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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 26 February 2012

Ringing Outing and Sunday Walk

Yesterday, we went on a ringing outing with some ringing friends. We went to three churches between Woolpit and Bury St Edmunds. This is about an hours drive down the A14 from Woodbridge, so we had to make an early start!

The first port of call was Bardwell, a newly restored ring of six bells now augmented to eight bells. We had a practice session with some of their new learners here, before going on to the next tower...

Ixworth, also with eight bells.We rang a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Major here....then went on to:

Hopton, another ring of eight bells recently restored. A quarter peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung here. We had lunch at the Mill Inn, Hopton (very large portions!) before returning to Bardwell to ring a quarter peal of Superlative Surprise Major.

Just to show you what actually makes the are the mediaeval clappers from Bardwell bells. Usually when bells are restored, there is a lot of fund raising to do. Bellframes, headstocks, wheels and other fittings, new clappers and work to the tower structure all has to be carried out as well as paying for any new bells needed. But once installed, the bells should be an asset for many years to come. Thanks to Mike and Ruth for organising this day.

Today we went on our usual Sunday walk - we started at Parham airfield and walked to Great Glemham church and then walked back to the airfield. The airfield is a relic of WW2 when East Anglia had many such airfields. Parham has a small museum in its control tower. The rest of the airfield is now turned over to small businesses and agriculture, but unusually, the runway has not been dug up but remains in situ. The runway is locally popular as a place to introduce teenagers to driving - we had three or four parent/child pairs driving slowly up and down, stalling, bunny hopping, revving the engine and generally mistreating the clutch...brought back memories...

As the walk had not taken very long we went on to Aldeburgh, a local seaside town - all the traffic was heading out of town, weekenders going back to London? Here is the view from the top of Town Steps towards the sea...
And a view along the seafront. The weather here has been once again exceptionally mild after our cold snap - and very dry - the authorities are predicting a water shortage next summer. East Anglia is traditionally a dry area, but we rely on the winter rains to replenish reservoirs and aquifers.

Friday 24 February 2012

Northumberland Strippy Quilt

A “Durham” or North Country strippy with good provenance and excellent quilting.

Here is a North Country strippy to compare with the Welsh strippy which follows. It was made in Northumberland, an area famed for its quilters. This particular one was made by Annie Walton (nee Wallace), who lived on a hill farm on moors near East Woodton – (nearest large town- Hexham). The house no longer exists but the seller (Annie’s great nephew) called it the coldest house in the world – Annie was never warm after marrying farmer George Walton, and lived in her “mac”. Annie was “as tough as old boots” – heating and lighting was provided by candles.

“I remember visiting her as a child – we had to cross the moors from East Woodton to get there, and I used to dread it – on the way we passed a gibbet used to hang poachers in the last century. It gives you an idea of how bleak the area was. As farmers they barely scratched a living but were self sufficient and had all they wanted” Annie fished for trout until her eighties, and died with all her teeth.

“After a day of sewing and reaping, milking, cooking, cleaning, darning and child rearing, Annie spent her time quilting (by candle light). All hand stitched, the time these quilts took to make was measured in winters, not hours”

The quilt was made as a marriage quilt for the sellers’ grandmother so must have been made about 1920. Grandmother had it for “best” and hardly used it.

The quilt is made of cotton poplin with machine sewn strips 7” wide. There are ten strips. The quilting is neat and fine, with 9 or 10 stitches per inch. The white stripes are stitched with an elaborate daisy and swag pattern and the pink strips have a running feather motif with infill. The reverse side is white cotton. The quilt measures 76 x 82 inches and has butt edged seams finished by hand. The wadding is a thin cotton.

“She had a memorable life, and a memorable death. At the age of ninety something, she was whitewashing the kitchen ceiling – walked off the end of the kitchen table and broke her hip. Pneumonia set in and that was that.”

The photo shows Annie Walton on the left, and the sellers Grandmother on the right of the farmhouse door.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Hawick Quilt

Hawick Quilt

Here is a Hawick quilt that was bought in Cumbria, possibly from Carlisle. I bought it via Jen Jones.
It is made in green and yellow sateen and is 78 x 68” in size. Hawick quilts were made in the 1920s and 30s and had a distinctive repertoire of quilting patterns. You can see in the photos the large daisy (known as gowan in Scotland), the heart with a spiky leaf or thistle motif, the large and rather crudely drawn thistles, clamshell (known as Scales) infill and a “yin yan” circular motif. This quilt is very similar to a number of other Hawick quilts; you may have seen Bridget Long’s black and pink Hawick quilt which was on show at the Festival of Quilts along with other examples.

