Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve, Sewing Borders On

Well, it's Christmas Eve and all through the house, it's quiet.  My hubby has gone to bed and the house is quiet.  We stayed home this evening rather than making the traditional trip to the lake house of my sister-in-law.  After years of driving up, we were just ready to stay home.  I've never been fond of being out on secondary roads on Christmas Eve, too many drivers have had some holiday 'cheer'.  They had a big snow last weekend and more snow is in the forcast tonight so it was a good choice to stay home and take it easy.  Netflix is crashed tonight so we dug through our dvds. I settled for one of Agatha Christie's Poirot.

I've been wrapping up a project that I've been working on for the past 9 months or so.  It's an applique quilt that was featured last Christmas in Quiltmania.  I got the blocks pieced last week and the borders ready so with time on my hands tonight, I sewed the borders on and hung it up on the wall to get a picture.

A picture of the quilt hanging on my make-shift design wall.  The clutter is normal but not desirable.  I usually do a sewing room purge and clean in January.  My way of starting a new year.

Now it's time to plan the quilting.  I've considered my options and find myself leaning toward having a long-arm quilter friend quilt it.  It'll be a first for me, I've always quilted my own either by hand or machine but I'm really wanting to just get this one finished.  I have a small wall quilt project ready 'on paper' that is waiting for me.

Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mock Binding: Part 2

In reviewing Part 1, I was reminded that it usually isn't best to write a blog late at night, especially when a small computer issue is making it interesting.  So... after going back and making some corrections, I hope it'll make sense. 

As I noted before, the limiting factor on judging how big of a quilt can be bound with this technique, depends on your ability to lay it out after the binding is done and smooth and pin it for machine quilting because the layers must be smoothed out.  I've done 60" square throws a couple times but haven't tried anything bigger. 

This is largest quilt I've bound with mock binding.  The back is pieced and the binding strips are also pieced.  This photo shows how the stitching in the ditch along the binding strips gives the impression of a binding seam (on the green corner in the bottom left of the photo).

This wall quilt features curved piecing and the red strips around the outside were  sewn on with curved piecing.  The strips were then treated like any other mock binding in the finishing of the binding.
I used different fabrics for the binding and the backing on the sample in the Mock Bind Part 1 to better show the process.  The downside of this is that the mock technique may be obvious along the seam around the outside edge of the binding.  If you wish to disguise the fact that it's a mock binding then it's best to use the same fabric for both backing and binding strips. 

When figuring how much fabric you'll need, this is what I would need to take into consideration.

The backing needs to be a little larger than the top on all sides with the strips sewn on.

Add 1" to allow for a 1/2" seam in the backing.

Figure 4 strips, cut 1" by the length of the sides PLUS at least 2-3".

I always figure extra fabric and cut the backing a little larger than the minimal size and usually cut the binding strips 3" longer than the sides of the quilt.  The binding strips can be pieced.

Be sure to use starch on the strips BEFORE cutting them out and then use steam in your iron when pressing them.

For best results, do a practice mock binding project to get the process down before attempting to bind a quilt top.  Start small before going on to larger projects.


A 'Mock' Binding Tutorial: Part 1

This binding technique is used for smaller projects and is basically all done by machine.  It's great for table runners, place mats and other smaller machine quilted projects.  My way of doing it was inspired by Ricky Timm's process which he used on his CAVEMAN QUILTING video and as far as I know, he is the one who came up with the term 'mock binding' which describes the binding very well. I'm not as free-wheeling, I'm more inclined to use rulers to do my cutting (I can't help it) but it works great.  Thanks for the inspiration!!
To make a sample, start with a square about 10" or so which represents a quilt top.  Choose a fabric for the backing and binding strips.  You'll need a 1" strip for each side of the quilt top.  To prepare the strips, cut enough fabic for the four strips with a little extra for trimmimg (I cut strip fabric 5" wide to allow for four 1" strips and cut the length about 3" longer than the longest side of the quilt top).  BEFORE cutting the strips, starch the fabric well.  I use 'heavy' starch in a can and  spray the fabric several times lightly and press each spray.  Be sure to cover your press surface with a towel. 
Now cut the starched fabric into 1" strips.  Sew strips on opposite sides of the fabric square (which would be the pieced top) and press the seam allowances TOWARD the strips, this is important!  Trim to square the ends and sew on the last two strips and press and trim them in the same way.

This shows the strips and the order in which they are sewn to the 'top'.
This shows the top basted to the batting and trimmed. 

