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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 28 October 2012

Visit to Gawthorpe Hall and a Cotton Mill

I thought that I would tell you in more detail about our BQSG Seminar in Burnley. This area has a rich textile history and produced most of the world's textiles in the 1800's.

On Friday, we had a visit to Gawthorpe Hall. Half of the group had a tour of the house while the other half examined the Rachel Kaye-Shuttleworth Textile Collection. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs in the house. It is is late Tudor/early Jacobean in date although heavily restored in Victorian times.  There are some interesting displays of textiles in the house. Rachel Kay Shuttleworth believed that crafts were vital to developing a balanced personality, and also important in helping rehabilitate people. She opened a crafts school and the collection was supposed to act as examples for study.

The Master bedroom has a large tester bed with bed curtains worked by Rachel KS. The room looks out over the Calder River.

After our tour of the house we had lunch and then looked at the textiles collection - a selection of quilts were brought out for us to see. Some were very old and some were more recent. Although we were allowed to take photos for our own use, we undertook not to use them on any website....

I had gotten a lift with David and Susan L - and we just had enough time to go to the Queen Street Mills, a weaving museum just outside Burnley. As we had less than 45 minutes left before closing time, we were not charged an entrance fee!

 There is a collection of looms from various places. The looms are very sophisticated, each one producing a different kind or quality of cloth. Cotton is much more difficult to weave than wool, as the fibres are not as long or as strong.

Another loom. Most of the cotton cloth woven here when the mill was working was white goods, and the cloth went off to  printing firms to be turned into stylish cloth.

The mill sees a lot of school parties visit; some of the looms are working and produce cloth: calico, teatowels and a textured cloth. These are prayer shawls that are sent to a dealer in Israel.

I think that this is the beaming machine, which winds the cotton thread (bought in) onto bobbins for use in the looms.

As we were wandering around, we fell to chatting with an employee who was trying to repair one of the looms. Of course each loom is different and needed a skilled employee to keep it in working order. And, mills often modified the looms for their own products. No users manuals here. So getting them up and running is rather trial and error. He was trying to get a loom to produce teatowels without weaving faults - when it is fixed, they will be producing teatowels with "Queen Street Mill" woven down the centre.

He did open up the large weaving room for us to view. Although the looms were still, this was very evocativee.

This room has 360 looms remaining. It originally had 1000 (the rest have been scrapped). Burnley had over 100,000 such looms and Lancashire in total, about a quarter of a million. So the Lancashire textile industry was much more sophisiticated and had received more investment than the Welsh weaving industry. Compared to the Welsh woollen mill, this mill was much bigger and more capital intensive.

When the looms were operating, the noise was deafening. Workers soon became deaf - either from the noise or from ear infections due to dirty earplugs. A miming language was needed for communication - and the weavers were adept at lip reading as well.

The looms are arranged in 4s, 6s and 8s. There was an apprentice system - new apprentices were put with an experienced weaver in a group of four looms - two machines for the weaver and two for the new person. The weaver got paid for teaching. As the apprentice became more experienced and needed less supervision, the weaver took on four and then six machines. What I found incredible is that both had only 15 seconds to check each machine before going on to the next - an endless round of running the looms. All the looms produced cotton fabric that was 36 inches wide. Lots of dust and fibre was produced.

The next two days were taken up with the seminar and the presentation of papers. More about these later.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

BQSG Seminar in Burnley

I am back in Suffolk after a very busy weekend in Burnley, Lancashire. Fortunately the weather was good and the seminar arrangements worked out splendidly. More information to follow in a day or two about all our activities...

We stayed in the Rosehill Hotel, a former mill owner's house. It was very comfortable and the interiors and ceilings had to be seen to be believed. Our group meals were very pleasant.

 On Friday we went to Late Tudor/early Jacobean Gawthorpe Hall - very impressive even if heavily refurbished in Victorian times. We had a tour of the house and also looked at the textile collection - specifically, some quilts new and old.

Susan, David and I also fitted in a flying visit to the Queen Street Mills, a museum in an old cotton mill. I thought this was the most evocative part of the weekend.

And our seminars were held at Townley Hall, another large house owned by the local government. The theatre was ideal for the presentation of the papers (all very interesting) and we were able to visit the house during the lunch hour. The caterers provided excellent food. A real success!!

