The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Continuing on the theme of boxes and wooden things, as it is St. Andrew's today I thought I would talk about Tartanware, a type of Mauchlinware.

I have a similar collection to the one above, in fact I have just been dusting it which is always a bit of a bind, not because it was St. Andrew's Day, but because the sun was shining in on it and I was shamed into it!

Long before I lived in Scotland I loved tartan, but when I lived there, unless you were wearing your own clan tartan, it wasn't really the thing to indulge in.  That was the prerogative of tourists!  However, tourism was what Tartanware was made for.  When the railways brought tourists to the more isolated areas of the country, they of course wanted to buy souvenirs and in Mauchline in Ayrshire they manufactured small wooden items for this market.  They were decorated in different ways and some were tartan - hence Tartanware!

I found the picture above online and am not sure what "A Great Highland Fling" means - please ignore!  It was probably taken from a magazine illustration which as usual, can't differentiate one part of Scotland from another!

Happy St. Andrew's Day to all Scots wherever you are - have a wee dram for me!  

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Very special boxes - Coffor bach from Gower

As I write this, on the table beside me, is a wooden box  made for me when I was a child and given to me when I started in big school, to hold pencils, pens, compass, protractor etc.  It still holds those things and has travelled with me wherever I have lived up and down this country and abroad.  It is simple, sturdy and useful and I treasure it, but it is only valuable to me.

Boxes have served this useful purpose to millions of us through the centuries. Sometimes they were the only private space that their owner could claim.  Most are like mine, simple and sturdy and of little value, but others are elaborate, decorative and valuable and they take many forms. 

I want to share with you some special boxes that were made in Wales in the mid 18th Century.

Coffor Bach, is Welsh for "little coffer" (a coffer another name for a storage chest) and it seems to have been a tradition on the Gower peninsular in South Wales to make and decorate small coffers to celebrate a marriage, with the initials of the bride carved upon them.  What a wonderful way to commemorate a wedding?  It's both romantic and practical and would safely hold the most precious things the bride would bring to her new home and was perhaps the only place she would have had of her own.

My friends Christine and Philip Havard own this box, they can claim the "H" but as yet there is no "M".  Oh I do wish the letters were MJ or MW but even if they were, I don't think they would part with it because it is very special.  When Philip spotted it in an auction catalogue, it was listed as "Dutch, made of Walnut"  but actually is is Welsh, made of Oak!

Chris and Philip are antique dealers and their business Havard & Havard have a current exhibition entitled "Chairs, Coffers and Cockerels" and here is similar coffer which is for sale -

I just love this decoration, it is pure folk art and to the uninformed it has tulips, so it must be Dutch, or Pennsylvanian Dutch!  But tulips were a popular decoration in many countries, and why not?  They have a very distinctive form and are also easy to draw, which is an excellent reason to use them to decorate objects, be it china, wood or textiles.

When I look at the urn filled with tulips, paisleys and roses - it could also be a Welsh quilting pattern, with the very same ingredients as the pattern on this Pembrokeshire quilt in the Jen Jones collection!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Welsh Kerchief Quilts

Wearing a patterned kerchief around the neck, as a head scarf, or to keep a hat in place, is a feature of peasant costume in many countries, not just in Wales - but we used them in our quilts too.  Did other countries do this, or was it just us I wonder?

The patchwork has been dated 1890 but the backing fabric (therefore the quilting) is about 50 years later.

The two pictures below are both sides of  a wonderfully quilted one.  Not sure which one you would treat as the reverse?

Believed to have been made by Bariah Adams Lewis of Penybach,  Llanboidy or one of her associates. c.1885

Wouldn't it be lovely to have either of these glowing on your bed over this winter season?  Not that I would of course, even if I owned them, as both are  far too precious for constant use - maybe on a guest room bed?  They are part of the Jen Jones Collection and featured in her second exhibition at her Quilt Centre in Lampeter.

This poster gives you a close-up of the wonderful quilting on the second quilt

Here's another - an early 19th century one -

This is another favourite of mine from Jen's collection.  There is just something about it that appeals, probably the glorious chintzy fabrics and the fact that it's yet another lovely one made in God's own county, Pembrokeshire!

I made a my version using some of my treasured vintage Laura Ashley fabrics to try and capture the rich patterning of the original quilt. 

Because it was so much smaller, I had to cheat a bit to get the right sized kerchief.  I cut down a table napkin which had been printed in India - it so difficult to source this very bright bluey pink now and this napkin was a find.  Then, as on the original quilt, I  appliqued a rose motif at the centre. There are instructions for making this little quilt in my new e-book "Little Welsh Quilts" - see the sidebar for more details.

Somewhere in my stash, I have a Liberty of London fancy hankie together with a selection of fabrics which I would like to turn into another little quilt.  For one fleeting moment I thought that I might include a picture, then I realised that finding them would be a day's work, so sadly no picture for the moment!

