The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
Click the picture to visit my other blog

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Gees Bend and Cassandra Ellis

I have made another discovery through the Needleprint blog - Cassandra Ellis who makes commissioned memory quilts.  I love her blog and her philosophy and she says that one of her influences is the work of Gees Bend!

As you can see from the above, Gees Bend quilts make great images which grab attention, but I am rather uncomfortable about the whole Gees Bend phenomenon.  I'm not sure why, it's probably because when something becomes the thing to admire, I am suspicious.

Some of you will have seen these quilts on exhibition, I have not, so I have absolutely no idea of their quality.  Are they well made?  Do they work as quilts, as presumably they were made as quilts even though now they are treated as art?  How do you feel that they are now so revered?

Cassandra Ellis makes commissioned quilts using fabric that has personal meaning to her customers.  She also does workshops encouraging her students to bring and use their own fabric collection, especially if the pieces are meaningful to them.  She believes in re-cycling fabric as it adds a another dimension to the work produced.  She is making a stand against the commercialism of the quilting industry and I am all for that.

I admire her approach which is to enthuse and encourage people to cross boundaries and make something very personal.  I wish I could, but after years making patchwork by hand I can't switch to the sewing machine and do improvised piecing.  My patchwork is not free and easy and I am terrified of doing "lumpy" work - a word my dear late friend Gill Thompson used to categorise below standard workmanship.

This brings me back to my questions about Gees Bend and their quality.  If they are made to be quilts they should be judged by quilt making standards.  Viewing them as art is just confusing everything and denigrating quilt making.  I should love to know what you think?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Designing a quilting plan and Mrs. Lace

First of all please forgive this really bad picture, it's actually a photo of a photocopy of a quilt found in an ancient out of print book by the Dryad Press.  It's the only record of a wonderful whole cloth quilt which we wanted to include it in MAKING WELSH QUILTS but couldn't track down.

The quilt was made by Mrs Lace of Aberdare, a famous quilter and teacher and is very typical of her work.  If you double click the picture and zoom in you will be able to see it more clearly.

I wanted to feature this design because I think it demonstrates how bold and dramatic good Welsh quilting can be.  It has a format that was used in so many Welsh quilts - a large central circle set in a rectangular field with a large enough border area to give scope for some dramatic quilting.  You won't go far wrong it you stick to it - a circle, set in a rectangle or square and then surrounded by a border, or more borders if you need a larger quilt, but don't make them all the same size, vary them. 

These three main areas would be marked first.  Then the primary motifs, hearts and flowers for the centre and the swirling Paisley pears and fans in the rectangular field would have been marked next.  Everything else - the infill patterning such as spirals, flowers and smaller leaves were marked last, if at all, as many quilters, like Mrs. Lace, were experienced enough to make them up as they stitched. 

A square field, with its equal proportions, is easier to mark out than a rectangle. In this design, Mrs. Lace has cleverly used the swirling Paisley pears to lead your eye around the rectangle. Had the field been square these Paisley pears would have linked up but not in a rectangle, so the side spaces were filled by a flower and leaves which works well.  Clever Mrs. Lace!

The only part I am not so keen on is the border, I think I would have gone for some wonderfully curved leaves.  However by using this fan shape formed by lines, Mrs Lace has again given herself some scope to adjust the number of lines to fill the required area - again a clever way of coping with the dimensions of a rectangle.

Mrs Lane kept a notebook when she began to make quilts during a long coal strike in 1907, to help feed her three small children. She was paid five shillings for the first quilt and from five to twelve shillings for others, according to pattern; during the year she earned ten guineas by making twenty-six quilts an average of about eight shillings.

I hail you Mrs.Lace, you are not forgotten! 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Precious Reds

This is one of the quilts from my new ebook which I thought you might like to see?  It's called "Precious Reds" because is is made with pieces of  very cherished red fabric, many of which I have had for a long time - so full of memories!  (Don't forget you can double click and zoom in on the pictures to see more detail)

 I just read this great crit on Amazon  If any of you wrote it - thank you so much! Is there anyone who would do one on  It would be such a help as a small publisher certainly needs it!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars delightful, 20 Aug 2011
I. Mrs Iredale "cumbrian lady" (Cumbria) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Little Welsh Quilts: Made the Traditional Way (CD-ROM)
An excellent item. I've never had an ebook before but this was v simple to use. It's a comprehensive quilting guide,informative, full of interesting Welsh history. The instructions are excellent with plenty of good photos, ideal for both the beginner & expert quilter. I especially love the easy to print off quilting & patchwork instructions. Mary, you have really fired up my enthusiasm to have a go at Welsh quilt making. So pleased to have bought this.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A patchwork coverlet in true British tradition

Blogland is a wonderful place where you can learn so many things.  One of my favourite blogs is which is full of information and which eventually led me to this appliqued and pieced coverlet.  It came up for auction at Penrith Farmers' and Kidds auction last Wednesday.

