The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Friday, 28 October 2011

Darowen again

About three years ago I did some research on the Darowen patchwork coverlet which is in the collection at St. Fagan's and wrote a piece on it which was published in Winter 2009 edition of "The Quilter".

It has always been my intention to visit the village and particularly the Church which is portrayed on the coverlet.  Well last Friday I made it!

I rarely drive into the heart of Wales (more fool me because it is so beautiful) and though Darowen is just a few miles off the main A470 North/South Wales trunk road, it is a good 3 hour drive. Sonia and I were travelling to the BQSG Symposium at Gregynog and though Darowen was a bit further north, we decided that it was do-able. We weren't disappointed as when you turn at the small white signpost saying "Darowen", the narrow road climbs into another world of wonderfully varied country with beautiful vistas on every side which can't have changed much since the patchwork was made.

Sonia was with me when we first viewed the coverlet at the museum and shares my feeling for it, so we both found being in Darowen, seeing the Vicarage and visiting the Church quite an emotional experience.  We walked the same lane from the church to the vicarage as the sisters who made the patchwork must have done so long ago - it was strange doing this!.  

I now feel enthused to do more research.  There is one obstacle, however, I don't speak Welsh and much of the information is in Welsh.   Well I'm not going to let put me off, I will just have to ask for help from my Welsh speaking friends.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Visting the Land of Counterpane

I had the most wonderful weekend at the British Quilt Study Group held at Gregynog in Mid Wales which I will tell you more about in future posts. 

The road climbing out of Newtown to this special place turned and twisted and all around were wonderful views.  I was exclaiming that it was a story book landscape and Sonia, who was  driving, so could only have quick glimpses, said that it was "The Land of Counterpane".  What appropriate place for a meeting of those of us interested in old quilts?

Counterpane is a rather old fashioned English word which isn't used now so I looked it up - maybe we should start using it again?   Counterpane -decorative cover for a bed, bedcover, bed covering, bedspread.    

I had also forgotten this children's poem by Robert Louis Stevenson even if Sonia hadn't and I looked it up to share with you.  However, the pleasant land in the poem was more magical in Mid Wales for after all Gregyonog is said to have been the home of Caradoc, one of the Knights of the Round Table.

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Visual Storytelling

Winter School in Visual Storytelling - this is the title for a selection of short craft courses at West Dean College, in West Sussex.  Janet Bolton is the tutor for the one on textiles and I'm sure you are aware of her very distinctive style?

The title "Visual Storytelling" certainly sparks my imagination, especially as the details came to me on the day that I was revisiting my research on the Darowen Coverlet, which is a visual story if ever there was one. I only wish I had more time to unravel it!

I can think of quite a few storytelling quilts, in fact they would make lots to write about on this blog!  Ed Larson immediately springs to mind.  I remember the quilts he used to design in the 80s which were featured in Quilters' Newsletter Magazine. I can't find any pictures of these, but this is a more recent one and another made at a class he took - I think it is by Alex Anderson -

There is a great deal of potential for story telling in quilts.  Some are easy to understand, as are the two above, but some are more subtle and need an explanation.  Food for thought?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Red Room

As you know red is a favourite colour of mine and when I saw this picture browsing the net I couldn't resist sharing it with you -

It's such an attractive image and there are lots of things I like - the toile wallpaper, the oval framed pictures and the striped carpet and of course the red and white quilts as curtains - what luxury!  However, some things are a little fussy for me - I don't think I would choose the dressing table or the swan bed and that lamp - terrible dust collectors in a bedroom.  I prefer a more simple Scandinavian or New England way with furniture, but what a sumptuous look?

Returning briefly to my last post, the cottage in Stow on the Wold,  here is the link where you can have a virtual tour -

I shall be travelling to Mid Wales this weekend to attend the British Quilt Study Group annual gathering and also hope to visit Darowen.   I have wanted to do this ever since I did some research on the Richard sisters who made the coverlet which is now at St. Fagans (see earlier post).  I will tell you all about both soon!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Cotswold idyll

I have been on a short holiday in the Cotswolds, staying in a favourite cottage in Stow on the Wold.  It is right in the centre of the village, tucked away behind the main street and approached by one of the medieval sheep runs - narrow alleys used for counting the sheep brought to the wool markets in years gone by.

I like staying in the centre of a village especially at this time of year as evenings darken.  It's so much cosier than being out in the middle of nowhere!  Also, it's handy for a lazy cook as Stow has lots of places to eat and good take-aways!