More posts later....

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Going to Burnley, Lancashire...

...for the BQSG Seminar tomorrow. It promises to be a good two days, and I know a lot of effort has gone into organising this event.

On Friday, we will be going to Gawthorpe Hall, a National Trust property, for tours of the house, and a look at the Rachel Shuttleworth Textile Collection.

Our seminar will take place at Townley Hall, owned by the local government in Burnley.

The whole of Lancashire was filled with textile mills, which supplied the world with cottons, wools, ribbons and many other woven goods. We'll be staying at the Rosehill Hotel in Burnley. Unfortunately, no bell ringing at the church at Burnley!!

One of the themes in this year's seminar will be signature quilts, so I will be taking my 1893 signature quilt from Green Gates Wesleyan Sunday School. As far as I can see, this was  in Bradford.

The quilt was much used and is very worn at the edges, but has a lot of signatures, embroidered in a variety of stitches by several hands. I'm not sure if these are childrens' names (all first name, last name, no Mr or Mrs here) or whether these paid a subscription - probably the former given the names? It would be interesting to compare the names with the local war memorials, which have been recorded.

Anne Jeater is presenting a paper on a Tyneside Wesleyan signature quilt, so will be interested to hear that.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Southern American Quilts

While I was at the QuiltFest 2012 in Jacksonville, I was lucky enough to catch a lecture by Teddy Pruett, a quilt historian and appraiser from Lake City, Florida.  I was very interested to hear her talk about her research into the characteristics of quilts made in the Deep South of America. This was followed by a show of quilts.

I have agreed to contribute to the  BQSG blog - hopefully, about once a week - so for a more complete  report on this topic, click here to go to the BQSG blog:

 Prior to the Civil War, esquisite quilts had been made by wealthy Southern women or their slaves. However, the South was ravaged by the Civil War and became desperately poor until WWII. Although the South was a quarter of the US land area, incomes were the lowest in the United States. This means that  quilts made in the South are utility quilts, made from recycled materials with a poor standard of workmanship. Filling was a thick layer of locally picked cotton, and the backing was usually bleached and dyed feed sacks. Quilting was very roughly done, due to the thickness of the cotton wadding. No bindings are seen, just the backing brought forward to the front.

You may be wondering why quilts were needed in the South, which has the reputation of being so very warm. The truth is that the winters could be very cold - in addition, the houses or shacks were very poorly built, had no insulation and were built up on bricks. Warm winter bedding was vital under such conditions.

Southern quilts are not made from new fabric or new dressmaking offcuts, They are made from the less worn portions of discarded clothing. Southern quilts also have very odd placements of fabric colours. In this quilt, the blocks are the same but look very different due to the variable placement of colours.

This quilt is Teddy's oldest, and is an unlovely quilt - made of bleached and dyed feed sacks. Tobacco sacks, measuring 3 x 7 inches, are also used in the patchwork.
After the Civil War, fabric was not available, so homespun fabrics and rewoven fabrics were seen.

Nine patch showing the extremely variable placement of fabrics.

This pattern is known as Honeymoon Cottage - and was a nationally published pattern. But here the quilter has made the pattern very poorly, as this is what the standard of quilt making was like in the South - a culture of poverty and a scarcity of time and materials. Scottish Irish people settled this area and gave the area its culture and manner of speaking, quite different from the more Germanic settlers of the North.

Patterns with circles and points are common - but rather carelessly made in Southern quilts, as seen here.

Home dying of cottons was normal, as fabric was recycled and not bought new for quilts. Backings were usually home dyed feed sacks and are usually a brown colour. Here, the red has stood up well (unlike some reds that are fugative and turn tan) but the green dyed fabric has faded badly. The small square is one piece that is from a different source and has not faded.

Sun Bonnet Sue was known as Dutch Doll in the South. This quilt is a very odd looking Dutch Doll - and may be an Afro American quilt although this is only speculation. Southern applique quilts were simplified patterns with huge pieces.

Other characteristics of Southern quilts - many have a triple sashing, which is not used as an outer border. Fan quilting is very common as it was easy to do and also easy to resolve in the middle of the quilt. As the quilts were made of recycled fabrics and were used constantly, they wore badly. Recovered quilts are therefore comon.

