The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year to one and all

May I wish all who read this all the very best for 2011.  Most of all I wish you a healthy year because everything else is secondary.

This Christmastide has had its ups and downs but I keep reminding myself that they are not "real trouble" just annoyances that can be overcome no matter how frustrating.  Mind you I have to keep repeating this mantra because annoyances have been plenty! 

I love red houses and to set a festive scene here is a picture of one -

it's Kennixton Farmhouse at St. Fagans: National History Museum (printed with their kind permission), here in a light covering of snow.  May we have no more than a sprinkling like this for a very long time!

Happy New Year and thank you for reading my blog.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The first favourite

At this time of year it seems to be the thing to look back at what happened during the year.  I'm not much for that because I am more interested in what's going to happen next, but this year has been such a landmark one because of the long awaited quilt exhibition at the V&A.  Oh how I looked forward to that because at last I would see it - the Sundial Coverlet, something I had read so much about and I had long wanted to see.

It was not a disappointment. I visited the exhibition four times and there was always a cluster of people around it, marvelling at the intricacy of the piecing and speculating about the time it must have taken.  I just loved it and vowed that as soon as I had a window of opportunity I would make something based on those blocks.  I have started and it is the most fun but the most difficult thing I have done in the whole of my quilting life.

If you want to have a closer look click on this link to a blog by Janet Bottomley who was invited to the press preview and allowed to take photos

Dated 1797, this coverlet must surely be one of the first sampler quilts?  Of course we know very little of how the world of patchwork worked then.  Did "MCB" draft these patterns herself?  She may have done?   I have found them so difficult to do and I have so many more aids to help me, but as her needlework skills are far superior to mine, so too may have been her skill at pattern drafting?

If not, was it possible that they were published patterns, perhaps in "The Lady's Magazine" which first appeared in 1770 and included all manner of things, fiction, fashion, crafts, so perhaps patchwork?  This surely must be a fruitful area of research for someone, not me though, because drafting the patterns and piecing the blocks will keep me occupied for quite a while yet.

It doesn't end there, because in July I visited Helbeck Hall in Cumbria where Rosemary Blackett-Ord was exhibiting her collection of quilts and early patchwork.  It was quite wonderful, in a way even better than the V&A exhibition, as it was held in her Regency Gothick manor house perched high on the Cumbrian fells.

The collection was personal and very varied and Mrs. Blackett-Ord was on hand to tell you all she knew about each item.  However on an upstairs landing there was one patchwork coverlet that stopped me in my tracks.  It was dated 1799 and was so similar in form and substance to the Sundial that it surely must have come from the same source.  It wasn't as meticulously worked and not all of the most intricate blocks seen on the Sundial were included, but it was so similar one had to believe that it had come from the same stable.  Sadly I can't show you a picture because taking photos was not allowed.  However, I was not the only one to recognise the similarity, as my friend Lorie, who went on a different day, noted it too.

Does this mean that there were a number of coverlets of this type made and that these block patterns were generally available to avid 18th century patchworkers, just as we today buy sampler pattern books like "Dear Jane"?  It is all very intriguing especially as there may be other similar quilts out there waiting to be discovered!
I wish!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone

Well here we are at last, it's been a long time coming and this year it has been especially difficult to get to our Christmas destinations.  Some of us haven't managed it and are having to change our plans, me included.  But wherever you are reading this and I am constantly amazed where you are reading this, I wish you all the Christmas you were hoping for.

Here is another picture of my Welsh Teddy, Chuck, who was featured in an early post which has since disappeared, one of the mysteries of "Blogger".  I bought him from Jen Jones and he is made of old Welsh Blanket fabric.

Looking at this picture you will get a good look at the soles of his feet which, if I had thought about, I could have decorated!  Never mind, he joins me in wishing you all a Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Red and White Quilt Exhibit in New York

It's happened so quickly that I'm feeling breathless - I am off to New York on 23rd March to see a quilt exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum!  I am so excited!