One of the places we visited was Great Tew, an estate village in Oxfordshire -

I remember visiting it in the 70s when it was almost derelict and I wasn't the only one to be concerned - apparently Sir Nikolaus Pevsner also condemned their deterioration as -
one of the most depressing sights in the whole county. Terraces of cottages lie derelict and will soon be beyond hope of restoration. A scheme of gradual rehabilitation is said to be in progress, but nothing has been done meanwhile to prevent the decay of unused cottages, some of which are completely ruinous and will need to be entirely rebuilt.
I am pleased to say that things have been taken in hand by the present owners of the estate and the village appears to be thriving, with a village shop, good pub and a much extended village school.  However, we couldn't find the Church which was odd?  It was there somewhere, because John Sergeant's (well known to us in the UK) father was Vicar there and John was brought up in the village and attended the school.  We scanned the horizon but couldn't see any sign of it!

I took some pictures of the delightful thatch cottages because they are extremely picturesque,  In fact, I  have a birthday card somewhere with an image of the first cottage drawn by one of my favourite artists, Richard Partis, so it was intriguing to see it in real life!

 So pretty!  I wonder what they are like to live in?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Heather Clarke

I have just had my loft insulated in preparation for winter and because I have just received a large gas bill!   What has that got to do with the price of fish I hear you ask?  Well I had to take down pictures that were a bit too near the loft ladder and I looked at them anew!

The first one could be of Wilfred - without the bell of course!  Those who know him know that Wilfred wearing a bell would be out of the question!  Long story - I have nothing against cats wearing bells, but Wilfred no - it would freak him out!

The second picture is in a box frame with glass, so please forgive the reflection, it was the best I could do.  The bed is made of balsa wood, the quilt mainly Laura Ashley squares, the curtains Liberty Lawn, the sampler cross stitched and the carpets needlepointed.  I wish I could say they were my designs but I made them many years ago before I realised that I could make up my own.

When I first married I used to buy Good Housekeeping magazine, not because I had high aims in housekeeping, but  mainly because it  featured things to make designed by Heather Clarke.  She was very versatile indeed and I liked all the things she designed, but these are the only two things that I can remember making, my memory is rather hazy on the rest.

Where is she now I wonder?  There's nothing on Google that rings bells!  Does anyone else remember her? 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Five Star Quilt made in Aberdare

I have so many favourite quilts that I want to share with you and can't believe that I haven't shown you this one before now!  If you are into Welsh quilts you will probably recognize it?

It was made by Sarah Lewis of Aberdare around 1875 and is one of two by this quilter in the Jen Jones Collection.  If you zoom in you will be able to see the wonderfully bold quilting on wool.

Aberdare was a major coal mining town situated at the head of the Cynon Valley, one of the major coal mining valleys in the South Wales coal field.  Indeed until quite recently this valley was known as the Aberdare Valley but now is named after the river Cynon which flows through it and joins the more famous river Taff at Abercynon.

The whole valley was extremely productive in the 19th and 20th century, but now all coal mining has gone along with its quilting tradition and the town of Aberdare has a very different aspect.  However, the upside is that it is now a cleaner and more pleasant place to live and only a few miles away from the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Jen kindly allowed Clare and I to include this stunning quilt in our exhibit of Welsh quilts at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham in 2006, so I was able to gaze at it throughout the 5 days of the Festival.  It was chosen because of its bold and striking appearance as we wanted to attract people to our exhibit.  We couldn't have chosen a better quilt!

I understand that some of you have had difficulty leaving a comment and reading other blogs it seems that  changing to " comment box" mode helps!  Let's hope so,  as I love having comments just so that I know you are reading this!

May I wish all in Canada a Happy Thanksgiving and all in the USA a Happy Columbus Day.  I was in Vermont on that day three years ago and it was simply wonderful!       

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Another talk and Serendipity

Well after saying that I didn't enjoy giving talks anymore, here I go again with the spare bed covered in stuff!

Why?  My friend Jackie, who is the Regional Co-ordinator for Region 12 of the Guild, asked me to speak at the Regional Day in Port Talbot this Saturday.  I know that job - a few decades ago I was doing it and I know the problems, so I agreed!  No more I say - unless I get an offer I can't refuse!

Sometime serendipity comes into play when fabric or quilts are thrown together.  This time a quilt top that is on the back burner because I can't decide on a border, found itself thrown on a finished quilt -

I liked the combination!  Must try and remember and look out that blue fabric - it's an old Laura Ashley dress fabric remnant and I think I have lots!  Finding it though - that's another matter!