Kerchief quilts are very dear to my heart as I own one which was made at the end of the 19th century by my Great Great Aunt, Elizabeth John, who lived in our home village in Pembrokeshire. The quilt had left the family's possession, but on hearing of my interest in patchwork, the family friend who then owned it, returned it to me.  It is a humble quilt, as most kerchief quilts were.  They were not intended for best but for everyday wear and because of this, few have survived.  Unless of course, as is the case of those in Jen's collection, they have stupendous quilting which puts them above average!

For my friends in the USA, an Emma Bridgewater Turkey Platter to wish them a 
Very Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, 18 November 2011

Continuing the Jerusalem theme

When I wrote my last post I intended to talk a little bit about William Blake who wrote "Jerusalem" and Amanda White, an artist whose work I admire.

William Blake was an engraver, as well as a poet and in 1800 he and his wife were lent this cottage in West Sussex.

The intention was to get away from the dirt and bustle of London and gain some peace and inspiration, as well as doing illustrating work for a patron who owned the cottage.  It didn't entirely work out as these situations rarely do. Though very pretty, the cottage was damp and after enduring it for three years, they returned to London - I'm sure that you can imagine the complaining that went on there?  However, those years of country living did make an impression on William. because afterwards he wrote of "England's green and pleasant land", in his poem "Jerusalem".

This is William's engraving of his temporary home -

and this is Amanda White's paper collage -

 I have recently discovered Amanda and I love her work.  She has done a series of Writers' Houses all of which I like because they are quirky and patchworky!

Before I did patchwork I used to make house portrait collages using different types of fabrics and had great fun embellishing them with bits of lace and braid to achieve architectural details.  Though I enjoyed the making when patchwork took over my life, fabric collage ceased but I still admire it as a craft, though it makes for an even messier workroom.

As I am rather obsessed with houses, I can't resist mentioning that a thatched cottage in West Sussex is an "Escape to the Country" dream.  Click here if you would like a tour of one on the market now in the lovely village of Amerberley.
It's an area of great beauty with delightful towns and villages with lovely and varied architecture and not far from London.  This makes the William Blake's cottage in Felpham a very desirable place to live, with a correspondingly high price tag. Let's hope that the damp problem, which so irked Mrs. Blake, has now been solved with a good damp course!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Welsh National Anthem and "Jerusalem".

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, may have unofficial anthems, but Wales is the only country in the United Kingdom to have it's own official National Anthem -  "Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau"  (Land of My Fathers), but always sung in Welsh!  Even those of us who don't speak Welsh make a bold attempt at it!

It's a jolly good anthem and to use popular parlance, you can give it plenty of welly!  Here it is on You Tube  -    

I love this rendering so much that, after selecting it, I have played it four times already.  My goodness we can sing in Wales and you can imagine how it would feel singing it in rugby stadium with thousands of others?

I'm also very fond of Catatonia singing "Every day when I wake up I thank The Lord I'm Welsh", so let's include that too!  It has some lovely views of Wales to look at while listening, which will give you a taste of our varied scenery!

I didn't intend this post to go in such a musical nor indeed a national direction, because I was going to talk about William Blake who wrote "Jerusalem".  I will save that until next time - it's won't be as boring as it sounds - honestly!

The link to all of this is "National Anthem", because though we in Wales have our own, we also share with the other countries of the UK "God Save the Queen"   Now this can sound a bit dreary and though we wouldn't of course drop it, many feel that England should have something more uplifting as an anthem, such as "Jerusalem".

Well - in for a penny in for a pound - here it is too!  Hope you are all singing along?


Friday, 11 November 2011


I first visited Sissinghurst one boiling hot day at the end of May, many years ago now and was bowled over by it.

The Tower in Summer

I absolutely detest hot weather and usually avoid going out in it, but we were on holiday so I had to make the best of it.  It says a lot for Sissinghurst that neither the heat, nor the fact that the garden was full of visitors, stopped me from dashing around it like a woman possessed.  My husband took a more leisurely approach and refused to climb the tower, but I did along with 24 others (only 25 are allowed up at a time) and the view and seeing Vita's writing room was worth negotiating the rather precarious steps.

Vita's Writing Room the Tower

The Cottage Garden

This garden is very famous and of course I had heard reports from friends and seen it on television, but absolutely nothing prepares you for the beauty of it. After one visit I couldn't wait to return and so we travelled back in the August. Now August isn't the best time in gardens here, but Sissinghurst is one of those gardens that always pleases and never looks past it's best.  There is always something to see and marvel at and pick up ideas from.

One of the lovely brick walls and a distant view of the Lutyens bench
The Lime Walk in Spring - fabulous to visit when the rest of the garden is sleeping
More of the wonderful Spring Border
View through archways to the Tower
View from the Tower looking down at the White Garden

In the White Garden
The Tower from the White Garden

Though it is a difficult journey from Wales, since that first memorable visit and my second follow up visit, I have been again and again and still love it - it is just magical.  Those of you who haven't been, put it on your list of places to visit.  I am an avid garden visitor and I can't think of a better one - what other garden has a fairytale Tudor tower in it?

Since Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson died it has been in the care of the National Trust who maintain it extremely well and I hope these pictures give you a flavour of its magic.  I didn't take these wonderful pictures - they are from a  presentation by Dave Parker - if you would like to see lots more the link is - 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Wall of little Welsh quilts?