We are having a rotten time here in the UK.  We are in chaos because of snow, the roads are hazardous to negotiate, the airports are working with difficulty - Heathrow particularly and all our Christmas arrangements are in jeopardy.  So we do need cheering up and what better way to do it than plan a quilt visit?

It all started when I saw this picture on the Minick and Simpson blog -

telling of a free exhibition of 650 (yes it's not a mistake) red and white quilts from a private collection!

Well it's a picture that is difficult to resist and I immediately sent it to a few friends, one of them an absolute whirlwind when it comes event organising and planning holidays.  So yesterday (I was going to leave it until after Christmas to think about making arrangements) four of us were booked on a Virgin Atlantic package to New York to coincide with the exhibition. I have never been to New York so it will be a big adventure and I have dollars left over from my last visit across the pond.

For friends reading this and who maybe are wondering why I hadn't mentioned it, honestly it has happened so quickly I haven't had a chance to tell you!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Keep calm and don't panic

This year I am in a sort of pre Christmas panic which has mainly been caused by a really scary weather forecast and trouble with my heating boiler.

For the last few days Christmas preparations and meetings with friends have been postponed or sandwiched between visits by the heating engineer, so decorating the house for Christmas has had a low priority.

This is my living room mantel with my mocha ware jugs and mugs and just a few silver and red baubles together with some holly from my neighbour's tree.  I was quite pleased with this rather simple solution until I viewed this photograph, now I think it looks a bit sparse. Isn't it strange that pictures do this?  This makes me think that photos of rooms in magazines must be crammed with stuff to get the right effect? 

Well today the snow came and more is promised for tomorrow, so as is usual when snow hits the UK, life is put on hold and we are told to stay indoors. At first it's quite enjoyable and today we have been phoning and emailing each other but I know that soon boredom will set in and we will all start fretting about how it is going to affect our Christmas.

In the meantime I have started to quilt my Charles and Di Royal Wedding quilt and catching up with missed TV programmes.  I have masses of food, due to postponed gatherings though it is all richer fare than I'm used to.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Visiting Ledbury

Ledbury is a lovely market town just over the Welsh Border in Herefordshire and one of my  favourite places. It has the most perfect "local", "The Feathers" where I have spent many happy times and the shops there are varied and delightful.  So as we have been cooped up in our homes for two weeks because of warnings that it was too dangerous to venture far on our icy roads, we were ready for a bit of retail therapy in the shops of Ledbury.

It is wonderful to find a high street where you can buy all those things that are a chore to find elsewhere - for instance an ironmongers where you can buy fuses!  But for me the real star in the Ledbury firmament is Tinsmiths. Do go and have a browse - here is the link

Whenever I need upholstery fabric that is where I head, because the owner stocks an array of all the fabrics I like and she also has an occasional old quilt.  This time last year I bought a patchwork coverlet that obviously had never been used as some of its fabrics still have their glaze.  If  you click the picture and zoom in you experts out there will sure be able to date them and I would love to know what you think?

This visit was crucial because I'm looking for a fabric to re-cover a little Chesterfield which I have cherished for many years but since it was moved into the living room the cats have thoroughly trashed.  I love my cats dearly but what they have done is hard to forgive so finding something special to rehabilitate it, Tinsmith was the place to go.  I will tell you more again!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Slowly made quilts

Once upon a time I bought a rotary cutter.  I came across it the other day while looking for something else, it's unused and I put it away again!

Rotary cutters represent quick quilts to me and though I know that making things quickly is sometimes necessary  it's a wave that has swept over quilting world, well actually it is more of a tsunami!  How many books and magazine articles do you see exhorting you to make a quilt in this or that latest rapid technique?  Absolutely countless! Sadly there is no voice encouraging us to take our time and praising the therapeutic qualities of making things slowly.

