It may sound a bit obvious, and even a little silly, but one of the things I love about patchwork quilting is the patchwork itself, and how bits of fabric are sewn together to make amazing patterns and compositions.
Another thing I love, is that if the odd rip or tear appears, it can easily be ‘patched up’ or repaired, especially if you still have some of the originally fabric left, and even if you don’t, you can make the new patch a unique feature of the quilt. It needn’t seem out of place.
On one occasion, I accidentally snipped a quilt top I had been working on for 10 years! My heart almost stopped when I realised what I had done. I felt so silly for carelessly cutting some fabric with my sharp sewing scissors while the finished – yes, it was finished – quilt top was draped over my lap… Really? Why did I do this?? But my initial fear was soon replaced by the quick realisation that I could easily fix the tear by patching it up and turning it into a little feature. I still had plenty of the original fabric left, and it was just a matter of cutting out a patch with a matching pattern and then sewing it on carefully. The finished patch looks good and I’m really pleased with the result.
Flower patch to hide the tear.
Block with the ‘flower patch’ – can you see it??
Similar instances have happened over the years with curtains and other items… I should endeavour to be more careful in future.
I sometimes wish other things in life could be so easily fixed. I have been quiet of late, you may have noticed… and it’s not just because it’s been the summer holidays when most of my free time is spent with the kids, but also because I have had a lot on my mind. It seems the dark clouds that were hanging over me at the beginning of the year are back to haunt me. I have my own rips and tears, but unlike those on fabric which can be easily patched up and sewn over, those in my heart and mind cannot. I know time will heal, but the scars, like the stitches, will still remain.
This year I found myself going to the festival on my own. It’s usually a family affair – my eldest enjoys coming along with me (mainly for the Quilter’s Guild tombola!) whilst husband and the little one do something else nearby – sometimes, they have even ventured inside! But despite not having them with me this year, it was a fantastic day out – and it felt like a real (and rare) treat to do something on my own, taking my time to look at the quilts on show as well as leisurely visiting the stands looking for goodies.
As always I take photos of the quilts I find inspiring – the ones that grab me have something that I find different, unusual or interesting. This year these included ones that had non-traditional shapes, interesting textures, clever use of colour, innovative techniques, or incredible amount of fine work and attention to detail. Below is a gallery of some of the exhibits I found inspiring. I have captioned the title of the work as well as the creator’s name – if you share these, please ensure the creator is credited.
Of course, it’s not all about the exhibits, but also a good opportunity to meet up with people, buy essentials (as well as non-essentials!!) and simply have a good day out. I came away feeling inspired and ready to get going with more projects. Every year I think, I MUST enter a competition… perhaps next year I will!
Did you go the festival – what did you like about the exhibits this year? Please share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment below.
Till next time,
Jo Avery – A Month in the Country Sampler
Jo Avery – A Month in the Country Sampler (close up)
Jo Avery – A Month in the Country Sampler (block detail)
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross (block detail)
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross (block detail)
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross (block detail)
Tracy Aplin – Queen Tracy’s Cross (block detail)
Sharon Elliott – Moroccan Lattice
Sharon Elliott – Moroccan Lattice (close up)
Sharon Elliott – Moroccan Lattice (detail)
Christine Seager – Simply Spring
Christine Seager – Simply Spring (detail)
Tara Glastonbury – Pages Diptych
Marion Goodrich- Spot On
Marion Goodrich- Spot On (corner detail)
Marion Goodrich- Spot On (detail)
Marion Goodrich- Spot On (balls)
Philippa Naylor – Circuit Training (winner Miniature)
Philippa Naylor – Circuit Training (winner Miniature) (detail)
Mary Mayne – Give me the Time (winner Quilter’s Guild challenge)
In terms of ‘quilt spotting’ I’m sad to say that July was a disappointing month. However, all else was great!! With school over for the summer holidays, I took the girls to Spain for a couple of weeks to spend time with my family. So July was pretty good and a lot of fun!
And I did watch the odd movie and TV series, but couldn’t spot a quilt anywhere. Perhaps more surprising is that I didn’t spot any in Riverdale – a teen drama TV series based on the characters from the Archie Comics. This, of course, is my eldest’s choice – the series is a massive hit with kids her age (12), and I admit, I love it too, especially the quirky characters. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting any of the quirkier characters to have quilts in their rooms, but Betty Cooper? The stereotypical wholesome girl-next-door… Every time she appears on screen in her room, I study it closely, thinking, surely there’s got to be a quilt in there somewhere! Surely she would have one? Or not? Please feel free to discuss. I’m baffled every time I watch it!!
