The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Saturday, 29 January 2011

Welsh Dressers - but they needn't be Welsh!

I do believe the Jesuits were on to something when they said - "Give me the child for seven years and I will give you the man", because I realise now that my tastes and values were formed when I was very young.

I was living in a village in Pembrokeshire with my extended family nearby and being exposed to quilts, samplers, Scotch Plaid (as we in our ignorance called it then) and Paisley shawls and dressers filled with Staffordshire figures and jugs. It only lasted five years and maybe there is an element of rose tinted spectacles at work, but I am so grateful  for those happy years.

Now we come to the subject of this post - dressers and not necessarily Welsh ones as I don't really mind what nationality they are.  Every cottage in the village seemed to have one because this was pre fitted kitchen times. I can still see them - my Great Aunt had one with twenty six jugs hanging on it, which may explain my love of jugs? 

To own a large and laden dresser has always been an ambition and I enjoy studying pictures of other peoples for inspiration. Look at this one which is filled wonderful EB pieces-

I just love the fact that though it is packed with beautiful and desirable objects, it's obviously a used and necessary part of the home, just as dressers should be.  I admire it greatly and thank the owner for allowing me to use her picture.

Art installations are the thing nowadays, but Tracy Emin can have her beds (there was one in the V&A Quilts Exhibition last year) I think that dressers are really an art form too and a useful one at that!  Just look at this one-

which belonged to the late Roger Banks-Pye who was the Design Director of Colefax and Fowler. He was known for his love of blue and white and boy has he gone to town here!  Now you must admit this is a work of art?

I do love blue and white china but I wouldn't restrict myself to just that, but I do think that a dresser should have open shelves. Glazed cupboards may be more practical,  but how can you truly appreciate each object behind glass?  I also think that a dresser needs to be packed with a eclectic mixture, not tastefully arranged with matching sets. Of course this doesn't mean that a lot of thought hasn't gone into the placing of things, which is  why I think it is an art form.

Maybe I am on to something here - move over Tracy!

For those of you who have no idea of who EB is, this is the link to her site -

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Getting down to "Little Welsh Quilts"

 All the projects for this book have been done for months and most of the instructions have been written but now we are at the stage of pulling things together for publication.

Writing instructions is not my favourite task, as putting myself in the place of a beginner is difficult, but it is a discipline that one has to face up. Thankfully most of the little quilts in the book are simply constructed and depend on choice of fabric and quilting to add the je ne sais quoi!

One day last week (my editor, publisher and friend) came up from Devon and we got down to business.  Vivienne wanted more detail - tell how you actually decide what to quilt and where - how you place and construct your patterns - how you build up motifs and their surroundings ..... the list goes on!

 So here I am in my office with this pile of quilts in front of me, cudgelling my brain, trying to think myself back in time!

The book is scheduled for general  publication in September but we hope to have it ready and copies available for The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this August.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Averil Colby - (1900 -1983)

Strange things happen!  One morning  last week I was vaguely thinking that I would write something about Averil Colby because I own some little bits of her patchwork and thought that you might be interested in seeing them.  When the post came later in the morning there was an invitation from The Quilters' Guild to attend the Private View of  "The Averil Colby Legacy" at the Quilt Museum on 5th February next.  Quite a coincidence as I had no idea that it was scheduled - obviously did not read my Guild magazine thoroughly enough!

This is a close-up of the picture on the press release of some of Miss Colby's work which the Quilters' Guild have given me permission to use -

Here in the UK Averil Colby was probably the most influential patchworker of her time.  She was Chairman of the Handicraft Committee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (to give it it's full title but it's usually known just as the W.I.) and was instrumental in organizing courses, classes, and exhibitions of handicrafts that helped keep the flame of patchwork alive through the years when it wasn't at all fashionable here. In 1980 she was recognised in the States and was the first person from the UK to be inducted into The Quilters' Hall of Fame.

Gardener, patchworker, designer and author, this formidable lady was particularly known for ‘foraging’ fabrics and her use of the traditional English hexagon shape and she used to say that her fabric collection spanned 200 years. She did not believe in using a sewing machine and thought patchwork was an excellent way of teaching plain sewing.  Can you imagine what she would think of how things have developed and changed?  What would she think of the rotary cutter?

Her books are well worth reading and I refer to them very often as they are really the only ones that deal with historical British patchwork. Not quilting, because Dorothy Osler and Mavis Fitzrandolph did wonderful books on that -

When she died, some of the items from her workroom were left to The Quilters’ Guild and I remember being present at a Regional Reps. meeting at Margaret Petit's house in Pewsey and hearing how two Guild members ( I think one was Jean Amsden) had visited Averil Colby's house in Somerset and had been quite overwhelmed by the amount of fabric and unfinished work from which they had to choose. They brought quite a selection to the meeting and though the larger pieces were kept for the Guild Collection, we Regional Reps. were invited to take some bits as a keepsake.  These are mine -

If you click the picture and zoom in you will see that some pieces are very tiny indeed and the fabric (you will see a little roll of it in the foreground of the picture) is like paper, being very thin and stiff.