Hawick (pronounced Hoick) is the largest town in the Scottish Borders. It has long been a centre for knitting, spinning and textile production due to its proximity to two rivers, the Teviot and the Slitrig.

These quilts are made in the northern whole cloth tradition and are often found in two contrasting colours (bicolour). There was an interesting article by Linda Lane Thornton in Volume 9 of Quilt Studies - “The Hawick Quilts” pages 110-129.

These quilts are very distinctive and were apparently made in some numbers. The quilts were made by several local church groups as fund raisers, and sold in yearly sales (evidently it took some time to make sufficient goods for sale). Some of the quilts have fine stitching but many, like this one, have stitching that is coarse and uneven, further evidence that the quilts were made by groups of ladies that were perhaps not expert quilters. The article gives historical details and investigates the name attached to the quilts, Mrs. Janet Pow, a local quilter and organiser.

This particular quilt is of interest for another reason, as it has an interesting edge treatment along one side. Most British quilts did not have a binding. The quilts were made in frames, with the leading edge basted on to webbing; later the four edges were finished with a butt or knife edge where the edges were turned in and either stitched by hand or by machine. Machine stitching was frowned upon by purists but was favoured by north country quilters as it gave a durable, firm finish to the edge. Welsh quilts were usually finished by hand.

Pauline Adams wrote an article “Evidence for an Unrecorded Way of Setting Up a Quilt in the Frame” in Volume 3 (2001) of Quilt Studies. There is an update in a recent Culcita issue. This technique is not found in any of the quilting books, and had not been recorded previously - but is not too uncommon once you start to look closely at the quilts. In this method, the front and back fabric panels were seamed together by machine, right sides together. turned out and then this seamed edge basted into the frame webbing. You can detect this method by looking for machine seaming at the edge of one side (the other three are as normal) and also by the fact that the wadding doesn’t reach the edge of the quilt as it does on the other sides= as the quilt had been basted onto the webbing, the wadding couldn‘t be pushed Into place here. On this particular quilt the treatment of the edge is visually very different on the “edge” side (see photo). Examples of “the edge” have been found in Durham, Welsh and now Hawick quilts, so was either a known method of putting a quilt into a frame, or, perhaps, independently arrived at. Why was this method used? It ensured that the top and bottom panels were straight in the frame, it saved cloth )you could sew right up to the selvedge), most importantly it saved time - you didn‘t have to finish one side, and it provided good anchorage to attach the leading edge to the frame.

For some reason, this quilt has also had two corners rounded off at some later date. So, as we know which edge went into the frame, and quilters worked in one direction, we now know the direction of working - from one side of the quilt to the other - and we also know how the quilt was intended to lie on the bed, as the two rounded corners would have been at the bottom of the bed.

Friday 17 February 2012

Making a Wholecloth Quilt

I recently received an email from Wendy in Michigan - she had not found anything about designing or marking wholecloth quilts and wondered if I could point her in the right direction with some books. I am sharing my reply with you, in case it might be of use.....

Dear Wendy,

Yes, wholecloths are a bit specialised!!

For Welsh quilts you could try Making Welsh Quilts by Mary Jenkins and Clare Claridge. Also the book by Marjorie Horton on Welsh Quilting Pattern & Design Handbook (self published??) more on designing tho than the actual how to mark and make up.

For Durham and Welsh full size templates and patterns - try the following:
Diana Lodge - Quilting - Traditional Needle Arts- Mitchell Beazley has both Welsh and Durham quilts also Sanderson Star pattern.
Also try Essential Quilting Project Book by Barbara Chainey - also has full size templates including Sanderson Star, Welsh and Durham strippy quilts.

There is also Amy Emms' Story of Durham Quilting - instructions a bit sparse but OK if you know what you're doing....

Also Dorothy Osler's British Quilts has instructions for a strippy.

The old method would have involved sitting down at the frame and using templates on the cloth - marking around them with chalk or needle marking and filling in the rest freehand; the modern method would involve making a paper pattern (either with hand drafted patterns or using the computer) and then tracing this onto the fabric with a light table. In the course that I took on wholecloth quilts, we used the paper method where you draw/design a quarter pattern of the centre medallion, then a quarter of an outer border - use these to mark the whole quilt top and finally adding the infill diamond hatching (using a separate sheet of diamonds to mark where necessary).