So July passed with no spottings and as I write this, we’re already into August. Tonight I find myself on my own – kids are away, husband is away, and I’m looking forward to chilling on my sofa, tucking into a pizza and watching a movie. MY choice this time!! And it’s ‘The Shack’. I hadn’t heard of it before, but after coming across the music featured in the movie, and finding out about it, I was really keen to watch it, and knowing that the rest of the family would not be too keen, I thought I’d save it for a night when it’s just me. So tonight’s the night. Surely there’ll be quilts in this movie? I’ll let you know next month.
A few weeks ago, when I radically changed the design of my new quilt, from straight geometric shapes to something a little more ‘floaty’, I thought it wouldn’t take me as long to complete as if I had stuck to my original plan. Not that that was the reason for changing the design.
Inspiration had come to me during one of my early morning walks, and on getting home, while the ideas were still fresh in my mind, I drew some quick sketches and decided on something more relaxed, simple and more in tune with how I was feeling at the time.
The quilt now features a scattering of applique flowers with blue petals and hot pink centres, and the title of the project has changed to ‘Applique Flowers’ – not very imaginative, I admit, but it is just a working title.
However, I had’t realised how long it would take me to get going with the new design. Perhaps it isn’t really the fault of the design itself, but more to do with how busy things have been lately, leaving me little time for my sewing.
Not that I’m complaining – the last few months have been busy in a good way, with lots of social commitments and events. And this weekend is a mega busy one, with my youngest performing at her first ballet recital on Saturday – I have learnt a lot about ballet buns and stage make-up and I’m still slightly nervous about doing her hair and make-up tomorrow morning even though we’ve been practising all week (!) – and on Sunday, I’ll be performing with my choir (funnily enough in the same theatre where my daughter will dancing the day before) and I have a full day of rehearsals and sounds checks, etc, before doors open to the public.
I digress… back to the quilt. I’m slowly making progress, and I think I’m probably half-way there… All the applique flowers are complete; what’s left now is sewing the blocks together, adding a border, adding the wadding and backing, and then there’s the small matter of hand quilting… which isn’t small at all…
It’s likely – given that the school holidays are about to start, and as a result I won’t have much time for my sewing projects – that I’ll still be working on this quilt well into the autumn…
But for now, I’ll enjoy the summer with my young ladies. Similar to the advice given in the poem “Babies don’t Keep” by Ruth Hamilton (1958), in which the last verse reads:
“The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”
I will put my sewing to one side and enjoy spending time with my children who are growing far too quickly! My flower quilt will have to wait; unlike my girls, it can be a slow bloomer…
After the high I experienced last month watching the ‘Alias Grace‘ Netflix series in which quilts and quilting were an integral part of the story, I feared June would disappoint me. Indeed, even though we watched plenty of movies at the weekends, it wasn’t till the last weekend in June that I spotted a number of quilts on the small screen.
Again, viewing choices were dominated by what my children wanted to watch, so… ahem… no judging please!! On a positive, as I always say in my Quilt Spot blog posts, it’s a joy to see quilts on the screen, especially when it’s unexpected.
So June’s spotting are as follows:
‘Ice Princess’ by Walt Disney Pictures- my seven-year-old’s choice! A typical feel-good movie about a young girl Casey who is a top student with great prospects but who wants to become a figure skater. Typically, the mum, Joan, is against the idea – she wants her daughter to go to Harvard, just like she did; the ‘popular’ girls at school don’t like Casey – especially Gen who is already a figure skater; and the coach she finds, Tina who happens to be Gen’s mum, can’t be trusted… I wonder why?! But all changes…
There are two quilts I spotted in this movie – a pretty and traditional nine patch (?) quilt on Casey’s bed and what seems to be a crazy patchwork throw on a chair in the lounge.
Casey’s bed quilt
Casey’s bed quilt – close up
Crazy patchwork throw
Next movie, was, ahem ahem… ‘Annabelle: Creation’ – my 12-year-old’s choice. I found this movie absolutely terrifying and screamed a good few times. It’s a prequel to ‘Annabelle’ which we watched in February, and is about the doll maker and the orphan girls who come to live in his house. There are plenty of beds each with pretty throws on them, though not all are patchwork quilts.
And lastly, my choice ‘Good Will Hunting’ – a movie which I’ve seen a number of times but which I thought would be a good choice for my 12-year-old. However, I had forgotten how much swearing there was… This is another feel good movie, about a young man, Will, from the ‘wrong side’ of town who is a mathematics genius but works as a janitor at M.I.T. His love interest, Skylar a medical student at Harvard, who he meets in a bar, has a small quilt at the end of the bed, featuring the maple leaf pattern.