Most of us probably have several projects on the go at any one time -  I know I do - so we can make quilts at all different speeds. All my quilts are slow quilts because I cut out with scissors (Yes remember them?) and piece by hand but some are even slower and are only worked on spasmodically when the mood takes me.

The one above has been put on the back burner because I can't decide whether to finish as it is, which would make it a manageable size for quilting or to add another border?  I have three others in a similar state of indecision and I don't know when, or if ever, they will be finished. (Looking at this picture here now I think it needs another border, but what type?)

I don't mind doing things slowly because I don't need quilts, I just love making them, they are my creative outlet and I am extremely lucky to be able to indulge myself and work at the speed that suits me.  Of course I do get frustrated because ideas flow and I know I am running out of time.

Just as a matter of interest,  I saw in the current Quilters Newsletter magazine that the quilt market is now worth $3.58 billion and I think that in just in America. I expect this figure would drop significantly if we all made quilts more slowly!  Maybe this is why we are not encouraged to take our time and make things by hand?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Chrismas Quilts

After being around the quilting world for so long, I don't make Christmas patchwork items for the home - I've been there done that and don't want to do it any more!  However, I do like the idea of a Christmas quilt but only tend to think about it just before the big event, usually when I see other peoples and then it is too late to do anything about it.  In January, I thankfully put all thoughts of Christmas out of my mind, so sadly I don't have a large red, white and green masterpiece to show you.

When I was working on "Making Welsh Quilts"  I made an alternative to the Paisley Star project quilt (see earlier post) in Christmas colours, but not using Christmas fabric which I don't like.  Only the patchwork top was featured in the book but afterwards I quilted it quite densely and I have braved my very wintry garden to photograph it -

I also tried to photograph the reverse with not a great deal of success - I had to twiddle with the editing buttons and it is a bit under/over exposed (whatever) but it was the only way to show the pattern, so please forgive?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Yes, this is a Welsh Quilt!

The popular perception of a Welsh Quilt is one that is graphic in style with simple shapes and usually made of plain or slightly patterned woollen fabrics - something like the quilts in the header of this blog.  However, this is only part of the story as many Welsh quilts were also made of fabrics generally available throughout 19th century Britain.  Something like this quilt which looks like a typical British medallion, not very well planned at that -

I first saw it in a display of British quilts at the Tokyo Dome a few years ago and as I don't do large quilts I was attracted to it because of its size, which is that of a large crib quilt.  The only reason I know it's Welsh is because it has a recorded provenance - it was made in Aberystwyth in the mid 19th century and belonged to a family who owned a draper's shop in the town. 

Here is another medallion made of printed fabric -

This picture has been taken from a book so it is not the best quality, but if you want to zoom and and see more detail try the V&A Search the Collections website -

This quilt was in this year's Quilt Exhibition when we had a chance to see it at last.  However, even without the meagre provenance it has, there would have been no doubt that it was a Welsh quilt because of the wonderful Welsh quilting patterns that sing out its nationality.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Gaudy Welsh - what is it?

 Well I've already declared my love of china especially mugs and jugs so when I saw Pippa' s post  about her Gaudy Welsh china I just couldn't resist showing off some of mine -

Though it was first made in Swansea here in Wales it was mostly manufactured in the numerous potteries of Staffordshire in England from 1820 to about 1860. It was relatively inexpensive and aimed at ordinary families. Its colors were based on Japanese Imari china and its decorations were mostly floral and it is said that there are more than 400 patterns though makers rarely marked them with names.

The style became hugely popular in America, especially Pennsylvania where is was enthusiastically collected and it is now more plentiful in the US that the UK.  I think the term "Gaudy Welsh" originated in the US because it seems to sum up the style which is more folk art than fine!  Of course this is why I like it!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A quilt for Vivienne

 I want to tell you about my friend and editor, Vivienne Wells, who was a Commissioning Editor at David & Charles (now part of Krause Publications).