Now position the 'top' on a slightly larger piece of batting.  Pin it in place as needed and with a walking foot on your machine, baste all around the outer edge about 1/8" from the outer edge of the strips.  Now trim the batting to the edges of the strips.  A walking foot is needed for best results for the entire process.

This shows the seam and the portion of the seam in the middle that is basted. 

To prepare the back, you need backing fabric slightly larger than the top and batting combo plus enough to allow for the 1/2" seam.   Fold the backing in half, right-sides-together and sew a 1/2" seam along the fold.  You'll need an opening to turn the piece through (like making a pillow).

this picture shows the opening in the backing that was used to turn the piece through
I usually sew part of the seam at a regular stitch length, backstitch and switch to a long basting stitch to sew the portion that will be open to turn and then backstitch and finish the seam at the regular stitch length.  The basting will be taken out before turning the piece inside out.

Now position the top/batting sandwich  right-sides-together with the backing, don't trim the backing fabric, leave it over-sized. Now pin the layers together and sew all around the edges with a 1/4" seam.  Turn the corners with the needle down.  The batting will be facing up during the sewing. 

This shows the sandwich going together right-sides-together.

Trim the excess backing fabric to the edge of the batting and trim the corners.  Take out the basting stitches in the backing and turn the whole thing like a pillow.  Carefully pull out the corners, press  the binding, pin as needed and then using a walking foot, stitch in the ditch along the binding strips. 

Shows stitching in the ditch.  I used different fabric for the backing and binding to help show the technique.  It's best to use the same fabric, it disguises the seam.

Now the bound quilt is ready to machine quilt but before you do, hand stitch the opening on the back closed or just baste it in place and quilt it.

Pin the layers together to make sure everything will quilt out smoothly and go for it.  This is the stage that will limit how large a quilt you'll be able to manage with this technique because you must be able to lay the whole quilt out flat and pin baste for quilting to make sure you don't get puckers on the back.  If the binding doesn't lay flat, you can lightly press it with a lot of steam, smooth it out and let it sit while it dries out from the steam.

I'll do a part Two blog to show some samples and throw in a few tips.
Good Luck!!  If you have questions, email me or use the comment box.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What's Up

 Sorry for the lapse in blogging but this has been a busy couple months.  The season for teaching classes is wrapping up as the holidays approach so I'm looking forward to catching up on all the things that I've neglected or just wanted to do.  There's so much I want to do.  I moved my old Welsh and English quilts to a better storage set-up where I can actually get to them which will make it easier to get out a particular one if I want to get pictures.  I love the old British quilts but they are just a part of what interests me with quiltmaking and related textiles.

So, to catch up on what I've been up to, I taught a class for a guild in Cosmopolis, Wa last weekend and had a really good time with some very free spirited quilters.  It's the second time this year I've worked with them and they're a blast.  This class featured curved piecing and they took to it fearlessly.  We also worked with finishing smaller quilts with a mock binding which I plan to do a tutorial on in the very near future.

I'm also involved with an art quilting group that meets once a month, it's a low-pressure group that includes about everything to do with fiber and fabric.  We often have more ideas than actual tangible works but we share a lot of encouragement and inspiration.  We've done some small challenges from time to time but this last summer, we decided to do some discharging of fabric, swap it around with each other and then do something with our discharged fabrics.  The pictures that follow are of the process I've undertaken with the fat quarter that I acquired.  It's a little stark or just plain bright at it's current stage but one of the things that we're focusing on is showing work in progress to show off the stages of the finished pieces.  That means that we show the work in progress at stages when it doesn't alway make sense yet or reveal the vision of what the maker 'sees' in the work in progress.
 This is the piece I got for the challenge from Andrea, she poured the bleach agent onto the burgundy sateen fabric, folded it and this is what she got and now it's mine to do with.  A lot of ideas for stitching it out went through my head but I finally settled on cutting out circles, to applique them onto sateen and then add a lot of stitching. 
So, I used my circle template to see if I thought the circles would work, cut them out and stitched them onto gold sateen squares.
When I have a piece at this point, I would rather keep it to myself to avoid 'funny' remarks from folks but since I'm trying to share the steps, I decided to include it in todays's post.  When I showed it to the art quiilt group, one of the women told me she really appreciated getting to see it at this point because she so frequently gave up on a project when it hit an awkward spot in process.  I do have a vision for the stitching of the piece after the blocks are assembled but I don't think I can put it into words.
I tried to arrange the blocks to take advantage of the way sateen reflects light but I won't know until it's finished if that was successful.  Also, in the picture, you can see a bit of applique on the left of the gold blocks.  These blocks are from an applique series I'm leading at Rubystreet which is called FA LA LA LA LA, it's a Belgian inspired Christmas wall quilt which you may have seen featured in QUILTMANIA magazine about a year ago. A lot of work.  Interesting pattern.
This picture shows some student blocks with the two reindeer and the lettering. 