This image is from a Mary Emmerling book on American Folk Art, which is so often seen online it is obviously an inspiration to those of us who aspire to wall of little doll quilts.  I would love a wall of little Welsh Doll Quilts!

Inspiring as this idea is, there are problems which I am sure you will share?  The first being - do I have a suitable free wall on which to hang them and the second, even more crucial, where and when do I have the time to either make or acquire a collection?   

I have other problems too - do I really want a permanent wall of quilts?  Wouldn't it be more of a seasonal thing and if so what would be the best way of hanging them? 

All I have done so far is spread out what I have on my spare bed, some are finished and others are in various stages -

These are the finished ones -
and these are in various stages, some ready for quilting and others may well not make it!
Like all females I can multi-task, but I do have difficulty when it comes to quilting projects, especially when engaged in such a demanding project as my Cottage Orne Quilt (see other blog).  Now when I look at these unfinished projects I itch to start on them! 

I have seen a few Welsh Cot Quilts, though they are quite rare, but I haven't yet come across any Welsh Doll Quilts.  This doesn't mean that they weren't made, but were most probably either worn out or thrown out.  Remember, we didn't used to rate our large bed quilts, so a doll quilt wouldn't have stood much chance of survival!

The ones I have made are based on the designs of the larger Welsh Quilts and you can find some of them in my new book "Little Welsh Quilts" (see side panel for details).

Those of you who do not have or use an iPad look away now, but it you do there is now an Ap for Adobe Reader so you will now be able to read it on your iPad.  At the moment the video content won't work on the Ap, but there will most probably be an update on this soon, as it has been requested. 

I am also doing a two day workshop on a Welsh Doll Quilt at the Jen Jones Quilt Centre next April, entitled "Little Welsh Treasure".  If you are interested details will be announced soon? 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Patchwork with Pots

Collecting Emma Bridgewater is addictive.  Over the 25 years of manufacturing, hundreds of different patterns have been made.  There has been long runs and trial runs, sample pieces and "specials" and there are some very avid collectors out there, all keeping a more than eagle eye on eBay and prepared to pay high prices for the current "must have" shape or pattern.  

Actually "avid" is a mild word to describe them, perhaps obsessive or just plain bonkers is nearer the mark.  If I told you of the recent "Mince Pie Plate" saga, you would scarcely believe it!  I think a social historian or psychologist would have a field day if they tuned in!

I follow this all on the EB Facebook page and enjoy it  immensely, but though I laugh and tut tut about the antics, the virus spreads and my Emma Bridgewater collection is growing steadily.  Here's some of it -

and here are some I would love to own but never will because they are rare and would break the budget.

Why do I like them so much?  Well it's as the title says - its "Patchwork with Pots"!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Pat Albeck - another heroine

Not "All Washed Up" - the title of her exhibition, but I'm glad to say, still going strong! 


 I have been collecting the work of Pat Albeck for decades and I am sure many of you have her wonderfully designed products too - even if you don't know it?  My house has Pat Albeck everywhere and perhaps it is just as well that she isn't as prolific as she once was.

Her designs are instantly recognisable and (my friends can vouch for this) I can recognise them at sixty paces!  The ones below are typical - Pat has done lots of cats!  Her book "A Cat's Guide to England" is a favourite of mine and it can still be bought online - Amazon uk has it for 1p plus postage!  It's just wonderful and makes a lovely present for a child or a cat lover or both!   Unfortunately, I can't find a picture of it online but I recommend it!

I have these egg cosies in my kitchen
and quite a few of these too!
 At the age of 81 she is still working and occasionally designs Emma Bridgewater products and as you can see from the first picture and the video link below, she uses them in her home!

As far as I know, there has never been an exhibition of her work but there is to be now.

The exhibition celebrates six decades of Pat Albeck's involvement in tea towel design, though of course she designs lots of other things too.  Pat has selected fifty designs from a collection of 300, and the exhibition includes a new tea towel specially commissioned for Norwich Cathedral.

Born in 1930, Pat attended Hull School of Art and continued her training as a textile designer at the Royal College of Art from which she graduated in 1953.  She married a fellow student, Peter Rice, the theatre designer and lived in London for many years until they retired to Norfolk to be nearer their son and his family.  Pat and Peter have obviously passed their talent on because their son, Matthew, who is married to Emma Bridgewater and now runs Bridgewater (Emma is taking some time out), is multi talented and a noted artist and designer.

The National Trust asked Pat to design her first tea towels in 1967 and she has designed a calendar tea towel for them every year since then. I have quite a few of them, along with trays, tea cosies, pot holders, boxes etc. etc. Of course I never dry dishes with them, they are kept for posterity!  Hope posterity appreciates this?

Sadly, because Norwich is extremely awkward to get to from Wales,  I won't be able to visit but I am delighted that her work is being recognised at last.  She really is the Queen of Tea towels, as well as other household stuff and has certainly brightened up our lives.  Long may she continue!

Here is a link to a short video about Pat -