Vivienne commissioned all the embroidery books by Thomasina Beck, which in my opinion was a highpoint in textile publishing.  She also discovered and helped many famous authors (too numerous mention) as well as commissioning books from both the Embroiderers' Guild and the Quilters' Guild. More importantly, she is  trustworthy, ethical and a steadfast friend and confidante to all her authors, as I know from personal experience.

Vivienne now has her own company Rainbow Disks which she began because she felt that mainstream publishers weren't catering for many things craft people were interested in.  She also wanted to pay her authors a fair return for all their work and have decent royalties.  Here is the link to her website -
do go and have a browse and bookmark it because there are lots of good books in the pipeline.

They are books, but they are on disk and the greatest advantage, apart from their relevance, is that the pictures in them are terrific and can be enlarged to enable you to study everything in the greatest detail.  How wonderful is this?  How many times have you been frustrated in not being able to see details properly and peering through a magnifying glass to work out something?  No need for this now! 

She is rare in another way - I have made her a quilt and I don't usually do this!  It is a simple construction which was quickly sewn after the much more lengthy fabric search and selection process then quite intensively quilted with Welsh motifs.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cats Eyes

Wilfred, my junior cat, has had a problem with one of his eyes so it's been a very worrying time, as those of you with precious pets will understand.  I keep checking him for signs of distress but he is carrying on with life normally while I haven't been able to concentrate on anything.  The vet says to do nothing (which is unusual advice from a vet in my experience) so that is what I am trying to do.  Strangely, and I thought I was imagining it at first, I have had an eye infection too, something I have never had before - how spooky is that?

The other co-incidence is that I have been struggling to finish this little quilt which has at its centre a cat with big eyes.  Actually for a few days I couldn't look at it but at last here it is -

and this is Bella sitting on it during progress - she didn't care two hoots about her son's eye - aren't cats lucky that they don't worry?

I love spotted fabrics but they can be rather attention seeking so I use them with caution.  I thought I would try this one on the reverse and used quite bold quilting motifs with a preponderance of hearts, because I love my cats! 

This is another quilt based on the same pattern as Blanket Star and the Kaffe influenced quilt in earlier posts. The cat image was worked similarly to my Cow quilt panel, on Rustica with Appelton's crewel wool and was based on a cat seen on a sampler.

Happy Thanksgiving to all in the USA from all us Brits.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Hearts for a Royal Wedding - a Sweetheart quilt!

 The wedding of Prince and the soon to be Princess William of Wales is on 29th April and they are already living here in Wales as the Prince is based on Anglesey flying helicopters.

Following on from the last post, my Charles and Diana quilt is being prepared for quilting.  I will try to do as much Welsh quilting as possible but probably not on the central panel because I don' t want to distort it. When choosing the fabric I tried to keep to vintage 1980 fabrics with a lot of Laura Ashley because that was very much Diana's style when she was young - later she became much more sophisticated and dispensed with frills and flowers.

Charles and Diana divided us, we seemed to be for either one or the other, my husband was for Charles and I was in Diana's camp and we argued about it, not in a serious way, but we just didn't agree. I think the ring thing is similar, we have to agree to differ.

As it happens I have just finished these two little heart quilts so Sue's suggestion of a baby quilt may be appropriate -

The design is called Cariad III (Cariad is Welsh for Sweetheart) and you can make it at a workshop I am teaching at the Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre next April  - see link below for more details -

I am making the design in three sizes but am still quilting the third so it doesn't appear here.  I have included other heart shapes in the picture to add to the mood but I had to restrict it as I have a lots more - anything with a heart is collected and sometimes traced around to make a quilting motif!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A Royal Wedding Quilt?

I've had technical difficulties with my blog so there has been a delay in posting.  Hopefully the glitch it is sorted, but with computers one never knows!

Well it is to be - another Royal Wedding!  From now on the media will be relentlessly promoting it and trying to work us up into a frenzy of excitement. At the moment most people I have spoken to are rather luke warm about it but it is early days!