There are several books on the hand quilting stitch but apart from looking at old quilts it would be hard to describe designing a wholecloth.

The above books are mostly out of print but you can get them at the library or from Amazon or Abe books or other online sellers that sell used books.

Hope that helps


Monday 13 February 2012

Weekend Activites

A book that I have been looking forward to reading arrived this weekend! It is Dorothy Osler's book, Amish Quilts and the Welsh Connection. This is a lovely book, nicely set out with some lovely illustrations.

I know Dorothy through my work with the British Quilt Study Group. I am looking forward to reading the entire book - there is much information on both Amish and Welsh quilts, of course, but also Amish and Welsh settlement patterns in the United States.

I also got my copy of Karin Hellaby's new book Sew Simple Pinwheels. Lots of ladies submitted quilts to illustrate this book. I had been asked to make a quilt in fabrics that Karin had given me, in Amish plains...

I finally (after several minutes) spotted my quilt on the back cover! It is the dark one at the bottom..... Lots of the little quilts have Suffolk Puffs or Yo-yo's which are a cute embellishment.

I also tried out the new Clover black and gold quilting needles this weekend . Just as advertised, they are sharp, glide through the fabric easily and are fairly stiff. I do like them - but the eye of the needle is very tiny (a bit difficult to thread, even with my thinner thread) and also very short - sometimes hard to pull through once I have picked up three or four stitches.

I taught a Saturday class at Quilters Haven, Karin's shop in Wickham Market. I put the ladies through their paces with machine quilting....luckily, I brought along my trusty Bernina as usual. Sometimes the machines the students bring along are unsuitable for various reasons - its always nice to know that my old machine can be relied upon to machine quilt if need be.

On Sunday we went for a walk at Sutton Hoo, which is not far away from where I live in Melton. This is of course the famous ship burial site of the Anglo Saxon king Raedwald....lovely view across the river Deben to Woodbridge - the tall church is St. Mary's.

Here is a typical view across the fields (growing turf for lawns in this case) - you can see the pine trees - the snow is just about gone...

On Saturday night we had the annual Pettistree dinner at the Melton Coach and Horses pub. It went well, and one of the Wickham Market bellringers, Derek Martin, won the plate for most improved ringer of the year. Well done Derek!

Wednesday 8 February 2012

A Welsh Strippy

This quilt was sold as a Durham strippy. But one look at the poor photos was enough to know that this was a Welsh strippy. How to tell the difference?

According to Dorothy Osler, British Quilts, Welsh strippies generally have wider strips than North Country strippies. In both, the strips are pieced by machine. Durham strippies have border designs quilted along the strips, whilst in Welsh strippies the strip quilting format was rare. Here the quilting disregards the strip piecing and the standard bordered layout with central and corner motifs with one or more borders is followed. Welsh quilts have broad even strips in contrasting colours, with odd numbers of strips.

Strip quilts were made in great numbers during the years 1869-1930 and seem to have been the “everyday” quilts. Fizrandolph indicated high proportions of strippies being made. Few survive, so it seems that they were more used and therefore more liable to destruction. Wholecloth quilts were the more valued “best” quilts, were more likely to be preserved and thus more survive. See also The Classic Strippy Quilt – D. Osler Quilt Studies Volume 1(1999).

This quilt has beautiful quilting and must have been “for best” as it seems little used. The strips are 9” wide, and there are an odd number which are reversible – i.e. the other side has the opposite colour. Strip quilts were easily put together by machine. Here a plain white cotton sateen is paired with a pink blue and green flowered print. The wadding is carded wool. The date is hard to guess as the fabric is not distinctive – it could date from the 1890’s. The quilting patterns are especially nice on this quilt – the central medallion is of lined hearts. In the corners there is a nice tulip motif and also a flower within a circle. Also seen are circles drawn from coins (too small for pennies – farthings?), spirals, and a lovely church window border. All closely quilted.

This quilt was on display at the summer 2008 Minerva exhibition of antique Welsh quilts in Llanidloes, along with my red and blue flannel quilt. Also, at the Quilters Haven exhibition over Easter 2008.

This quilt has no provenance but the seller did come from Carmarthen.

“In Wales, quilting was a cottage industry and quilts were made to be sold, quilters seldom signed them. Provenance is therefore a rarity. It was not false modesty that prevented the quilters from signing their work. Conceiving what they did as a utilitarian service, it would not have occurred to them to claim credit for their accomplishments. (Jen Jones)