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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 January 2012

Margaret Williams. Welsh Quilter 1877-1937

I still have a few quilts that I have not posted about that I will share with you. However, from time to time I am going to republish some of the older posts about my "better" quilts, as I think that there are still some readers out there who may not have seen these quilts.

The quilting is very fine on this quilt and the designs are a bit out of the ususal.

Margaret was also known as Mrs James Williams. She was a well-known quilter from Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, South Wales near Landeilo. I bought this quilt from a dealer in 2006, and as it was bought at auction it had no provenance. The date was thought to be 1930’s. A number of my Welsh quilts toured with Grosvenor Exhibitions to their quilt fairs, and I was overjoyed when Claire Claridge saw the quilts at Malvern and identified this quilt as being one of Margaret’s, or to her design by one of her students.

The quilt measures 85 x 93” and is bright yellow on the reverse and a pale apple green on the right side ( a bit faded, this side). The wadding is carded wool. It is in good condition and not worn. There are some good patterns on this quilt and the quilting is lovely.

Margaret is featured on page 140 in the book Quilt Treasures, as is one of her quilts. And on page 102 of Making Welsh Quilts, you can see photos of another of her quilts (the pink and white quilt - not the grey one). The central motif, looking like a lovers knot but actually double hearts or a series of double loops, is very similar to the one shown on page 103 fig 88 in Quilt Treasures. And very characteristic are the asymmetric spirals in pairs - known as ram’s horns. She also favoured stars. In other quilts, she also used natural-looking leaves, and also not seen here, a vine with a single stem, simple leaves and a spirals for flowers (See MWQ). Also seen in this quilt are bent leaves, spirals, grids and simple leaf or fern patterns.

Margaret made and sold quilts to order, and she was proud that some went to the nobility. She also gave quilting demonstrations, taught quilting classes, was a home nurse and iced wedding cakes. She won numerous prizes for quilting at various Eisteddfodau in the 20’s and 30’s.

In Wales, quilting was generally a paid profession. Women made quilts for pay. These women did not generally sign their work and the quilts are now anonymous - so it is very interesting when you do know the quilter’s name. Clare is very interested in researching these quilters - some of my quilts do have provenance and some day I hope to be able to learn how to track down more detail about the quilters.

Monday 23 January 2012

The Difference Between Welsh and Durham Quilts

Welsh and Durham quilts are very different in many respects -I hope to take you through some of these differences. However, bear in mind that these are only generalisations, and of course there are always exceptions.

Firstly, the quilts were made in different geographical areas.

"Durham " quilts should more properly be termed North Country quilts, as they were made in the counties of Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire. This is an area of Carboniferous Coal Measures, and there were numerous mining communities in this area, along with other industries fuelled by the coal. There was also farming taking place in the countryside.

Welsh quilts were of course made in Wales, especially in South Wales. Again, coal measures are to be found here and there were many mining communities here as well, together with many other mining, chemical and industrial works. Wool and sheep rearing was another major source of income as much of the land is too mountanous for arable farming.

Due to the cultural differences and the geographical separation, each area had its own styles of quilting. Patchwork, applique and wool quilts were made, but I shall be illustrating the differences with the wholecloth quilts which the areas became famous for.

Durham quilts became well known for their impressive quilting designs - usually a large and elaborate centre design with flat irons, roses, feathers, leaves, ferns and much curlicue infill. This was surrounded by an area of infill and then an outer border.

Another example of a Durham quilt with a large centre motif of feathers.

This Weardale quilt has a feather wreath and a central rose.

Feathers were common in Durham quilts and running feather motifs were very common. Wadding in these quilts is usually of cotton.

By contrast, Welsh quilts usually had a central motif, either a circular "coin" or a diamond. This central area was enclosed by double or triple lines to form a "field". Fans or other motifs echoed the centre coin, and spirals were used as filling devices.

A further one, two or three borders, also enclosed by double or triple lines, surrounded the central field. Common border motifs include leaves, spirals, church windows, tulips and many geometrical designs. But feathers were not to be found on these quilts.

