Saturday, 8 May 2010

A Preoccupation with Patchwork!

My first attempt at patchwork was a bed cover which I made to take to university. Mum had always made most of our clothes and there were plenty of scraps which we had used to make dolls clothes etc when we were tiny, and I decided patchwork would be the thing.  I think it had eight main panels in two columns of four and a simple border in between. I adapted a sort of flower basket pattern mainly using triangles - it was all paper- pieced, the only method I knew of at the time. There was no time to make the sides so I put on a deep frill out of some sort of nylon-type fabric in navy blue. The top was backed but not quilted. It looked quite effective in my study bedroom. (I'm sure its tucked away in the deep recesses of the airing cupboard still).

There were problems. It was hand-sewn, but I was in a hurry. It could have been neater, and would then have been more durable. My piecing was not very accurate. I didn't have a good understanding of the effect of different prints and the design was not very 'balanced'. The frill was a good idea though. It framed the top, hung to the floor - hiding anything which may have been lurking beneath the bed, did not crease and was very light and compact - it is a long train journey from North Wales to Durham! I sometimes wish I could re-think my use of so many of the fabrics which are associated with my child-hood.

The next quilt which lodged in my memory, was in a museum in Guildford, where I lived for a time. It was also pieced on a paper background. The pieces were about one inch square and were formed from half bus tickets. I later found that leaving the paper in the back of the folded shapes is typical of the time, and helps to date the quilt. Again this was pieced and backed but not quilted, and was almost certainly, a form of recycling. I was inspired to do a little more and I have a couple of cushion covers which I made about then. I had my first flat and mum was making noises about 'all my stuff' still in their house. So all my hoarded scraps of fabric moved in with me. Bliss!! I started making a quilt based on hexagons. Is it called 'Granny's flower garden'? It was never finished and in this case I really do wish I had not been so hasty in my use of precious fabrics. I was still piecing over paper, still unaware of any other techniques, and still not quilting my finished pieces.

I think the next 20 years of my patchwork journey may find their way into another blog.

For the present, I have a pieced, but only partially quilted, king-size quilt (machine pieced, but hand-quilted), a partially pieced, small quilt and numerous bundles of fabric for other projects. We have a Christmas table runner of which I am very proud, and a similar one for the rest of the year, which is pieced but not backed and finished. I have several bags and my daughter has a Beatrix Potter bed quilt, which she has now outgrown! I love the serendipity of the new pieces of fabric which emerge from the old. I sometimes buy fat quarters and hoard other fabric, but I love to use scraps or re-cycle. Something beautiful from next to nothing is valuable indeed and the memories hiding in these fabrics - my child-hood, my first two flats, our first home and the baby clothes I made for my children are priceless. Amongst the most precious, the scraps of floral fabrics from which my aunt made clothes for my grandmother (who was not a standard dress size!)

My skills have improved. I love to make smaller items which are, I hope beautiful, but are also functional, and which, although time-consuming have a realistic chance of being finished. It is these items which sometimes find their way into my Folksy shop. The first few had almost all been sold. This needle case is the first of their replacements.



  1. The needle case is very pretty and I'm sure will sell it very soon.I know exactly what you mean about the memories fabric's can retain and the pleasure from creating something new from these precious fragments. Happy patchworking xxx

  2. That is quite a journey. I am so glad that you have not abandoned your quilting, but have changed the way you use it. Lovely to sew little bits of the, literally fabric of your life into your treasures.