Also seen are quilts made from tobacco sacks - these pieces are 3 x 7 inches and were commonly  made into patterns such as rail fence and streak of lightning.

I found this a very interesting talk; it reminded me of the Welsh quilters who used what they had in a manner that was known to them, in an environment of poverty. It reminds us that quilts are a reflection of the prevailing culture of the time in which they were made.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Quilts Return from Llanidloes

The Welsh and Durham quilts which had been in Llanidloes for the summer returned home yesterday. Doreen's son Paul kindly brought them back on his way to Aldeburgh for a holiday.
There are seven large carrier bags full of quilts - hard to believe that they all fitted into my small car!

The bags immediately became a cat perch!

I am giving a talk on hand applique to a WI in Levington tonight - I gave my talk on "The Amish and their Quilts" some time ago and I have been asked back. I enjoy giving these talks. I'll show my applique quilts and my Hawaiian quilts and add a bit of quilt history.

Saturday 6 October 2012

QuiltFest 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida

Well, it has been a busy week, catching up on all the work that did not get done whilst I was away! Looking forward now to the BQSG seminar in Burnley at the end of the month...

While I was visiting my mother in Florida, I had the chance to go to QuiltFest 2012 in Jacksonville with Helen, Jo and Ginny from Gainesville. It was interesting to see this show, put on by seven quilting guilds, and compare it to our commercial shows in the UK. It was about an hour and a half's drive from Gainseville.....

The show was held in the Convention centre - formerly the very large train station for "Jax". The entry fee was very reasonable by British standards and included a free catalog. But I think participation in the raffles and opportunity quilts was expected...
All the quilts were labelled with name, maker and a description.

We arrived early and stayed until 2:30 - when we emerged from the show, there was a tropical storm occurring - we waited for half an hour until it died down a bit - then headed back to Gainsville. Let's just say that it was an interesting trip home, with numerous road accidents having occurred during the rainstorm, and various roads flooded....traffic very slow...but we made it. Thanks for the lift, Helen!!

This was the Best in Show, Sunshine by Pam McIntyre. Made to a pattern "Joy" by Jaqueline de Jonge. Hand dyed silk overlain by Hot Ribbon.

A quilt with birds, machine quilted...

A small quilt where colored pencils had been used, along with embellishments, nachine quilted.

One of the few hand quilted items that I saw, Simply Charming by Patti Showen.


A nicely done Baltimore, this was one of the prize winners....

And another, larger, Baltimore Album quilt...

Another very colourful applique quilt, this time on a dark blue background, I think this is another quilt made to a commercial pattern.

I really liked this colourful quilt, another pattern I think.
Lively fabrics.

A quilt with a typical Floridian scene...

Prize winning pieced quilt, with the Seven Sisters pattern. This block was always popular in the South, as the seven stars represent the seven states that seceded from the Union during the Civil War.

This was another prize winning quilt. There were several examples of this block, which seems to be a popular commercial pattern or kit. The pieces were very small.

To summarise - there was lots of applique! and not much hand quilting to be seen. Machine quilting was rule and most was done by longarm quilters, to various standards. Most of the quilts were very brightly coloured, and many were made to patterns. Quite a few of the quilts were made with kits, that is, patterns with the fabrics supplied and pre-chosen. Of course, these quilts always hit the mark because they are professionally designed, and were very beautiful.

Things are much more expensive in the UK, with much of the fabric imported and costing at least double to that in the USA, so while quilters do use patterns here, most would substitute their own fabrics, perhaps to use up their stash. Changes are also made to patterns. Longarm quilting is increasingly seen here in the UK, but is not the norm as it seems to be in the US.

Thursday 4 October 2012

A Funny Thing Happened While We Were Ringing Last Night....

We were ringing a quarter of Flamstead Surprise Minor, and it was going  very well....when suddenly, Kates rope broke!!

Kate with the broken treble rope....

Although two of the ringers went up into the belfry and replaced the rope with an old one, we had to start again - on only five bells.

The broken rope will have to be repaired. Bell ropes have to be specially made and are rather expensive - and as there are only a very few companies that make them now, there are year-long waiting lists. Pettistree has been trying to gather money for a new set - several hundred pounds. Our ropes do get a lot of use, and there are rumbles that the quality is not as good these days.