Just afterwards I was attending an Embroiderers' Guild Regional Day where some ladies were selling odds and ends and I bought these two pieces of fabric which are similar  - 

I don't think the sellers realised what they were and if I hadn't had my Averil Colby bits, I wouldn't have either.  I wasn't sure of their age then, now I think they are pre 1800, but this has not been confirmed. Eventually they will all go to the Guild but I will enjoy owning them for a bit longer I hope?

A selection of the Averil Colby fabric samples will be included in the exhibition being staged in the Bailey Gallery. Do go and see it if you can - we all need a treat in February.

For more information,  this is the link

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Jen's "Welsh" Palampore

Of course you all know what a Palampore is?

Well in case you don't, according to Wikipedia - it's a type of hand-painted and mordant-dyed bed cover that was made in India for the export market during the eighteenth century and very early nineteenth century. Only the wealthiest classes could afford to buy one; therefore, the few examples that have survived are often quite valuable today. Palampore were primarily exported to Europe and to Dutch colonists in Indonesia and what was then called Ceylon.

When Jen told me that she had one in her collection, but it had never been shown because it is very large
( 322 x 225 cms.) so difficult to display, I couldn't wait to see it!

Fortunately I didn't have to wait too long because it was there in all it's glory at the Opening of the Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre in 2009 and again last year.  Follow the link below to see the BBC coverage of the preparations for the opening -
You will see too that the Gallery at the Centre is extremely lofty so the largest of quilts can be accommodated.

It's rare enough to see an actual Palampore (I had only ever seen pictures in books) but one that is covered with the most wonderful Welsh quilting is a treat indeed -

The quilt comes from the Court Estate in the Gwaun Valley in North Pembrokeshire and was made in 1810 for an important Welsh family, the Mortimers, who had descended from the Marcher Lords who defended the Welsh Border for the King in Medieval times.  The last member of that family Mrs. Mary Lettice Mortimer Ehlers, then living in Bristol wanted it returned to Wales and it was sold to Jen by her daughter.  So it is now back almost on home territory!

The Tree of Life pattern is printed on cotton from the Coromandel Coast of India and is wonderfully vibrant as the quilt has obviously never been used.  It is filled with lambswool and is covered with sumptuous Welsh quilting patterns including hearts.  This may indicate that it is a marriage quilt, though the heart motif became so widely used on Welsh quilts this couldn't always have been true.  However, as this quilt is early and was made for a notable family it might well have been the case. The quilter was most probably a professional, as ladies of status did not do (hand) quilting - a bit like today really!

Thank you Jen for allowing me to blog about this truly special quilt and for Hazel for sending me information and pictures.

Friday, 14 January 2011

A Jane Austen afternoon with quilting

After the success of ordering the book I had been searching for (in my last post), I decided to settle down and watch my favourite Jane Austen DVD and do some quilting on my Charles and Di Royal Wedding Quilt.  It has been a dark rainy week here so one doesn't feel so guilty settling down to something enjoyable after lunch.

I can happily watch every version of Jane Austen but my favourite is "Persuasion" - the 1995 BBC version with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds.  There was a great deal of hype about the more recent version and though Rupert Penry-Jones is certainly worth gazing at, perhaps he is a bit too handsome to be Captain Wentworth and I certainly didn't like Sally Hawkins as Ann Elliot.  Amanda Root's performance was wonderfully sensitive and my heart was sore for her and her situation. I am always moved watching it and Ciaran Hinds isn't bad either!

If you haven't seen it do take a look.  Likewise the 1980 version of "Pride and Prejudice" with Elizabeth Garvie as Eliazbeth Bennet. The later version with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth was again dreadfully hyped up and I thought them both miscast, but of course I know that this is a minority opinion!

I would love to know what you think and who is your favourite character?

I have visited Chawton Cottage where Jane lived many times but I have never seen it like this -

and as this is a quilting blog I can't not show you the quilt there -

though I can't think that there are many patchworkers out there than haven't heard about it?

In the mail today was the January edition of Patchwork and Quilting Magazine and I couldn't think why, but on flicking through it found that this blog has been named "Blog of the Month".  Thank you P&Q Magazine - that was unexpected and a lovely surprise!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Can anyone help me?

I love doing small blocks and one of my favourite books is Sampler Supreme by Catherine H. Anthony.  I have worked quite a few of the complicated little 6 inch blocks and it has been a valuable learning experience giving me confidence to tackle even smaller blocks.

Catherine wrote a follow-up book which I also bought but it has mysteriously disappeared from my quilting library. You know how this happens from time to time and then it pops up again and you begin to wonder if the "the borrowers" have been at work?  I have searched high and low for it and am beginning to wonder if I dreamt it and it doesn't help that I can't remember the title.

When I Google, all that comes up is the original "Sampler Supreme" and "Decorative 6" Quilt Blocks" which seems to be a reprint by Dover of Sampler Supreme, as I have checked through its content page and it is the same.

Can anyone out there help me?  Does anyone remember a follow-up book and better still know where I can obtain a copy?