This is April Works, showing us her piece at a recent art quilt meeting.  April's MASTER PLAN was created in class with Jean Wells and is featured in Jean Wells latest book, Journey to Inspired Art Quilting.  April's piece was juried into the LaConner Museum's recent quilt exhibit and was awarded a second place.  Way to go April! 

Time to get back to work.  The rain has returned to this part of the world after a very dry late summer and even the frogs have rusted.  More later.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Traditional English, Made in America

It's seems like all my plans to get quilt pictures posted have gone by the wayside the last couple months.  I'd love to offer some great excuses but I can't think of any really good ones so I have to admit that I'm just disorganized.  Anyway, the quilts that are shown below are quilts that I made about ten years ago.  They are both made with cotton sateen and cotton batting and the quilting patterns are based on traditional N. Country English quilts.  The blue quilt is a whole-cloth and the red and white quilt is a strippy.

a close-up of the center medallion

The full shot, this one is quilted with blue thread.  A center medallion is surrounded by a flowinf border pattern but the lines that separate the borders are gone.  This quilt has a traditional folded binding which helps make it reversible.  The other side is a blue floral sateen.

This detail shot shows how border patterns fill each strip.  The quilting was done with off-white thread.  The sateen is actually a creamy colored sateen, not white.  This quilt also shows the traditional binding which allowed the quilt to be displayed from either side.  I was told during one of my visits to the UK that a quilt could be an indicator of the importance of a visitor.  If the pieced side of the quilt was 'up' on the spare bed then the visitor who would sleep under it was ordinary, probably family.  But, if the wholecloth side was 'up', then the visitor was more highly-esteemed such as a visiting vicar.

This photo shows the full quilt.  The photo should be turned so the strips run up and down which is how a bed side quilt would lay on a bed.  Strippy quilts were very popular in N. England and also in Wales but the English quilters generally ran patterns down the strips while the Welsh continued to quilt strippy quilts with wholecloth style medallion/border designs.  I have a 1930's Welsh strippy quilt pieced from dark green and bubblegum pink cotton (very unusual colors for Wales) with old wool clothing as fill instead of wool batting.  The quilting is done with red pearl cotton and mostly free-hand without marking.  There are places where the patterns look like they had a wreck when they came together.  The knots weren't buried,part of them are on the top and part on the back.  I used to take it with me when I taught hand-quilting, it was seldom that a new student couldn't do as well or better than the stitiching on that quilt!  It's a real quilt of desperation and if it could talk, I suspect it would have stories to tell. 

So, until later.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not The Lazy Days of Summer

our private road
First of all, it barely seems like summer here in the Northwest.  Our temps so far have only hit the mid 80's but we're supposed to hit 89 by the end of the week.  Mostly, we've been in the 70's.  Great weather if you aren't trying to grow tomatoes which like warm soil.  I gave up on tomatoes a long time ago... we just don't have the sun and even on the sunny days, the trees around us are too tall to let the sun hit the ground and warm up the tomato plants. My family in Idaho has great tomato weather.

It's been really busy (in addition to a recovering husband), I hosted a jewelry sale for Apparent Project at Rubystreet Quiltworks a while back on a Friday and thanks to the pre-Christmas shoppers, we made $526 toward the jewelry project in Haiti.

design walls with Haitian paper bead necklaces
The jewelry is made from paper and cardboard and is really pretty amazing.  You can see the paper tags hanging on some of the pieces, each tag has a photo and information about the artisan who made the jewelry.  The Project is all about providing income opportunities so parents can take care of their children and break the cycle of poverty.  The Apparent Project is awesome and very close to my heart.  Someday will be the right time to visit Haiti but in the meantime, I'm pleased to be able to wear and sell the jewelry!  You can check them out online, or check out which sells for Apparent Project and also features other products made in Haiti. 

The following day, I did a class at The Quilters' Junction in Centralia, WA which was a Christmas in July sort of project.
Jester Bags

I love these little bags, they make great gifts anytime and 2 fat quarters will make two bags.  I've been making these about 15 years since a woman in England gave me one filled with lavender.

