The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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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!