However Google did inform me that Catherine H. Anthony died last March and the following link gives details -  I can remember being amazed that she listed whitewater canoeing as one of her hobbies.  This has always stuck in my mind as it was totally alien to me in the 80s when I bought the book - still is!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Follow up on The American Museum at Claverton Manor

Thank you for your comments on my last post. I am sorry that you were disappointed Erica,  perhaps we had built it up too much? I have a soft spot for Claverton because in many ways it changed my life and would still  recommend it because it has interesting things to see in a wonderful setting. 

I agree that anyone visiting who has been involved in the quilting world for a while, mightn't be bowled over by the permanent collection of quilts on view in the main building. But it is a varied one and a good introduction to the craft. Its great advantage is that it is permanent and the way the quilts are displayed means that they can be examined at close quarters.  I only wish other museums would take note.

The annual quilt exhibitions which I referred to were held in the Exhibition Gallery next to the main building.  In the past there were some great shows, Kaffe Fassett one year and the last and best in my opinion, was in 2004 when Jen Jones brought quilts from her collection which were hung alongside comparable American quilts (see poster above which I can't resist showing).  That event was the last for a while as a new Director had been appointed who thought that exhibitions other than quilts should be featured.  Well it is a point of view! 

I did visit the following year and walking into the Exhibition Gallery was a strange experience as it was filled, I think with maps, or it might have been posters, obviously it didn't make much of an impression on me!  The gallery was deserted and the ladies in its shop, which was brimming with quilt books and other quilt related items, were looking rather superfluous and said that they were missing the coaches full of quilters who usually filled the gallery with their enthusiasm and buying power. 

As I said I didn't get a reply to my letter about the dropping of the quilt shows, but I am sure that stronger influences than mine have done their best.  Perhaps with some success, because last year the Museum did mount a Quilt Exhibition and published a new book on their quilts (see above).  I think this was done attract visitors who would be going to the V&A Quilt Exhibition, though I was rather disappointed with it as some of my favourite quilts featured in the book were not on show.

Who knows they may have a change of policy yet?  Not this year, however, because that is to be on Marilyn Monroe! 

Friday, 7 January 2011

The American Museum at Claverton Manor

The American Museum at Claverton Manor in Bath is 50 years old this year and is celebrating the event by bringing some of their collection of quilts to Christies in London.
This will of course attract a wide audience, especially at this time of year when the Musuem is closed.  However, anyone interested should later make the journey to Claverton on the outskirts of Bath, just 100 miles down the M4 later in the year, otherwise they are missing a treat.

I credit my visits to Claverton Manor as the beginning of my patchwork and quilting journey.  Before the early 70s, it was difficult to find anything written about patchwork and quilting and only the WI (Women's Institute) had kept the flag flying.  However they only seemed to do pieced hexagons over papers and I had found that boring and had given up.  Just one visit to Claverton changed my perception and I realised that there was diversity in the craft and I have never looked back.

Though the permanent collection of quilts was the main attraction, the Manor itself and its grounds are delightful giving us a taste of  American history in room settings and tableaux form.  There are buildings in the grounds filled with folk art and in recent years an exhibition gallery has been built in which there used to be an annual exhibition of quilts.

Sadly this policy has changed and now there are exhibitions of other artifacts.  This surely must have meant a drop in their visitor numbers, because I for one rarely visit now.  Quilts bring in the punters and I do long for a change of policy!  Bring back the annual quilt exhibition I say! I have written to the museum to this effect but had no reply!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

William Morris and Kelmscott

I see that Moda are producing a new fabric range based on the designs of William Morris.  This started me thinking about the great man and his original, rather wonderful designs. I realise that I am rather tired of seeing "Morris inspired" fabric as there has been so much of it produced in the last twenty or so years that, sadly, it has become a bit of a cliche, here in the UK at least. 

I also get irritated that somewhere along the line of manufacturing for patchwork, the scale of the patterning is reduced, presumably to make the designs more marketable, whereas the originals were wonderful because of their boldness. Though it may be that they have realised that the very distinctive style and scale of the original Morris's patterns  make them difficult to combine with other fabrics?

That said I am sure, just because I'm not keen, that they won't be popular - this is just my opinion and I'm usually off beam!  After all, I dislike batik fabric but it has been enormously popular for many years now!

Many years ago, before William Morris prints had their great resurgence in popularity,  I bought a remnant of curtaining in the Strawberry Thief pattern at Liberty's.  I hadn't seen anything like it before and thought I would make a couple of cushions.  They are still unfinished as I really don't need more cushions in this house. The one shown above is the simplest and worked best as I combined it mainly with Laura Ashley fabrics which I find go with most things.

I still like this particular fabric because its scale is close to the original and I was sad to see a subsequent Liberty Lawn pattern where it was miniaturised and I think, lost its integrity.

If you want to see William Morris patterns in their perfect setting I recommend a visit to Kelmscott which was his country house in Oxfordshire.

It is a magical place that I never tire of visiting and everyone I know who has been there has fallen under its spell.

On one of my visits a guide told me the of story of a Japanese gentleman.  He had flown in from Japan one morning, taken a taxi from Heathrow to Kelmscott, did a tour of the house and garden, the taxi then took him back to the airport and he flew back to Japan!  Now that's what you call a Morris fan?