Anyway, over the following two days, I did three applique classes followed by an all-day machine quilting class a couple days later.  I did have one class which cancelled due to only one sign-up but other than that it's been one class after another.  Unusual for me.  But as I was pushing to finish up samples for a couple more classes at Rubystreet, my main sewing machine totally quit on me so today I got to make a 'nice' drive into Olympia and then up to Puyallup to drop it off at a machine dealer/fixer.  When I drive up there, it reminds me of why I live where I do.  I'm really amazed at how people drive on Meridian, a main drag in Puyallup.  Years ago, there used to be a bumper sticker you'd see once in  a while which said, "Pray for me, I drive on Meridian!" and that was back before the traffic got worse.  I was glad to get home.

Anyway, the picture above shows a little bit of what I come home to... it's a remodeled shed which was originally planned to be a teaching space but it never worked out... my husband sold the travel trailer that used to sit off to the left and when the trailer was sold, my bathroom was gone and you can't teach most middle aged to older women without a bathroom closeby.  Mostly it just didn't work because of my location out in the boondocks.  I'm only 20 miles or so from Olympia and for us that's close.  My husband worked at Boeing in Seattle for years and drove over a hundred miles a day.  It's pretty much heaven here.

this was taken after walking Maggie up our road... our house is on the left

Peaceful.  A good time to get caught up on the hand-work. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sanderson Star and It's Poor Cousin

Sateen Quilt photographed at Beamish Museum, 1997
On a recent post I wrote about the qualities of cotton sateen in quiltmaking and the whole time I was writing, I had a particular picture in my mind that I really wanted to post.  However, I had to find the slide and that turned out to be a bigger task than I expected.  So after going through about 400 slides, I found it and here it is!

This quilt pictured above is made with one pink sateen fabric and one green sateen, it's a two-color quilt.  When photographed straight on (as I'd seen it in book pictures), it's still a two-color quilt.  But, when the picture is taken at an angle, the light seems to reflect differently and you can see the results in the picture above.  Now it looks like it was made of two darks and two lights.  It was when I saw this picture that I realized that cotton sateen reflects light differently, depending on which direction the weave or grain of the fabric is cut and then sewn back together.

This quilt is believed to be a home-made copy of a Sanderson Star (the poor cousin) which true to it's name, has a star in the center of it.  But, the average quilter didn't have the skills to piece a Sanderson Star and this quilt has the large appliqued shapes in the center instead of the pieced star.  The Sanderson Star Quilts were designed by professional quiltmarker, Elizabeth Sanderson and the many apprentices that she trained to piece and mark quilt tops.  More on this later.

This is my Sanderson Star quilt.  It's actually made with light gold and dark gold sateens which was a fairly common color combination.  It features a pieced star in the center (all one piece) and a series of borders around the star, all filled with classic Durham style quilting patterns.  It's unknown how many of these quilt tops were produced for others to quilt because this sort of work wasn't valued at the time and the numbers weren't recorded.  I had a friend years ago who wanted to make one of these and set about figuring out how to draft the star which is made from one piece of fabric, not wedges.  My friend had a science and math background and struggled with getting a pattern to match this quilt.  Then one Sunday morning, she was sitting outside with paper and scissors.  As she folded and cut away, all of a sudden she had the star, exactly as it was on the original.  No math or science needed. 

This photo show the quiting in the borders.

This picture shows the center star which is a single piece of fabric and the classic Durham quilting patterns.

This blue combination Sanderson Star was in the collection of Beamish Museum and was one of the quilts I took pictures of in 1997 when I visited the museum with Lillian Hedley.  If you look across the top where the back side of the quilt is folded back, you can see the patterns used in the outer border.  I love the patterns on these quilts, very graceful and organic.

So, I'm going back to digging through the slides again to see what might be of interest.  I hope you enjoyed the Sanderson Stars and their poor cousin.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Welsh Quilting With Cotton Sateen

Most of my antique Welsh quilts were made with sateen and wool batting (or wadding) and I've found that when it comes to trying to reproduce the look of Welsh quilts, sateen is a good choice.  Sateen is a type of weave and it sculpts over the batting (cotton or wool) when quilted which is why Welsh quilts made with sateen have such remarkable texture. Cotton sateen should not be confused with satin which usually shows up in a fabric store's bridal department. When looking for sateen in quilt shops, look among the solid colored bolts, that's where it usually is. Contact information for my local source will be listed at the bottom of this post.

Here are some bits of information about cotton sateen I can pass along to you. 