Inevitably thoughts go to the last Royal Wedding in 1981, when everyone celebrated the occasion and we all had a wonderful time. It's a different story now and any suggestion of making a Royal Wedding quilt has a negative reception. Everyone seems disillusioned, not only with the Royals, but with their own family divorces and separations and making samplers and quilts to celebrate weddings is no longer popular.  It's all rather sad.

I sincerely hope this marriage will work and I wish them every happiness.  Though when it was announced that the engagement ring was Princess Diana's,  my immediate re-action was ugh!  Some friends agree with me but others think it's a lovely gesture - strange how we think so differently?.  

One of my first thoughts was that now I had better dig out the last Royal Wedding Quilt, which is waiting in the quilting queue and finish it!  Here it is in its un-quilted state -

It is a long story.  Way back in March 1981 in the midst of Royal Wedding frenzy the Quilters' Guild had a  Museum Visit to Wales. Someone mentioned that it was a shame that commemorative panels were a thing of the past as we could then make a quilt to celebrate the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, we all agreed.

The next day Jenny Hutchinson, the Guild's President, produced a few panels that her brother had screen printed to make up as cushions.  I bought one, only later realising that I didn't have any suitable fabrics to use as the colours in the panel weren't my colours, so it was put away in my box of  precious pieces.

25 years later I decided that it was time to make the quilt - it had been a happy and momentous day that I for one enjoyed and by now I had plenty of fabric I could use, so why not?  Well  now I've moved it up to the top of the queue - watch this space!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Printed or Plain?

I love working with printed fabric and find it far more difficult than working with plains, yet it doesn't seem to be recognised for the challenging process it is.  Does anyone else think this?

Of course sewing together and quilting plain fabric is another matter as it is considerably less forgiving than patterned fabric and shows up bad stitching mercilessly.  Maybe this is why it is considered more difficult?

Here is a quilt I made in 1981 which people seem to remember -

I suppose I should be flattered that they do, but instead I can't help feeling a bit irritated that it is remembered while other much more complex quilts with a myriad mixture of prints are not.  It's probably because it makes a bolder statement but is was not typical of my work at the time.

Though I admire quilts that make an impact, I much prefer quilts that bring me back time after time and find something new to look at - quilts that I see a little bit of unusual fabric in.  Of course the perfect quilt would be if it was bold from a distance but subtle in close-up and this is what I should be aiming for?

I used the Ruby McKim pansy pattern from her classic book.  It was made of Laura Ashley plains and some hand dyed ones bought from Valerie Campbell Harding and was inspired by a face flannel (wash cloth to the rest of the world) which I also painted on canvas and worked as a cushion - 

 This was in the era before I did Welsh quilting so I just outlined the flowers and did a pattern of straight lines at the corners as I wanted it to be art deco-ish like the pattern.  It was one of the easiest quilts I have ever made - bah humbug - why struggle with prints?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Laura Ashley - part of Welsh textile history

Laura Ashley was born in Merthyr Tydfil here in Wales but though she moved away for a few years she returned with her husband and children to set up a small fabric printing business in Mid Wales.

It became phenomenally successful with shops and factories across the world, but with their main factory and headquarters in Carno, in Mid Wales.  So from 1961 until 1998, when the family sold the majority of its shares, it was a Welsh company with its production base in the heart of Wales.

I have always used Laura Ashley fabric because when I began making patchwork in the late 70s, it was the fabric that was popular and available at the time. Now I use it because I have amassed a large collection over the years and feel that it gives my quilts a Welsh dimension. Of course this fabric is now classed as vintage, but I'm happy with that and I am still able to buy it on eBay.

 When I first heard the expression "sampler quilt" I thought it had to be a quilt that looked like a sampler, not a collection of blocks.  The penny eventually dropped but then I thought why not follow that first idea - so I made a few.  The three here are made almost exclusively in LA fabric,  the one below as an advertisement for the class I was teaching a very long time ago.  The house is an interpretation of the house I was living in at the time -

Laura Ashley  fabric was and still is very suitable for patchwork because Laura collected old quilts, many of them Welsh and it is said that they inspired her fabric designs.  This quilt collection was obviously a valued asset because when the Ashley family sold the company the quilt collection was part of the deal.