Since viewing ‘Alias Grace’, I’ve been thinking about why quilts are featured in movies. In productions like ‘Alias Grace’ or ‘How to Make an American Quilt’ or ‘Stepmom’, quilts are central to the story line, but what about in other movies? Are they just merely props thrown in to make a scene look good, or are they carefully selected so that they convey something about the period or characters in the story? And if they are, what is it that they are trying to say?
I once read an article about some quilts which featured in a movie set in the 1800s, but a close-up of one of the quilts revealed that it had been machine-quilted! This of course was spotted by an avid quilter! Also, in the much-loved TV series from the 1970’s and early 1980’s ‘Little House on the Prairie’, I read that the quilts featured were from the Depression era – not that I would have known that, but I knew they were not typical of the 1870’s and 1880’s which is when the series was set. If quilts are to be placed in a historical setting, they need to be accurate to the time period featured. Surely?
I feel I’m on a new path of discovery, as I’m itching to find out more about how and why quilts are chosen as props. No doubt I will share my findings with you.
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled and do let me know what you ‘spot’ this month! Share your ‘quilt spots’ and thoughts with me by leaving a comment below.
Following on from my recent Alias Grace ‘Quilt Spot’ special, I felt that I wanted to write a little bit more about the parts of the story I enjoyed the most. Please note that this is not a scholarly article – merely a collection of my thoughts on, and extracts from, parts of the story I enjoyed the most.
There is so much literature out there on the quilts and quilting references and meanings in Alias Grace, as well as other novels by Margaret Atwood, that if you wanted to read something a little bit more academic or in-depth on the subject, you will not be disappointed: there are plenty of articles out there to satisfy your curiosity. A quick Google search will return plenty of interesting reads and I have listed some below at the end of this blog.
As I said in my earlier blog, for me there are three ‘quilting’ moments that really stand out in the story.
Three quilts before marriage
The first is when Grace tells Dr Jordan that her friend Mary Whitney had once told her a girl had to have three quilts before she considered herself ready to marry:
“Mary said that a girl did not consider herself ready for marriage here [Canada] until she had three such quilts, made by her own hands; and the fanciest ones were the marriage quilts, such as the Tree of Paradise and the Flower Basket. Others, such as the Wild Goose Chase and the Pandora’s Box, had a good many pieces, and took skill; and those such as the Log Cabin and the Nine Patch were for everyday, and were much faster to make.” (Chapter 6 ‘Secret drawer’)
Earlier in the story, Grace is sewing a Log Cabin block, and she recollects what Mary had told her:
“A Log Cabin quilt is a thing every young woman should have before marriage, as it means the home; and there is always a red square at the centre, which means the hearth fire.” (Chapter 5 ‘Broken dishes’)
I know the Double Wedding Ring quilt is a very popular choice to celebrate a marriage, but I wonder if it’s something brides make for themselves, or if it’s given as a gift to a newly wed couple? I also wonder what sort of quilt I would make in preparation for marriage (if I was still young and unmarried!). Something that evokes love and happiness I would guess, and knowing me, it’d probably be my own design. Perhaps something along the lines of a project I recently started – Home and Garden. What three quilts would you choose?
The next moment is when Grace likens quilts to “flags hung by an army as it goes to war”, and goes on to explain why:
“…when we’d hung a half-dozen of them up on the line, all in a row, I thought that they looked like flags, hung out by an army as it goes to war.
And since that time I have thought, why is it the women have chosen to sew such flags, and then to lay them on the tops of beds? For they make the bed the most noticeable thing in a room. And then I have thought, it’s for a warning. Because you may think a bed is a peaceful thing, Sir, and to you it may mean rest and comfort and a good night’s sleep. But it isn’t so for everyone; and there are many dangerous things that may take place in a bed. It is where we are born, and that is our first peril in life; and it is where women give birth which is often their last. And it is where the act takes place between men and women that I will not mention to you, Sir, but I suppose you know what it is; and some call it love, and other despair, or else merely an indignity which they must suffer through. And finally beds are what we sleep in, and where we dream, and often where we die.” (Chapter 6 ‘Secret drawer’)
I had never thought of quilts as warning flags, so this passage really struck me. I’ve always thought of quilts as items that are full of emotion – I was going to say love, but realised quickly that that was not what I meant – but not items that evoke caution.
When we stitch, we pour our thoughts and feelings into the fabrics we are working with, and as well as the thread that binds the pieces, in goes our tears and sometimes our blood (from pricked fingers!). There is a little piece of us in each quilt we make.
