18 minutes ago
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
I've just read a post by Swedish quilter Åsa Wettre on Facebook and it looks like she is publishing another book about old Swedish quilts, . It will be published by on August 22nd. Her first book, 'Old Swedish Quilts', was translated into English, and I hope this one will be too - eventually. You may remember some of the quilts in her collection displayed in a special exhibition at Festival of Quilts a few years ago - 2007? 2006? It was great to see them. The following year, there was a wonderful display of antique Swedish doll beds, with contemporary quilts inspired by antique originals. I think these were from a friend's collection. Can anyone remember the details?
The random log cabin quilts in her first book inspired my 'Lulea Blockhus' quilt, finished in 2009. In the top photo it still has the central tacking in place. I like the effect of the wide borders with plain quilting that many old Swedish quilts use. It frames the centre in a very solid way and stops the liveliness of the patchwork from becoming too overpowering. The second photo shows the quilt at the Great Northern Quilt Show in 2009.
I tried a similar layout for my 'Jelly Roll Crumbs' in the same year. The old Swedish quilts tend to have rather thick wadding, so I went for a puffy effect with Hobbs Polydown on this one. 'Lulea Blockhus' has Matilda's Own 60% wool 40% poly.
The photo below shows the quilt when I had almost finished the handquilting - there's more about the quilting in this blog post, plus some photos showing the quilt while I was tacking the borders.
I'm looking forward to Åsa's next book very much - there will be more inspiration from Sweden.
Monday, 17 June 2013
The Sidmouth quilt is one of those featured in the current exhibition at the Quilt Museum, York - 'The Blossoming of Patchwork', on until August 31st. I think the first time I saw a photo of it was while browsing the collections online. The quilt looked like another early nineteenth century medalion quilts that would be interesting to make, with scope for using lots of reproduction fabrics. While the design appears mainly symmetrical, it has all kinds of quirks in the way the simple blocks are arranged, which make it very appealing. It also looked like it had the potential for a remake in more contemporary fabrics. So it was 'on my list'.
When I heard that the Museum shop had just launched a reprint of the centre panel, the problem of what to use for the centre was solved. Rather conveniently, they edited the scan from a duplicate the orignal panel to make the central motif circular rather than oval, which made the maths easier to work out for the borders. The unquilted version of the centre panel in the Museum's collection is still bright and fresh, with the greens (then made by overprinting yellow with blue) unfaded. It sets the colourscheme for the rest of the quilt - include lots of bright reproduction prints. When I saw the quilt in the current exhibition, the colours in the fabric prints seemed even more vivid than I'd imagined from looking at the online photo. For example, the pieces that I thought were madder dyed blood reds turned out to be bright Turkey red prints, so I had to rethink my fabrics a little.
There's an excellent article about how the repro panel was produced in the summer issue of 'The Quilter' (the magazine of the Quilters' Guild of the British Isles) and there's also a 'chintz challenge' on the Quilt Museum's Facebook page. It will be interesting to see what people make with it.
Finding an orange print stripe for the cornerstones in the centre wasn't easy. After looking online and at every trader at Festival of Quilts, I still hadn't found the right colour of stripe. There were plenty of similar stripes in red, brown or blue, but not in orange or rust. If you click the first link in this post, you can see the image of the original quilt on the Museum's website and I think you'll agree that it needs that touch of orange in the cornerstones to help frame the centre. I asked several quilters online if they could send me in the right direction for something similar (the online quilting networks are great sources of information) and Kathie at Inspired by Antique Quilts came up with just the right thing. You can see it in the photos below. She wrote that it was an early fabric line from Baum, who eventually became Windhams (very well known for their repro fabrics). I don't know how early is early, but I'm guessing 1980s? Kathie had a small piece which was just enough, so I have been able to get started. Thanks VERY MUCH!
The original has lots of tiny prints on white backgrounds, which 'read' as pink or beige, so I've added plenty of these, plus some vivid yellows and 'poison' greens. I haven't always been able to find something that is correct both in colour and pattern, so I've tended to go for something that works in a similar way, prioritising colour over pattern. For this version, I've included some of the very scrappy piecing that's in the original, like the irregular four patch cornerstones above. I would like to try making a black and white contemporary version, using a cushion panel for the centre print, but if I do, I'll make units like the four patch blocks more regular. I want to quilt my first version with a similar design to the original and made notes when I was at the musem, but of course the prints make the elaborate quilting very hard to see from the patchwork side - I haven't seen the back. The quilting motifs are very similar to Welsh quilting designs, and include beech leaves and tulips.
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
As well as the beautiful wholecloths Elen showed us during our behind the scenes tour, there were several patchworks. I thought I recognised this 1870s ribbon patchwork from a book - it's on page 74 of Janet Rae's 'Quilts of the British Isles', which is where I remembered seeing it, and on the back of 'Quilts' by Christine Stevens (the little square book with the purplish cover published by the museum in 1993 - thanks for that info Val!) The silks still look remarkably fresh. Janet Rae included it in a section where she shows parallels between English paper pieced silk patchworks and the parquetry tiles often used in Victorian houses. Some of the colours must have faded, because the twisting pattern is much more sharply defined in some areas than others. Although it looks very complicated, it could be adapted for piecing in strips by machine... Like many of these intricate silk patchworks, it isn't quilted.
