The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Wednesday 24 August 2016

Admiring Australia!

In my last post on British patchwork traditions, I mentioned that exciting work is going on in Australia at the moment and here I must mention someone who I have never met, but whose work and quilting philosophy I find refreshingly different.  She is Marg Sampson George, an Australian quilting inspiration and I do wish her influence would spread beyond Australia and land here on our little island?

Of course the quilts inspired by Marg are made in a very different climate than that of our misty shores and this is what I love, the fact that they are traditional yet reflect the time and place where they are made!

In March last year there was an exhibition of her and her students quilts at Quilts in the Barn. The work is joyous and innovative and draws heavily on British traditions - Averil Colby's book is apparently Marg's favourite!  However, no one could confuse these quilts with that of 19th century England.  They are colourful, zany and altogether magical and no two pieces are remotely similar! 

The quilts Marg's students make are guided by their personal choices of fabric and placement and are very different to an enormous amount of quilts all based on the same design made with mostly reproduction fabric. No one should decry the effort and workmanship that goes in to the making of these reproductions and of course every quilter adds something of herself to the mix, but it is such a change to see work that is so individual yet not "modern" as in art based!

Just as an example, the picture below is of an old English quilt which has been very much copied and/or adapted and the majority of those made stick very closely in colour and pattern of the original -  

but this is how Marg's turned out -

How wonderful is this?

Marg has a new book out which I would heartily recommend and this coming from one who now rarely buys a quilting book.  Here is the link

Updating tradition is something dear to my heart, but not so that it is unrecognisable?  This has always been my aim when making and designing both embroidery and quilting projects and I hope that my designs draw on our rich British tradition of textiles, but by using fabrics of our time, I am pin pointing where and when they were made for the future!  I know that it is increasingly difficult to buy fabric that does this, but it is possible and this should be actively encouraged and included in any lesson or course on the craft.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? Well reproduction fabrics are confusing, they can be produced many times and give no clue where in the world they were made or where they are used - it could be Australia, UK,  Holland or North America, so if you use them, no matter how skillfully, no one will be able to tell where they were made or by whom?

Then they are the colours!  Fabrics now are made for the international market and look quite different depending on the light of that country.  In the UK, colours that look wonderful in Australia, can look garish here? 

We know of course that commercialism has taken over and now patchwork and quilting is big business.  There is no turning back from this, but it has changed my beloved craft immeasurably.  The upside is that many more people participate but there are so many downsides that I cannot begin to list them.

Brexit is very much on our minds here in this country at the moment and no doubt will be the reason for all sort of excuses for economies and cut backs!  It will certainly make imported fabric and all the gadgets that are now deemed essential for making more expensive?  So perhaps this would be a good time to stop buying new and use what we have and so return to the ethos of the craft! After all many of us are initially attracted to it because we enjoy the thought of using up and re-cycling, maybe we should stop buying so much and start using up?  Struggling with not quite enough fabric to finish a certain area, very often forces us to make innovative decisions and that can lead to much more interesting and less co-ordinated quilts being produced.

It's a thought?

Monday 18 July 2016

British Traditions

British traditions and what we stand for are very much in our minds here in the UK at the moment, so perhaps this is a good time to think aloud about the traditions of patchwork and quilting in this country?

I am a traditional quilter, though I don't belong to the official group within the Quilters' Guild of the British Isles, because when I saw a display of their work at the Festival of Quilts what struck me then was though it certainly was traditional, it was predominantly American block patchwork traditional and reproduction fabrics were used extensively! You may well think that there is nothing wrong with that, as most of us start making blocks, but I was looking for something that celebrated the traditions of patchwork of this country, not that of the USA, which I feel has quite enough coverage already!

Because of our history of trading with the Far East and then our industrialisation of fabric manufacturing, we were a great and original influence in the world of patchwork and quilting.  Our fabrics and traditions of working were carried to the New World and developed there, only to return here as an American invention.  American Block patterns are great, they are practical, they were developed for ease of working in difficult circumstances, they are addictive and they have names, which is a brilliant marketing device in itself!  However, block patterns were used in quilts and coverlets made in this country many decades before they appeared in America.  You have only to study the Sundial Coverlet in the collection of the V&A, dated 1797, to see this?

The above picture is of a section of the Sundial Coverlet and  below are some images I have saved for reference.  I apologise for their quality, but think that they are of interest and as inspiration for updating the tradition?  The first two are quilts held by the National Trust and the others are from the Internet.  All display interesting formats and old techniques!