Leaves and spirals were very common motifs on Welsh quilts. The wool wadding made the designs stand out well in relief.

Chevrons, fans and twists were well liked...the fields were marked in chalk when the quilt was in the frame, then templates were used for the major motifs, with the rest being marked in freehand.

Strippy quilts were found in both areas but can easily be told apart. Durham strippies had quilting designs which followed the strips, with border motifs being used up each strip. These strippy quilts were economical to make in fabric, easy to seam together and also easy to mark in the frame. These were the everyday quilts, although this example is especially finely worked and was a wedding gift. Seen here are a running feather pattern and a scroll and daisy pattern. Strips were generally narrower than the Welsh strippies.

This Welsh strippy has wider strips than its Durham counterpart, and it is fillled with wool rather than cotton. More importantly, the quilting does not follow the strips, rather the top is treated as a wholecloth and the usual format of central field and surrounding borders is followed. Here we can see a central field of heart motifs surrounded by tulips, pennies and leaves.

Durham and Welsh quilts usually were finished with a butt or knife edge, where the edges are simply turned in and and sewn down. With Durham quilts, this was sometimes done by hand but more often it was sewn down with one or two lines of machine stitching. This gave a firm and durable edge, although it was not always carefully done!

Welsh quilts usually have a handsewn edge, and one or two lines of running stitch secure the edge.

Bindings are not the norm for antique British quilts, unless the edge had suffered wear and a binding had been applied to effect a repair.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Linen Union Quilt - Art Nouveau

Here is a quilt made in about 1900-1910. It is made from furnishing offcuts in Linen Union (i.e. a cotton linen mix). The use of black fabrics in quilts is quite common in quilts of this date, and there do seem to be a lot of this particular pattern about. Black was evidently a fashionable colour at that time.

The fabrics are various floral furnishing fabrics, giving a cheerful appearance. It is quite a heavy quilt - and large, about 76 inches square.

The centre is a diamond in a square pattern. The whole is machine quilted in white thread.

The reverse of the quilt shows a similar pattern.

We can tell that this is the reverse as the quilting follows the front side of the quilt!

In one spot there is a tear, and we can see that the filling is a piece of light coloured woollen fabric (not an old blanket).

Some of the black fabric is ribbed - similar to the white dimity seen in other quilts - was dimity made in black? Dimity was used for womens' and childrens' clothes, also underclothes. Perhaps black was used for mourning clothes? or perhaps it was a practical colour to hide any smudges....

As is common with these scrap quilts, bolt ends have been used, and one can see lettering still remaining.

Another look at the floral fabrics used in this quilt. Originally bought at an auction house in Watlington - Jones & Jacob.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Indian Quilt from Sindh

Here is a quilt that I bought before Christmas. It is a vintage Indian quilt but the seller knew very little about this quilt. It is rectangular (sort of) and the measurements are about 70 by 42 inches. It is at least 30 years old and is in purple, claret and yellow fabrics with embroidery in threads of various colours.

A long quilt - so only one half shown here. The embroidery gives this quilt a very rich surface texture. In Patricia Ormsby Stoddard's book Ralli Quilts the quilts which most closely resemble this quilt are those on pages 80 - 82. These are embroidered ralli quilts, from the tribal group known as Jogi, Lower Sindh. Thick coloured thread defines the patterns, in a step stitch. The fabric is cotton.

The ends of the quilt are not square, giving a charming effect. These ralli quilts were made from recycled materials, however recent quilts are made from purchased fabrics.

There is an immense amount of work in this quilt. Also to be seen are small areas of satin stitch, used as accents.

The edge is turned in, and embroidered with a tent stitch.

The reverse of the quilt is in cream cotton.