Sateen is durable and washes well, care for it as you would any cotton fabric.  Beware of using basting guns which push little plastic tacking pieces through the fabric, they will leave holes.  Large safety pins can also leave holes, I alway thread baste.  Machine quilting may also leave holes if you have to pick out stitches.

Sateen has an interesting quality because of how it's woven and reflects light.  If you cut a piece of sateen in two, turn one of the pieces 90 degrees and sew them back together again and then look at them at an angle, one piece will probably appear darker than the other.  Sometimes you won't notice this until you take a picture because the camera flash really brings out the effect.  The gold quilt pictured below was pieced and I deliberately turned the pieces to see how the piecing would affect the overall effect when light hit the quilt just right (this was back in my mad scientist days).

 The photo above was taken straight on and the color is consistant, the photo below was taken at an angle and you can see how the top right and the lower left sections of the quilt are slightly darker.
I have a photo of an English quilt that really shows off this effect, I'll dig it out and post it later.  Anyway, the reason for going on about this little trait of sateen is to let you know it exists so that you don't have any unexpected surprises.  But then again, maybe it's something you want to play with as I have.  As I said, photography is when it really show up.

Cotton sateen is a pleasure to hand quilt and is easy to stitch through but when you're stitching along the straight of grain, the stitches can seem small and irregular and again, this is the result of the way sateen is woven.  My remedy for stitching on the straight of grain has always been to stitch with a very slight zig-zag which seems to keep the stitches from dropping down into the weave.  Also, I don't worry about perfect stitches, with Welsh quilting patterns, people notice the effect of the patterns and overall design, not the individual stitches.  I'm more interested in even stitches than perfect ones.

Cotton sateen makes great backgrounds for applique but because it frays easily, it can be a challenge when using it for the applique itself.  

The gold quilt above also taught me another lesson about cotton sateen.  The fabric on the back was regular (flat) cotton and I found that even though I had the quilt (sateen top, wool batting, flat cotton back) well basted, when the it was in a hoop, it felt like there were wrinkles on the backside of the quilt.  I'd take it out and check that everything was smooth and all proper but back in the hoop the backing would'nt feel right.  Again, I believe this is because sateen is woven differently than flat cotton and the 'give' of the two fabrics is different.  My solution for mixing 'sateen fronts' with 'flat cotton backs' is simply to baste closer together, it takes a little more time but is worth it.

Another trait of sateen is how it discharges when something such as discharge paste or other color remover is applied.  Black sateen usually discharges to a terrra-cotta color.  I have a piece of navy sateen that discharges to a pretty pink.  This may not be the sort of process that you'll use with Welsh quilting but if you're the mad-scientist sort of quilter, you may find a way to work it in.

Anyway, I really, really like cotton sateen and I've bought it by the bolt at times.  It's out on the market but you may have to look for it.  Extra wide sateen has been marketed to long-arm quilters so you might check out their sources.  I've seen it at the big chain fabric stores but the quality was questionable, you'll get what you pay for.  I've also had students who bought sateen sheets to use for quilts. My best current source for cotton sateen is GEE GEES'S QUILTING INC in Yelm, Wa.  They have a website but the sateen isn't listed so contact them to see what they have available.  They've been really good about keeping sateen in the shop as long as quilters keep buying it. 

email -
website -
Ph.# 360-458-5616


Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Favorite Welsh-Inspired Quilt,

It's been a really long couple weeks.  My husband is recovering from a fall and it's beeen all too convenient to blame that situation for everything I'm not getting done.  But, thanks to Tia Curtis' encouragement (and others, thank-you!) I'm finally getting the quilt pictures scanned for transferring to the blog. As you can see, that process still needs some polishing up! Please be patient, I'm not a technology person and would much rather do something rather than read computer books.  Wish me luck.

When the weather and my husband finally get better, I'll get some of my antiques photographed.  I don't have a huge collection but I do have some interesting quilts.  So, as soon as we have a good overcast day with minimal traffic on our gravel road, I'll hang the quilts on the end of the wood shed and shoot them.  Sadly, my budget no longer allows for professional photography.  The pictures on this posting were taken by Mark Frey (and are copyright protected).

Cottage Quilt
This little wall quilt (about 32"sq.) was inspired by the Welsh quilts I photographed in 1997 at St. Fagans near Cardiff, Wales.  The quilts were stacked up on a couple beds in an upper bedroom of one of the cottages.  These quilts were mostly everyday quilts but I've always believed that they were some of the most interesting.  More on these later.