Now that the company is no longer Welsh I worry that this part of our textile history is not yet being recognised for what it was.  Eventually I sure it will be, but then many of  the quilts made with the fabric will be long gone.  Or if there is an archive and I am not sure if there is, it will be lost to us.  I worry, but I don't know what to do about it except keep adding to my stash and telling people about it as I am doing now!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Under the influence of Kaffe!

At the 2007 Festival of Quilts in Birmingham,  Kaffe Fasset launched his new book KAFFE KNITS AGAIN and there was also a display of quilts he had made before he started to design fabrics.

I like his knitting books very much, though I don't knit these days, I just enjoy looking at the pictures and find them inspirational.  I also prefer those early quilts, before he was designing fabric, when he was using what he could find, because that is the way I like to work.  I love how he uses colour so boldly and on the way home from the show, decided that I would make a Welsh quilt but not in colours usually associated with them, but being bold like Kaffe!.

Some quilts are easier to make than others and this was an easy one, it came together quickly and painlessly!

I used the same layout plan and templates as that of Blanket Star (in an earlier post) but used only plain fabrics that I happened to have in my stash.

I have used this same layout plan a couple of times since with varying success.  Actually I am at the final stages of quilting one at the moment and it has been a struggle, not nearly as easy as this one!  Does anyone else have this problem?

Here is a closeup of some of the quilting -

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Staying in a Character Cottage

Many people dream of living in a cottage in a beautiful village or one away-from-it-all with a lovely view.  Not me, because I like my ceilings a bit loftier for everyday living and I am deep down an urban person, (not too far from Marks and Spencer is my criteria), but I do like staying in one for a holiday.  We are extremely lucky here in the UK because we have a enormous selection from which to choose as our vernacular architecture is so varied.

This year I have stayed in three very different cottages.  Firstly I spent a few Spring days in the Cotswolds in a wonderfully equipped stone cottage in Chipping Campden, which sadly I didn't take a photo of.  Then in June came this perfect 'Jane Austen' cottage in the Lake District -

 with a view of Lake Windermere from the parlour window -

 It was just down the lane from 'Hilltop', Beatrice Potter's house in a magical part of the Lakes.

We had perfect weather, sunny and warm and those of you who know the area know how lucky we were, because the Lakes are known for their high rainfall.  After we left they had a deluge!  Of course this was because we had gone up North to see quilts, but that another story!

Then early this month we stayed in this one -

it is the end one in a row of three owned by the National Trust at Killerton in Devon.  Again we had the most wonderful weather and again quilts were involved!  So maybe that's the key to holiday weather?  Quilters are blessed!

Now to the secret of choosing a cottage, when you view them on the net - look at the sofas!  If they have a certain shape which is hard to define but instinctive - that's the one to go for.  It has never failed yet!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Ceredigion Star Quilt

I don't do replicas but prefer to say that I am "inspired by" or make "in the spirit of".  Anyway it is impossible to replicate a Welsh wool quilt because the fabrics used then are no longer made.

There was a period in our history when our quilts were entirely homegrown;  the woollen cloth was manufactured in our mills and made from the fleeces of the thousands of sheep grazing our hilly countryside. Clumps of this wool were often gathered from the hedgerows by the quilters and cleaned and carded to use as padding in their quilts.  Sometimes the cleaning process wasn't too thorough and many quilts were ruined when washed because - well I will leave it to your imagination!

I saw this picture on the Internet a while ago -

It was from an exhibition of Welsh Quilts from Ceredigion Museum held at the Green Mountain College in Vermont.  I had never seen this quilt before and immediately thought that I could do a scaled down version and make it into one of my Little Welsh Quilts. The original quilt was made of woollen cloth but I used cotton fabric from my stash.  I based the colours on the picture but when I eventually saw the original quilt I hadn't quite got it right.  Instead of blue surrounding the central red star, it should have been dark green!  But hey, it's not a replica so it doesn't matter!

