Durham Country Quilt

In the early 1990's, the US military Bases at Woodbridge and Bentwaters were open and five of us quilters met fortnightly - Kay and Shirley from the base, and Pat, Madelaine and myself. We would each take it in turn to teach a technique or run an exercise of some sort. We brought food to share, which resulted in some interesting and unbalanced meals!

I don't remember how, but we met Suzi McFarland, who lived in Ipswich and had some museum quality quilts. She and a business partner had run an antiques shop in Carlisle, and sold quite a few quilts there. She still had a few, so one day I went along to her house to see what she had left of the old stock - not much - some rather uninspiring utility patchwork - but I came away with three Durham wholecloths. Even then, I was interested in the quilting! This is one of the three quilts.

By the way, Suzi used to just pitch the Durhams in the washing machine and peg them out on the line in her backyard - apart from some notches where the pegs had been, they all came out great - these old quilts must be made of iron.

This is "country" quilt. It is made of cotton sateen and is a large quilt (79 x89 inches). It has cotton wadding but is a lightweight quilt. It has obviously been well used but someone was proud of it, I'm sure.

The design is rather home made, the quilter has not used the usual templates, but made up her own, the main one is this "palm leaf" motif.

In the centre of the quilt is this horse shoe in a small diamond. Perhaps, like the Suffolk farmhouses, there were horseshoes around - a symbol of luck - or perhaps a wedding quilt? This seems to have been traced as it is life sized - also, don't know if you can see, everything was traced around objects with a heavy pencil marking - many, many washings have not obliterated this pencil (let that be a warning to you!)

The crosshatching is wonky, to say the least - distinctly wavy - and yet the eye tries to make it straight...

The quilter also went into the garden and collected leaves to serve as patterns - this is a sycamore leaf - again traced in heavy pencil...

...and an elder leaf or other compound leaf ......

The corner where you can see the machine stitching along the edge.
There are two slightly different shades of pink.

A final photo to show the VERY heavy pencil markings on this quilt. One gets the feeling that this quilter didn't have much to work with, but still made a quilt which is charming and very much in the north country idiom.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Pieced Flowers and Vegetables Quilts

I thought that you might like to see two of the quilts that I have made using Ruth McDowell's patterns. This one, Flower Garden, uses the patterns in "Pieced Flowers" which is one of my favourite books of all time. It was difficult to find suitable green fabrics - so many green fabrics look unnatural and rather ugly. I also had to stock up on gold and orange fabrics for the daylillies. A trip to Kisco in Leicester was a good source of unusual fabrics in fat quarters (ususally only small amounts are needed). I also enjoyed the freehand quilting with the coloured rayon threads. I did not use a binding but instead used a facing.

And here is my "Pieced Vegetable" quilt, with a blue background. There was a spate of stolen quilts at about this time - so the name of the quilt and my name as the maker are quilted into the border! The pumpkins and squash were good fun - just proves that almost any subject can be used as a colour study.

Monday 9 May 2011

Send in Your Bell Blocks!!

Many of you have agreed to make bell blocks for the Christchurch Bell Quilt - this is just a reminder that if you have not already sent in your block, now is the time to do so. Many thanks to Ernestine Colwell, Pat Masters, Frances Spence, Robin Booth, Catherine Watson and June Nixey whose blocks are pictured above. I am really pleased at the variety of fabrics that have been used.

I have written a short article about this project for the Ringing World (the bellringers' weekly newspaper). It hasn't appeared yet! but perhaps is being saved to accompany some articles about Christchurch bells which will be published in the next week or two. Karen R. from Christchurch will be travelling to the UK this autumn, so perhaps that is the time to hand over the quilt. Hopefully, she will have the chance to do some bellringing while she is in this country.

Here are the copy photos that I will be working from in making the central panel - I will use the larger one. The loss of detail was less than I was expecting - the original photo must have been a good one.

I will be using Ruth McDowell's techniques - you can see that I have quite a collection of her books. I have made three quilts using her patterns, which I did enjoy. I have even met another woman who bought the "Pieced Vegetables" book! so at least two sold....

Here is the pattern for one of Ruth's Daylily blocks - you make paper templates (actually, I just use a photocopy cut up) and piece the block from those using registration marks to piece it all together correctly. I enjoy the look of the pieced blocks and finding just the right piece of fabric. Ruth often uses quite wild fabrics, which is fun too but work surprisingly well.

O f course, using Ruth's patterns is easier than making your own pattern! I'll keep you posted as to how I get on.....

Sunday 8 May 2011

Quilting Motifs

After Andrea's comment, I went away to look at the books on my shelf - here is a design from Osler's North Country Quilts - Swirl and Cockscomb - which looks similar to the motif on the pink and gold Durham quilt - very dramatic.

I also got out a "Quilt Pack" published by Tyne and Wear Museum Service in the 1990's - it has some design motifs and three post cards. Here is the design called variously shell or goose tail. I also found my original handwritten notes taken during a work shop given by Dorothy Osler in the early 90's. I will have to read these more carefully. We marked a cot quilt in the Durham style but I have to confess that I never completed the project. Dorothy gave a talk at an Area Day and gave a workshop the next day -the Area Day was at RAF Bentwaters, a huge American Base which closed very suddenly.

And here is Goosewing, essentially, half a curved feather. This is used as a border element and also as a central motif; its curve makes it very attractive, especially in pairs.

And finally, here is the progress on the sawtooth quilt - I have mostly completed the central area and I am about to start quilting the borders.

Monday 2 May 2011

Pink and Gold Durham Quilt

This is a quilt that comes from Durham county. I am hoping to find out more from the dealer when she next sees her "contact" - most often there is nothing, but sometimes there are some interesting snippets of information.
This quilt was not very expensive, as the edges are worn, but seems to have some quilting patterns that I have not seen before.
The measurements are 79 x 89 inches. The right side is a shell pink, while the back is an old gold colour cotton sateen. the filling is a rather thin cotton - a light weight quilt.The centre medallion is a feather wreath,
but there are some interesting scroll-type patterns seen on the rest of the surface. The centre is surrounded by goose wings and rose in a ring plus other scrolls.

The corner treatment is an asymmetrical scroll or spiral design.

On the border is a floral (tulip??) design.

Corner showing the two colours - north country quilts are often bi colour.

To look at the quilting patterns more closely it is helpful to trace the patterns onto polythene - I use a Sharpie pen. Here you can see the floral design - it is rather freely drawn and it seems that a template was not used. One half of the design does not always match the other half!! But the use of scrolls is very handsome and covers the surface well.

And here is part of the central cartouche - I will have to complete the tracing to see "what is going on" here. I like the rose in a ring.

You can see that there is a rather columnar set of feathers connecting the corner with the centre - they are rather V shaped at the base and the individual sections are rather straight.

And here is the corner device - an asymmetrical design - a spiral is surrounded by feathers and leaves , all looking very freehand, as if the quilter marked the designs out on the cloth with pencil or chalk.