Three other patchworks featured hexagons, in various sizes. Once again, this piece isn't quilted. There is a collection of hexagon rosettes and various small pieces made from diamonds, including a snazzy zigzag border on two sides. They are all appliqued to a very neatly hemmed cloth (linen?) I wondered if this could be a two person project, as it has the feeling of the kind of thing you might make if given bag of unfinished hexagon rosettes and tacked diamonds. There seems to be a piece missing from the centre applique too, which also made me ponder about this feeling of 'leftovers' the piece seems to have. That's all pure guesswork of course, but it would make a rather good way to use up a series of hexagon rosettes (often projects that get started but not finished!) It is a treasure trove of Victorian cotton prints.
The maker of this patchwork clearly wasn't daunted by handsewing thousands of hexagons... They are approx. 1/2in sides, so there's even more fabric folded under each one in the seam allowances than there are on top. I think Val asked the question about whether this patchwork could have been used to repair or recover an earlier wholecloth quilt, but at the edges you can see that the quilting pattern goes through the hexagons and continues into the patchwork section, so that can't be the case (see the lower photo). It must have been fairly hard sewing, with all the hexagon seam allowances underneath. There are photos showing the quilting on this piece in my previous post. The amazing patchwork makes this a very special quilt, perhaps another one that could inspire a tribute piece? - perhaps not with such small hexagons! The Turkey reds have stayed wonderfully vivid, but it looks like some of the prints may have faded considerably, as there is quite a jump in value in the greenish hexagon frame (just outside the larger central frame), and it looks like the same fabric in the second frame from the centre, now reading as an ochreish yellow. As the hexagon pattern is planned out very carefully, I'm sure this sudden change in colour isn't how it was made. The quilting is in white (now off-white) thread, something seen on a lot of nineteenth century quilts. I'm going for a similar effect with my red and brown quilt, using a Wonderfil #12 that shades from cream to beige - more about that in future.
These hexagons are larger - they would have been about 1in before the quilt wadding shrank, which has given the quilt a similar effect to Suffolk puffs (yo yos). The shrinkage certainly gave it a very interesting, textured and rather cuddly look to it. I wonder if any of the quilters will be planning to deliberately shrink a finished piece for a similar look :-)
Later on, we stopped at the tailor's shop in the village, where we saw these kind of sample books hanging up and on the counter. There were also a lot of garments made from these kinds of wools. It made a neat link back to the quilt and helps to put the fabrics into context.
The highlight of the quilts tour was something I didn't know we'd be able to see - the inlaid patchwork picture panel made by James Williams of Wrexham in 1842. There's more information about it here, including a photo of the complete piece. It was shown, along with John Monro's 'The Royal Clothograph', at the V & A's 'Quilts 1700 - 2010' exhibition three years ago.
Ever since I saw pictures of these 'inlaid patchworks' I have been intrigued by the technique. They were done with the dense wools used for military uniforms and apparently James Williams was a military tailor. Presumably he made uniforms like these. The various colours used in the patchwork must relate to the different uniform colours, and I guess the yellows could have been used for parts like the epaulets? Although the reds and blues are still vivid, the yellows have faded a lot - compare the corner sections below, showing the front and then the back. These are different corners, but the yellow has completely faded out from the front of the quilt and looks beige from the front. Elen said that this fading may have occurred when the patchwork was displayed in the early 20th century.
The technique is described by Lewis F.Day in 'Art in Needlework' (1900, quoted on page 95, 'The Quilts of the British Isles) as follows -
The cloth to be inlaid is placed upon the other, and both are cut through with one action of the knife, so hat parts cannot but fit. The coherent piece of material is then laid upon a piece of strong linen already in a frame, the vacant spaces in it are filled up by pieces of other stuff, and all are tacked down in place. That done, the work is taken out of the frame and the edges are sewn together. The backing can then, if necessary, be removed.
Janet Rae goes on to explain that the cloth had to be thick enough 'to accommodate the oversewing required to hold the pieces in place. The oversewing was done from the back with very fine stitches which did not completely pierce the cloth... Inlay was also accomplished with the customary seam and running stitch.' The stitching is invisible from the front and is minute invisible on the back - the last photo shows the back.
The following photo shows a detail from the one above, where you can see the oversewing holding the pieces together an the back stitching attaching the brown border. I couldn't get photos any sharper than these - I was using the macro setting, but working without a flash or tripod, so it was tricky to get really sharp photos with longer speed settings.
Elen and Glyn holding up the patchwork support roll. The patchwork is stored on the roll, with the front outwards. Elen explained that the museum plans to back the patchwork so it can be shown more often. I would guess it can't hang without the seams pulling apart, as it is quite heavy. A 'window' will be left in the backing, so the inlay technique can still be seen.