To quote from the catalogue it is -
A 19TH CENTURY PATCHWORK COVERLET having three central appliqué panels depicting various historical and social events with text, the upper section having an over hanging panel centred with a patterned material printed with banners reading 'Wellington Vittoria' and flanked by appliqué soldiers on horse back, this concealing religious imagery from the mid panel, all within an outer patchwork border. 229cm(L) x 170cm(w)
Estimate: 200-400

For one mad moment I thought I would put in a bid, but it came with a warning that viewing was essential. Now Penrith is a long way from where I live and would mean an overnight stay.  When I zoomed in on the picture I could see considerable damage, so I stopped for a rethink!  What do I want a damaged coverlet for and what would I do with it?  I have too much stuff cluttering my house already!

So I decided to let the Quilters' Guild know about it. They were interested and the Curator viewed it, but they decided against it. They didn't say why, but I am guessing that it was the condition and the cost of restoration that ruled it out.  If that is the reason, I understand, but I'm sad.

There are so many things that intrigue me about this coverlet.  It is difficult to tell from a picture, but the applique certainly looks old, maybe it is early 19th century?  Wellington's Battle of Vittoria commemorated in the panel was in 1813 which would fit, yet the whole thing looks a bit cobbled together! Could it be that the panels were found unfinished and someone decided to make it into a coverlet much later?   It would be nice to examine it for clues!

Since writing the above I have discovered that the coverlet went for £3,500, way above estimate - so much for my idea of a cheeky bid!  As I guessed, the Guild thought that the restoration cost would be very high and decided against bidding.  Its acquistion fund is not huge and unlike a lone buyer, any purchase has to be justified.

We don't know who bought it but it might well pop up on the other side of the pond!  Over to you quilt sleuths - you know who you are!   Track it down and let me know what you think?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

After the Festival

I found the Festival of Quilts quite overwhelming, just so much stuff.  I was fortunate because I had an Exhibitor's pass so was able to get inside early and have a wander.  I take my hat off to the traders, it really is a marathon for them, they must go into training for the selling season.

I didn't really have time to study all the quilts but some did catch attention as I passed by without my camera, so I I am having to depend on friends.  Here is one I liked -

It is called "Double Delight" and was made by Pauline Law Kloof of South Africa.  It is woollen, knitted with some crochet and inspired by Gees Bend quilts. I love the bright colours, especially in wool which saves it from being garish.   It didn't get a prize of course, when do quilts that I like get prizes?  That will be the day!

I enjoyed meeting some of you who read this blog.  I tried to persuade those of you who don't to leave a comment.  Please leave comments, it's such an encouragement to the blogger! 



Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Hunting Lodge

 I have just returned from the Festival of Quilts and am now catching up -  as you do!  It will take some time to process my thoughts so I hope you will enjoy something I prepared earlier!

You will have gathered by now that I love all types of  houses, gardens and I also admire the work of John Fowler (of Colefax and Fowler fame).  It's a treat, therefore, to combine these three and show you this magical little house set in its lovely garden which used to be the country home of  John Fowler.

 Just click on the link below to see some more -

It's called The Hunting Lodge and was left to the National Trust by John Fowler.  It is now in the care of another famous interior decorator, Nicholas Haslam who is a more flamboyant personality and decorator than John Fowler, as you will have gathered after watching the video?  He calls it  "the prettiest house in England" and though England is not short on pretty houses,  it must be a contender?

Of course in the forty years he has lived there, Nicholas has changed a great many things inside and out but he has also retained many of  the original interior decorations. 

This is one of the bedrooms as it was decorated by John Fowler in which he stuck a beautiful Mauny border on painted walls.  Nicholas has kept that but changed the bed drapes and cover - but I love the quilt - well this is a quilting blog!