Reverse of the quilt.Stoddard reports that Jogis are snakecharmers and entertainers, and are found on both sides of the Pakistan-India border. They were traditionally nomadic but have now settled down. The Jogis are well known for their small square rallis used for carrying snakes as well as embroidered quilts.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Sew Easy Pinwheels

Last week, I finished this little lap quilt. It is a quilt for Karin Hellaby's new book, "Sew Easy Pinwheels". Karin gave me the fabric in Amish plains, and I made the quilt over Christmas. Of course, it had to be machine quilted.

I took the quilt into the shop and this is the only pinwheel quilt that was made in dark colours - the rest are all very bright and lively and looked much better in my opinion. The photographer will be doing his work today.

I have to confess, machine patchwork doesn't "do it" for me anymore and although the result was OK, I didn't really enjoy making this quilt. Ah well, at least it was finished by the deadline!

Friday 6 January 2012

Three Cushions - Amy Emms??

I have three cushions that are supposedly made by Amy Emms. I bought all of them from Owena, who lives in Newton Aycliffe and knew Amy herself. Owena and her husband had a shop 20 years ago, and Amy would come in for a cup of tea and a natter. She would not disclose the name of the family which sold these items but assured me that they were a well known family from the Teesdale area of Durham. There were quilts and eiderdowns also made by Amy for sale but I could only afford these cushions.

At a certain date (1980's?) Amy had labels made up - these cushions have no such labels - but of course earlier items will have no labels.

Of course Amy's daughter Olive quilted also, and there is a possibility that these might be Olive's.

Here is one cushion cover. It is in cream satin and shows a lovers knot with feathers. The quilting is fine and neatly done.

The reverse of this cushion has a central diamond, all filled with crosshatching. The cushion has a piped edge with a placket to the opening. There are three buttons - one of which is missing on this cushion - all are neatly thread covered using a button hole stitch. The style fits in with Amy's working methods of finishing cushions as set out in her book. The other two cushions are made up similarly. This cushion has been used but is in good condition.

This is another of the cushions. It is quilted with four large feather motifs. There is a band of 1" surrounding the cushion. There was a matching cushion (which I did not buy) which had a feather wreath. Lilian Hedley says this one is, in her opinion, most in Amy's style.

Again, the quilting is very neatly done.

The back has a basket weave pattern.

The third cushion is grey satin and has a feather wreath.

The back has a basket weave pattern.

A close up of the neat quilting.

There are other cushions to compare these with - all the items that Amy had in her house are shown in the Amy Emms book(1990). There are also two of Amy's cushions shown in Diana Lodge's Book Quilting (1995). These cushions are similar to the feather wreath cushion above, however, the crosshatching is larger. I also noticed recently that Jenny Barlow's new DVD shows two round "box" cushions - however these were more recently made and have labels!

One final wrinkle is that, as Lilian has told me, Amy often shared her quilting with others - her daughter Olive and her son knew how to quilt and , indeed, finished off her last quilt together when Amy was very ill. Lilian herself did a lot of Amy's quilting, as Amy preferred to talk rather than quilt as she got older.

The jury is out on this one! I would like to believe that these are Amy's work but have no direct proof that they are...however, they are in her style, and if not by Amy, may be by one of her students or family members.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Gardner Family Quilt

I received some interesting information on the Durham basket quilt that I featured recently. Linda Gardner sent me some photos of the quilt's maker, Maud Mary Gardner from Crawcrook.

The quilt is a giant one, and is entirely hand sewn. It features 36 backet blocks, with a red zigzag border.

Here is a family photo showing a bus trip to Keswick, in the Lake District. Maud Mary is on the left, with a very young Linda next to her, then Linda's mum Florence. Maud Mary gave the quilt to Florence, then it was given to Linda and later to Maddie who sold it to me.

Here is another photo of a family christening at Ryton Church. Here we have Maud Mary on the left and then Florence and her Aunt Beatrice. The date is the early 60's.

And a final photo taken at the same christening outside Ryton church doors. In the middle we have Maud Mary in front of her eldest son Joseph, then to the right Anne his wife with two children including Anne, newly christened. To the left is Aunt Beatrice.

I love these photos - they are a real time piece of an England that has now vanished. Many thanks to Linda for sharing them with me.