Perhaps a simpler design, like the font cover from St Telio's church at the museum, could make an interesting modern inlaid patchwork project, or be the starting point for a hexagon medallion centre?
We had a fantastic day at St Fagans and I'm looking forward to visiting in future, perhaps in three years when the museum improvements will have been completed.
Last Sunday, we joined Dyffryn Clwyd Quilters from Ruthin on the second day of their south Wales trip when we went to the National History Museum at St Fagans. Although I lived in north and mid Wales for over twenty five years, road links between the north and south aren't great (no motorways), so I've only been to the south around a dozen times and I'd never been to St Fagans. There is an amazing collection of historic buildings that have been rebuilt from different parts of Wales, which can lead to some interesting juxtapositions, like Kennixton, a farmhouse from the Gower, behind a typically Snowdonian slate fence (above). It is a place I wanted to visit, so when the quilt group announced that they would be having a behind the scenes tour of some of the quilts with textile curator Elen Philips, we decided it would be worth the long drive back to Perthshire on Sunday (over 400 miles) to be able to join the trip. Elen will be one of the speakers at the Region 13 regional day for the Quilters' Guild this autumn, and also does talks for quilt groups.
After exploring some of the buildings on the site, we regrouped at 11.45 for the English language talk (there was also the same talk in Welsh). I've split this blog post into two parts, as it would otherwise be very long! So the details of the quilts we saw are not running in the same sequence as Elin's talk, but I've linked in photos Glyn took of carved details on furnishings in the farmhouses. There are a lot of similarities between Welsh carving designs of the 17th and 18th centuries and the pattern vocabulary of the nineteenth and twentieth century quiltmakers, so there are a lot of photos in both blog posts. The second part will look at the patchwork quilts we saw.
I'll start with the carvings and farmhouses, with links to the main museum website for more details - I won't add info here re where each house is from, date etc. as it is all on the museum site. This is Abernodwydd farmhouse. The low doorway with the high cill step is typical of the timber frame buildings on site, with the cills forming a continuation of the timber base plate.
Bed end details from bedrooms at each end of the house - these are both four poster beds.
Table edges -
Edge of a chest -
Llainfaydin Cottage and chest detail -
Under the thatched roof at Kennixton farmhouse, with the thatch fastened to woven straw.
The tiny windows in this farmhouse made the upstairs rooms exceptionally dark. It was impossible to make out any detail of this quilt as it lay on the bed - it looked completely black!
The simne fawr ('great chimney' or inglenook). All these old houses have massive fireplaces. I used to live in an old farmhouse in Nercwys, Mold, which was built c.1690, and this is how the fireplace there could once have looked - this part of the Kennixton house was built in 1680.
The remaining details are from Garreg Fawr farmhouse and are all C17th pieces, with several including dates. Note the tuilip patterns and the leaves on the court cupboard, dated 1605, in the first photo. It is a three tiered piece, with an extra shelf above the main two cupboard tiers, and apparently was a design unique to north Wales. It's called a tridarn. There's more info about the history of this kind of Welsh cupboard here.
The carved initials and date on this table reminds me of the 1718 coverlet at the Quilt Museum.
Now for the quilts. The first was is one of the Rural Industries Board quilts made in the 1930s, i.e. not made for local use, but for sale in London. The standard of workmanship is very high and the pattern is perfectly placed, without any of the fudging that appears on many Welsh quilts (which I think is part of their charm). Elin mentioned that the central design was typical of a particular quilt teacher, but alas I can't remember her name. Can anyone fill me in on that detail? I didn't have my hands free to take notes - they were on the camera the whole time!
Red and white pieced quilt, with lots of beech leaves in the quilting (one of my favourite patterns). Although I like the quirkiness of older quilts, where parts of the patterns don't always match up and the quilts are therefore very lively, I just can't put myself into that mindset when I design my quilting patterns - I always want to use the patchwork to 'set' the patterns too.
The same quilt from the back -
A badly worn patchwork quilt, where the iron mordants have caused the brown prints to rot away -
The tulip motifs are so similar to the carved tulips on the tridarn court cupboard.
If I were making a quilt like the one below, I would have to quilt it from the back. The hexagon patchwork in the centre is just TOO busy to mark and be able to follow the lines for quilting. I am pretty sure this is how the maker created this quilt too, as the stitches on the patchwork front look like the back of a quilt, not the front i.e. the gap between the stitches is longer than on the front and the stitches are smaller too. I'll put a photo of the half inch hexagon centre in my next post. Just trying to quilt through all those fabric allowances in the centre is quite a feat.
This is the back -
More tulips on this quilt, plus fans and spirals.
The final quilt in this post was made c1910 and Elin thinks that the central Prince of Wales feathers and crowns probably refer to the 1911 coronation and the investiture of the Prince of Wales (in the same year?) Beautiful design and quilting. I like the unusual scalloped border too.
I'll write up the second part soon - patchwork (including a rather special inlaid patchwork).