We in Britain of course are surrounded by so much history that we take it for granted - that is a fact which we all know and tend to dismiss.  We used to be the centre of an empire and so have been exposed to influences from all over the world.  We have excellent higher education art and design courses which encourage students to seek new and different ways of doing things and draw inspiration from world wide sources?  Perhaps these are some of the reasons why we neglect our own traditions or consider them not exciting enough?

Then of course there is the problem with books!  Unless traditions are recorded and promoted they die and though we have a very active publishing industry, it is highly commercial and needs to appeal worldwide and in patchwork and quilting terms, that means North America!  Anything British is considered too niche, so authors are encouraged to embrace many different design sources to appeal to the widest market.  Publishers are not interested in promoting their own country's traditions, that isn't considered commercial and they are probably right - they do actually sell more by widening the net, so British traditions are practically ignored, or if some do creep in they tend to fairly simple because again, books tend to be aimed at beginners, because that's the largest market and is also the easiest to cater for!

Now through the Internet it is very easy to follow trends all over the world and I am greatly encouraged to see that other countries, Australia being a prime example, are leading the way in exploring our British traditions.  It is wonderful to see how they are using, for example, English paper piecing, something I really thought had died a death and wasn't mourned by me, and producing the most exciting work in fabrics and colours that would blow the mind of Averil Colby, on whose books they seem to draw much inspiration.
I just wish there was similar original work being carried out here?  Perhaps there is and I am missing it?

Friday 15 July 2016

Mary Lloyd - the quilting

As promised in my last post, this one is going into a bit more detail re the quilting methods and motifs.  I am sorry it has taken so long and do hope you haven't forgotten this wonderful quilt.

The quilt is large and almost square, measuring 261 x 264 cms. and as the quilting echoes the patchwork in the middle of the quilt, we who studied it, think that it would have been quilted on the patchwork side rather than on the reverse.

I have manipulated the original website image at the expense of the colour, in an attempt to show the quilting pattern more clearly and have heightened the contrast in the images I took myself to show some of the detailed quilted motifs.

In the main decorative part of the quilt which contains the central panel, surrounded by the leaves, bows and cornered by the four corner baskets, a large double circle filled with spirals is the main feature.  Inside this circle are leaves and berries, with the appliqued leaves outlined quilted, as are the border of triangles surrounding the central medallion.

 This very typical curved leave is quilted over the centre medallion -

 These are the outline leaves and filling motifs surrounding the leaves -

There is quite an area of cross hatching which isn't always present on earlier Welsh quilts, however I am wary of saying this as we really haven't that many to study to be definitive.

I am adding these other images in the hope that those of you who study Welsh quilting will gain inspiration from them.  I apologise for the quality of some, but I think they might be useful as you are still able to study the motifs.

You will see how intensive the quilting is, but I think that at the beginning there was simple plan and once the main areas were defined those were then filled in and surrounded by subsidiary motifs.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Visting Mary Lloyd

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of examining this wonderful Welsh quilt which is in the collection of the Welsh National History Museum at St. Fagans near Cardiff.  It isn't on display so I viewed it in the storage area and here I must thank Elen Philips, the curator in charge of textiles there, for all her help and enthusiasm when we quilters get into the investigation groove.

I don't really know where to start as I took lots of pictures of this very large bed quilt, both of the top, which is a mixture of broderie perse applique and pieced patchwork and the reverse of the quilt which is very densely quilted with very typical Welsh patterning.  So I will divide this post into two parts and talk again about the quilting and hopefully some of the history once I have had a chance to study the pictures more carefully!

The quilt is in good condition, but is water stained in the central area which is a shame.  Otherwise the fabrics, which are mainly chintz are still vibrant, many still holding their glaze!  The broderie perse applique is very neat, but not invisible and turned under and not attached with herringbone stitch, which was the other way with this technique in the early part of the 19th century!

In this last picture the basket is a little out of focus but I have included it as you can see some of the wonderful Welsh patterning about which I will talk again.

I do hope that all you ladies who are working hard at the Rowdy Flat Library Quilt and Susan Smith its designer, who was inspired by our Welsh Mary Lloyd quilt to create it, will find these pictures interesting! 

Monday 11 April 2016

What have I been doing?

It's been a long time and though I do drop in and look at blogs now and again, I seem to have no urge to write!  Blame it on Facebook and Instagram, as they seem to have completely taken over my online life.

