Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Festival of Quilts

I had a lovely day at the Quilt Show last week. As ever, there wasn't really enough time in one day to see all the quilts and the trading stands. One year I'm going to go for two days. I thought the quality of the stands was much better this year - there were some really interesting things on sale - and (very important this) there was more seating than in previous years.

The highlight of the day for me was seeing 1718 Coverlet.

This was bought by the Quilters' Guild in 2000 and is the earliest British dated patchwork. It's called a coverlet because it wasn't quilted. All the blocks were pieced over paper and these papers are still in place, giving more information about how the maker worked. She folded paper to make the shapes and then cut along the folds. There are also balance marks that she made to help her line up the shapes.

Some of the blocks are pieced shapes that we still use today, many others are figurative and feature animals, flowers and even people dressed in the clothes of the time.

A modern quilter would probably use applique to make these sort of blocks but they were still worked over paper in the original. One block bears the initials EH and the date 1718 but no more has been discovered about EH, whoever she was.

There was something of a craze for patchwork in the early 18th Century among affluent women. You would need to be rich enough to be able to 'waste' fabric like this and also to have access to sufficient paper at a time when paper was still very costly. 

The Quilter's Guild made a reproduction of the coverlet and decided to use the bright colours of the original, traces of which can be seen in seam allowances. Although the coverlet is still surprisingly colourful, it would have been much brighter when new.

That's the original on the left and the replica next to it.

Most of the fabrics used were silks which would have been of a much higher thread count in 1718 than now. Modern silks are very hard to work with as they tend to fray easily. We tend to assume that we have much higher quality materials to use in our crafts now than in the past but that's not always the case.

Due to its fragile condition, the coverlet has to be kept in the dark and only exhibited rarely so I was very lucky to have got the chance to see such a special piece of quilting history. I bought this book to learn more about the coverlet and I'm very pleased with it.

As well as lots of information about the coverlet and the work that went into reproducing it, the book also has photos of each of the blocks with information on how to make them, either using the original technique or modern methods.

Would you like to see the other things I bought at the show? Obviously I had to buy some fabric and I chose these two lengths of hand-dyed cotton.

I'm using these to make Quilt As You Go Hexagons which are basically tiny mini quilts. I'll show you what I mean when I've started putting them together. So far, I've just cut out all the pieces with the help of my trusty Sizzix Big Shot die cutting machine. The Sizzix was a purchase at the same show a few years ago - I was very pleased I had my daughter with me to carry it!

I always buy something from Sue Hawkins; her kits are lovely and lots of fun to make. I do tend to go for the same colourway, as you can see ...

 ... a needlebook, two scissor keepers and a bookmark. Those lovely scissors were bought from Sue too. So, I thought I'd be daring this year and try a different colour scheme.

I was feeling very smug about trying new colours until Sue pointed out that these pastels are just paler shades of my favourites.

Ah yes, I see what you mean Sue. That's the thread from the new kit on the right.

I bought another book too. By the way, the best place for patchwork and quilting books is Kaleidoscope. They're the stall that's always packed with people at shows but they have a good website too and ship worldwide. My new book is the latest from Kathleen Tracy, one of my favourite authors. I have quite a collection of her books.

What I like about them is the blend of history and straightforward quilt projects. All the quilts are small and everything is beautifully photographed. The new book is called A Prairie Journey and is just as lovely as the others.

I'd like to make every single quilt in this book. Look at this blue log cabin with the big squares in the middle ...

... or how about a Wagon Wheel quilt? I really love the colours in this one.

If you'd like to see more of Kathleen's work, I can highly recommend her blog A Sentimental Quilter. She writes very interesting posts and is good at practical advice on choosing fabric and planning a project. She's also making her own Dear Jane quilt. Now there's another wonderful historical quilt ...

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