I made up my own quilting design because as my quilts are small there is less room to do the large swirling patterns of full sized bed quilts, so one has to choose motifs carefully so as not to distort the patchwork. Now when I look at the finished quilt I feel that I should have done a bit more quilting, but it's difficult to go back and as I have a stack of little quilts waiting to be quilted it may never get done?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

This time a Welsh Quilt with mugs and a jug

I want to show you some favourite things in a favourite place.  They belong to great friends of mine and are photographed at their delightful cottage deep in the Welsh countryside. It was recently featured in BBC Home & Antiques magazine and it is both lovely to look at and comfortable to be in, which isn't always an easy combination to achieve.

This is a group of their mocha ware mugs and just one jug.  I share their love of mocha ware and have a few pieces too, but Philip has grouped these in front of a large Star Quilt.  Here is a longer view in which you can see more of the pattern -

I have seen other Welsh quilts of this design and at first glance it wouldn't strike one as a Welsh quilt, but it is and the element that confirms this is it's Welsh quilting patterning with all the familiar motifs of spirals, leave etc.

This is a view through their back door, isn't it an inspiring place?
Christine and Philip are antique dealers and they have access to wonderful things and though they have many  in their cottage, it is it still very much a home.

If you would like to see their website here is the link -

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Celebrating and commemorating in Wales

I no longer do embroidery - well only an occasional bit like a label or a centre for a quilt.  It's strange really,
it's almost as if my embroidery button has been switched off.  I am still a member of the Embroiderers' Guild so I am still in touch with that world but now I concentrate on making quilts and trying to quilt my patchwork  tops - I have about 20 in the queue, but I keep making new ones and the queue gets longer!

Before this happened I embroidered a sampler of our house to commemorate its 100th Birthday.  The whole street of 32 houses celebrated their houses' centenary by having a street party.  It's a lovely street to live in as there's still a community spirit and we are always ready to party!  We gained permission from the Council to close the road and for several hours we played host to some high profile guests, including our  MP and AM and other dignitaries. It was a joyful occasion with food, wine, music and lots of games for the children and we had a wonderful sunny day too!  Afterwards we erected a plaque on the end house to mark the occasion.

This is the top part of the sampler, I omitted the bottom part because it listed quite a few details which I didn't want on the Internet, but it started life as a band sampler and is in that style. For cat lovers, if you look you will see my black cat Frank trotting along the side path to the front door.  I always used to try and include him in my embroideries, as a little touch of black does wonders!

We are now carrying on pouring money into our houses to keep them up and running for another 100 years!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

My Sampler Book

In what seems now like a former life, I wrote a sampler book, which was first entitled HOUSE AND GARDEN SAMPLERS.  However, there was trouble with that title, as a multi national magazine company had a publication using the words house and garden as a title (I am sure you know which one) and they raised objections. I believe a deal had to be struck before my book could be published.

All this seemed unbelievably petty, as no one thought that such common words like house and garden could be a protected trademark, but litigation had to be avoided.  This together with management changes at my publisher didn't help my little book get off to a good start and though it had excellent reviews, it wasn't a best seller.

Despite all this I am very glad I wrote it.  There was such a lot of me in that book and as I was teaching in Adult Education at the time, it became my teaching manual and so was very useful.  It can still be found on Amazon under its original name and under a different one CREATE YOUR HOME IN COUNTED THREAD, a rather unwieldy title I think?

Sadly this change of name together with a different cover was confusing and I heard that people bought it thinking it was a different book.  You have to draw your own conclusions about that.  All I know is that I, as an author, had no influence at all on any of these decisions.

There is a great deal wrong with publishing as it was and for the moment, still is, but as technology is changing rapidly they will have to change too, as did the music industry.  But it all seems to be taking far too long!