It seems that John Fowler was fond of using old frame quilts on beds as they appear regularly in pictures of his work.  At that time (in the 40s. 50s and 60s) they must have been easily come by and cheap and so different, for it wasn't at all usual for a top decorator to use humble patchwork! 

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A little bit of this and that

I want to thank you for your comments on museums and on my ebook

Firstly I am going to post this picture, as every post needs a picture to cheer it up.  This one is of the new tiny cyclamen that are now coming into the shops - the first sign of autumn and it isn't mid August yet - encased of course in some EB!  I posted it on the EB Facebook page recently and thought you would like it too?

I do realise that musuems have budget and staffing problems but sadly there nothing new in that.  These will always be there whatever the financial climate and will always be the excuse.  It's simply a fact that textiles have a low priority and unless we make a fuss things won't change.  The difficulty of course is, that we who work with museums don't want to cause trouble as we rely on a good relationship continuing.  But perhaps those in Museums who are responsible for textiles could do with a helping hand?

I have always felt that the textile guilds could do more on this.  They do sterling work in promoting their own particular textile. They amass a collection, have staff and headquarters, all of which are expensive to maintain, but they don't get together and fight the corner for textiles generally which would be relatively inexpensive.  Act as a mouthpiece for their own members and the general public who want access to the vast amounts of textiles that are stored away in public collections.  Be more like the W.I. and put on pressure!

I am pretty sure that this opinion will be viewed with horror - it's politics they will cry! But if we want things to improve we will have to dirty our hands and engage in politics! 

I shall be at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham on Thursday, Friday and Saturday on the Rainbow Disk stand E33.  If you are going, do pop over and say hello!

Thank you all for your kind comments on the ebook and if you could possible post a review on either or it would help considerably.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

More Squares - The Mary Robson Quilt

I am really cheesed off with Museum websites, yesterday I was searching for quilt information on three and all fell short of satisfactory.  The last one infuriated me so much I sent a request to the site for clarification - I did actually get a reply!

It isn't just British museums that I have trouble with, its American ones as well!  You seem to have to know what you are looking for to find it!  If you do have some details, it's far easier to put that into Google than into the museum site that has the item in question!  This can't be right!   Sorry to sound off but I can't help wondering if it's just me or if anyone else has this trouble too? 

This frustrated browsing did throw up this lovely quilt which was a bonus -

It was made by Mary Robson in 1801 (this information is embroidered on one of the squares), I do love Georgian patchwork!  However, I had to contact the Quilt Museum in York to find out what size it was!  It apparently has interesting quilting patterns but no pictures are available - grrrrr.

Because I love making little quilts this picture immediately suggested a cot quilt but it is in fact 228cms wide x 253cms long.  I don't think in metric (or Napoleon as I once heard it called) so had to translate to Imperial - 89 x 99 inches approximately, so definitely not a cot quilt - no wonder she could embroider her name and date in a square!

I am very tempted to make it up with odds ends -   Its very simplicity appeals to me, it's so unpretentious, so Georgian understated  -  oh here I go again - another project!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Little Welsh Quilt - the process

All of you who have written a book, especially a craft book with diagrams and pictures, know that what eventually appears within the covers is just a fraction of the work.  Here is some of the work in progress -

In the past I have enjoyed the process more than the end result, but I must say that working with Vivienne at Rainbow Disks has been very pleasurable and I am very happy with the finished ebook.

Of course I have known and worked with Vivienne for quite a few years and she has become a friend.  It was she, when she worked for David & Charles, who commissioned my first book HOUSE AND GARDEN SAMPLERS and I  remember her phone call asking to meet and discuss it.  I was so thrilled, as it had long been an ambition to write about sampler making and I still look back and savour that exciting time.

Having a book published and on the shelves of a bookstore raises mixed emotions.  On one hand you are pleased that it is there at all and look around furtively to see if anyone is interested - they usually aren't. Then you worry that because there are copies on the shelf they aren't selling!  It's a case of a glass either full or empty again but that's the way if affects me.

Now, of course, we are in another age - books are marketed very differently now to then (the olden days book wise).  I can write telling you about my book here in my workroom and it reaches all over the world - it's wonderful and scary at the same time!

LITTLE WELSH QUILTS can be ordered at -