As you all know, though patchwork and quilting will always be my first love, I have become rather obsessed with collecting Emma Bridgewater spongeware and belong to several groups on Facebook that discuss, swop and sell her products.  I also go on trips to the factory in Stoke, which remind me of the buzz I used to get going on quilting and embroidery trips, which now are very much a thing of the past for me! 

So what have I been doing?   Where to start?  Well I have joined Instagram and really love it.  I have always enjoyed taking the pictures for this blog but now I seem to be doing it all the time and getting much more immediate feedback?  One of the downsides of blogging is that you get so few comments and as we bloggers thrive on feedback after a while one gets the feeling that no one is listening.  I know this isn't the case and that many people have difficulty either expressing themselves or actually getting through the technical difficulties, but lack of comments is definitely a downer for me.  With FB and IG this is not a problem, there is plenty of inter action!

I have been working on some projects, mostly using Liberty fabric.  Liberty has always been a great favourite of mine and now through Instagram (IG) I have discovered that there are groups all over the world absolutely obsessed with it and also that it is manufactured in different colours for Japan and Australia!  I had no idea of this?  Many years ago I was going to do a quilting book with Liberty, but after working at it quite intensively, the publishers pulled out because they didn't think the fabric would be available worldwide.  How wrong they were?

I am in the middle of quite a few things! In fact I'm feeling rather frustrated because I have so many ideas but not enough time to actually sew them, especially as everything is being done by hand.  Many are using my current favourite technique of broiderie perse, but on a smaller scale!

Here I have been cutting out some of the flowers from Liberty Tana Lawn and putting them together to form a bouquet -

A couple of finished projects - these are two small quilts.

Here's the bouquet in the first picture set within a little quilt -

and another in progress -

Here is another cut out and ready to go -

Some little houses and gardens which will be made into a quilt -

As well as the above, I have been quilting my Cottage Orne quilt, so though not posting here, I am not rusting away!

Here is the link to my Instagram pictures as I can't seem to find an official link button for this blog!

Friday 21 August 2015

Here I am again!

Well it's been quite a time since I last posted, so what have I been up to?  Not much sewing that's for sure!  I suppose I'm having a bit of a creative block?  It's never happened to me before and I am quite worried about it.  Being creative in one way or another has been a great comfort over the years and has sustained me through difficult times.  I have had short periods, usually after a bereavement, when my creative juices have been absent but they always come back, however, at the moment they are eluding me.

I am on Facebook regularly, but so many of you say that you don't do Facebook, that I switched my page from public to just for friends.  I have also just joined Instagram and find that good fun too and am enjoying taking pictures with my iPhone and posting them!  So I suppose I'm being a creative albeit in a different way?

Slowly, very slowly, I have been working on this little quilt which is using many of the patterns I drafted for my Cottage Orne quilt, which I am also struggling to quilt - it's not going well at all and I will post some pictures on its own blog as soon as I can.

I attached a much larger border because I couldn't make up my mind how wide it should be - it will be considerably narrower when finished.

If you follow my Cottage Orne Blog you will see that I have changed the centre of the design.  The house and border I made originally, just didn't look right, so I used this broderie perse panel instead.  Sometimes even the best laid plans simply don't work out and it was fortunate that I had this unfinished piece looking for a border?

I've named the quilt "Miss Austen's House",  as in my imagination it is just the sort of place in which Jane would have lived had she not died comparatively young?  For after the great success of her novels,  she would surely have had enough money to leave Chawton Cottage and build a house of her own surrounded by a lovely garden and of course she would have had cats?

Sunday 1 March 2015

St David's Day Greetings

St. David's Day!

It is a beautiful day here in Wales, sunny but with rather a cool breeze.  The earth is responding and I have snowdrops, crocus and the tiny Tête-á-Tête daffodils blooming in my garden and my Purple Prunus tree is in bud and read to pop!  It's a little bit late this year but when it does come it delights not only me but my neighbours too!  As it is in front of my bedroom window, for a couple of weeks I can lie in bed and look out into a mass of pale pink blossom!

I have just nipped outside to take this picture but didn't stay long as it hasn't warmed up yet!

Some of you have noticed that I having been posting for a while, all I can say is that I have just not been in the mood!  Also I was beginning to get dispirited by the lack of response! I know by my stats that lots read this blog, but so very few people leave comments, so I decided to do more on my Facebook page.  I will continue to write here and on my other blogs from time to time, but if you want to keep up with me I am on Facebook.  Do come over and take a look!

I am working on a link to my page but not having much luck so far but will keep trying!