My next book will be published in a different way with a publisher who is thinking of the future and consults her authors.  I will tell you all about it soon!

Friday, 1 October 2010

The Spirit of Welsh Quilting

I am now going to bang the drum a little, because I have a passion I want to share with you.

In country areas of 19th century Wales quilting was an organic process and perfection was not the goal.  Those who could afford to employ a quilter paid them per quilt and not for their time spent quilting.  Quilters therefore had to be very practical and when they made a mistake they did not waste time unpicking but just kept going and disguised inconsistencies within their subsequent patterning.  This gave their work a vitality that sets it apart, as no two quilts were ever alike.

I really admire this approach and try to follow it myself.  I prefer it to the way quilting developed in 20th century when perfection became the goal.  When classes and competitions seem to iron out inconsistencies and the quilts made, though beautiful became, in my opinion, rather soulless.  

Of course it had to be this way because the Rural Industries Bureau was promoting and helping to sell quilts in London galleries, so the idiosyncratic style of earlier quilters would not have been acceptable.  We don't have these pressures now as most of us quilt because we enjoy it, so unless we want to win a prize, we are free to return to the traditional organic approach of the 19th century.

 There is so much more to quilting the Welsh way than by using a light box to trace a printed pattern onto cloth and then painstakingly follow the drawn lines with quilting stitches!  True Welsh quilting requires imagination and innovation for the quilter to imprint her personality upon the cloth. 

Just look at this picture to see how wonderfully free the quilting was - look how the leaves are so wobbly and the spirals aren't all even -

 This quilt wouldn't win a rosette today because now quilting is judged differently.  Are we wrong in our values?  What do you think?  

This quilt is in the Jen Jones Collection, thank you Jen for allowing me to photograph it and share it with others. 

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Welsh Quilt that got away!

A few years ago when Clare and I were working on MAKING WELSH QUILTS I spotted a picture of an old Welsh quilt in Pepper Cory's book MASTERING QUILT MARKING (Hi Pepper - I love this book!) and I thought it would make a good project for our book (we did ask Ardis and Robert James for permission to do this).

I quickly drafted it on my favourite squared paper and Clare made it with pieces from her stash.  She then quilted it beautifully using many of the patterns on the original.  We called it Pennsylvania Echo, because it seemed like a good idea at the time and it is in the book if you want to make one.

  This is the link to the original quilt -

It is much larger than our little quilt and of course the fabrics are very different. It couldn't be in a better place to be appreciated and cherished, but I do feel that it is a shame that it has left Wales.

I believe that it it is an important quilt for a few reasons. Firstly it is very early for this style of quilt and secondly it is actually dated 1818, which is rare.  It is made of a mixture of wool and silk and when I drew it to the attention of Dorothy Osler, she and Debbie Harries did extensive research on the fabrics and produced a research paper for Quilt Studies (published by the British Quilt Study Group).

So it is a very special quilt and in a perfect world it should be here in a Welsh museum.  But hey ho, we have so much heritage that we don't value it as much as we should.  It is safe where it is in the USA and after all it really is their heritage too!

The above link to the old quilt doesn't seem to be working consistently, if you see the wrong quilt (and it's obvious) copy and paste the web address into your browser.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Inspired by Welsh Blankets

Welsh blankets are now widely collected,  I don't own any and am reluctant to start because I have so much other stuff.  However, their colour and design content does inspire me and it all began with this simple quilt owned by Ron Simpson made with pieces of blanket -

I love its subtle colours and as I don't usually work with this colour palette, it was a challenge and I had to dig deep in my stash to find suitable fabric and use what I had creatively.  This is the result -

I used my then limited collection of shirtings and added a few fabrics that a Japanese friend had left me before returning home.  I enjoyed working with these shades so much I began to collect Japanese woven fabrics and I have used them in quite a few quilts since.  This is a better picture of the quilting -