Quilts are like flags on a bed
Grace and Mary airing quilts in the yard
Grace’s own quilt
At the end of the story Grace finally gets to sew a quilt for herself. As she had mentioned earlier in the story when asked by Dr Jordan, she tells him that if she were to make a quilt for herself, she would choose the Tree of Paradise.
“On my Tree of Paradise, I intend to put a border of snakes entwined; they will look like vines or just a cable pattern to others, as I will make the eyes very small, but they will be snakes to me; without a snake or two, the main part of the story would be missing. Some who use this pattern make several trees, four or more in a square or circle, but I am making just one large tree, on a background of white. The Tree itself is of triangles, in two colours, dark for the leaves and a lighter colour for the fruits; I am using purple for the leaves and red for the fruits. They have many bright colours now, with the chemical dyes that have come in, and I think it will turn out very pretty.
But three of the triangles in my Tree will be different. One will be white, from the petticoat I still have that was Mary Whitney’s; one will be faded yellowish, from the prison nightdress I begged as a keepsake when I left there. And the third will be a pale cotton, a pink and white floral, cut from the dress of Nancy’s that she had on the first day I was at Mr Kinnear’s, and that I wore on the ferry to Lewiston, when I was running away.
I will embroider around each one of them with red feather-stitching, to blend them in as part of the pattern.
And so we will all be together.” (Chapter 15 ‘Tree of Paradise’)
I’m still baffled as to why she would want to include fragments from Nancy’s dress and her own prison nightdress. These were difficult times for Grace, when her future was uncertain, but perhaps by including them in her final quilt she puts an end to that chapter of her life and is ready to begin a new one. Or perhaps… she is making her very own warning flag… beware of Grace… A running theme throughout the story is one of doubt and trustworthiness, is Grace the victim or the villain, is she telling the truth, the whole truth? The narrative of the story leaves you gripped to the end.
Other passages I enjoyed
Of course, there are many other quilting references I enjoyed and listed below are some of my favourites:
“There is talk of a new Sewing Machine for use in the home, which would do exceedingly well if it might be cheaply produced, for every women would wish to own such an item…” (Chapter 4 ‘Young man’s fancy’, letter from Mrs Jordan to her son Dr Jordan)
“I kept my head down, I did not look at him, I worked away at my quilt blocks, for the quilt I am making for the Governor’s wife, there are only five blocks left to be finished. I watched my needle go in and out, although I believe I could sew in my sleep, I’ve been doing it since I was four years old, small stitches as if made by mice. You need to start very young to be able to do that, otherwise you never get the hang of it.” (Chapter 4 ‘Young man’s fancy’)
“There is a little verse I remember from a child:
Needles and pins, needles and pins, When a man marries his troubles begins.
It doesn’t say when a woman’s trouble begins.”(Chapter 5 ‘Broken dishes’)
“…the other quilt was called Attic Windows; it had a great many pieces, and if you looked at it one way it was closed boxes, and when you looked at it another way the boxes were open, and I suppose the closed boxes were the attics and the open ones were the windows; and that is the same with all quilts, you can see them two different ways, by looking at the dark pieces, or else the light.” (Chapter 6 Secret drawer)
This week’s update on my sewing projects is short and sweet. Mainly because I haven’t had much time to think about what to write! The day has literally flown by!
I thought my new design – I’m calling it ‘Applique Flowers’ for now as a working title – would be quick and easy to piece, as the design features large square blocks – mainly cut from the same fabric – and applique flowers. So in my mind I was thinking, easy piecing, and easy ironing-on the petals. But I should have known better – in my experience things usually take longer than planned. Perhaps I just underestimated how many petals I had to cut!
Nevertheless I had a brilliant – and happy – day. Starting off with a lovely walk around the village after dropping off my youngest at school, followed by a relaxing mid-morning coffee, and then it was down to work whilst listening (and singing along) to country music.
Me on my sunny morning walk
Beautiful view from my village
I felt joyful and carefree, and perhaps – I have to admit – a little unfocused; which could explain why I made the odd mistake!! Turns out I ended up cutting far too much fabric – making more blocks and petals than I needed to, and ironing on petals on to blocks that didn’t need any…
Oh well… I have to confess I’m a little worried that I may not have enough fabric left for other things I had in mind… but there’s no point in crying over spilt milk, or in this case cut fabric.
I’m sure the extra blocks will come in handy at some point – perhaps I could add them to the backing as a design feature, or I could make a cushion or bag, or something else?? As I keep saying, fabric is never wasted!! These blocks will have a purpose.