One of my favorite features of Welsh quiltmaking is that the quilting designs usually had nothing do to with the piecing or patchwork.  This quilt is made from cotton sateen using leftovers from other quilts which is why there are irregular rectangles of tan sateen inserted in the center of each side.  I didn't have enough blue for the borders so I stretched it with the tan pieces which aren't the same size or centered. In the blue/tan borders, the quilting pattern runs across the patchwork, elsewhere on the design, I pretty much stitched patterns as they fit the corner blocks, the gold border and around the hearts.

The binding on this quilt isn't the traditional British folded edge finish that I usually use but is a separate, sewn on binding of red sateen.  I thought it needed the touch of red around the outside.  This quilt hung at a The Assoc. of Pacific Northwest Quilters show in 2002 and when I entered it I was quite certain my binding corners wouldn't meet a judge's approval and they didn't.  I don't recommend sateen for binding if you want nice square corners but it's a pleasure to hand quilt with. 

The hearts are also sateen which is a challenge for needleturn applique anytime you have an inside point because sateen is inclined to fray.  I lined the heart pattern up so the sateen's straight of grain was aligned with the inside point on the top and the point on the bottom.  This way, when the clip is made to turn the inside point of the top of the heart, it's less inclined to fray as much.

As I said, this is one of my favorites, I hope you enjoy it as well.  May it inspire you as the cottage quilts stacked on the beds inspired me.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ysbrydolwyd Gan Y Cwiltian Traddodiadol Cymreig

"Ysbrydolwyd gan y cwiltian traddodiadol Cymreig" or as we say in the English speaking world, "Inspired by the tradditional Welsh quilts".  This Welsh phrase was translated for me years ago in a very around about way.  I had mentioned to Chris, an English quilt friend, that I'd like to have a couple phrases transalated into Welsh to print on my patterns but the phrases I was interested in didn't exactly show up in Welsh language dictionaries for tourists.  After a short time, a package arrived in the mail, in it was a sheet of paper with several Welsh quilt related phrases written out and a cassette tape.  When I popped the tape in a player, out came a short tutorial on how to pronounce the phrases done by a woman who worked at the University of Wales.  Chris had lived in Wales for a time and had called on this old friend for this favor.  Awesome.

I love this phrase and I can pronounce it in a mangled sort of way.  Welsh is an interesting language with some real challenges for an American.  The double 'dd' is pronounced like 'th' but that's the easy part of the challenge for an English speaker who never hears Welsh spoken.  As I said, I mangle the phrase in Welsh but I like what it says because it really describes the effect that the study of the Welsh quilts and culture has had on my life and especially my quiltmaking. 

Welsh quilts captured my imagination from the very first time I saw a photo of them.  I love all the lines, the leaves, hearts, spirals and the linear patterns.  I love the way every little open space was quilted with a motifs such as spirals or 'snails' which can come in all shapes including some with flat sides to make them fit into the space they're meant to fill. One of my favorite features of older Welsh quilts is how there is a sort of organic movement of the quilt patterns as they come together into a design.  If you were to lay a quilt out and measure how the patterns fit together in one quarter of the quilt design compared to the same patterns in another quarter of the quilt, you'd probably find that while they appear the same, the spacing and arrangement of patterns varies gently from section to section.  In a computerized world, I find this evidence for a human touch a bit refreshing. 

A favorite feature of Welsh quilting on pieced quilts is how the quilting design flows across the patchwork with no regard for 'staying inside the lines'.  There is a quilt in a museum in Wales which is a red and white strippy on one side, a red on white tree of life on the other side and the quilting design is a classic Welsh medallion design.  This quilt is amazing.  I love this way of quilting across patchwork and enouraged it with my students with a warning that if they put their quilt in for judging, this approach to quilting 'outside the box' might not be appreciated by judges and sure enough, one of my students got marked down on her quilt because the quilting crossed the pieced line.  That was over ten years and fortunately, there is a much broader appreciation for variations in quilting now.  I still love the quilting across the patchwork and plan to stitch Welsh designs onto the free-form scrap quilts I'm in the process of making now. 

The study of Welsh quiltmaking took on a life of it's own as it spread across the British Isles.  I joined the British Quilt Guild (as it was called then) and followed leads related to both traditional and current quiltmaking all over the U.K. and anywhere else it led.  As a result, I can no longer spell.  Color became colour, favorite became favourite and so on.  I've confused a few American quilters with the British terminology as  quilt batting became wadding and muslin became calico and so on.  On the plus side, I like the way the British broke down the quiltmaking process in defining themselves as patchworkers if they pieced quilt tops and quilters if they quilted them.  At the time I was doing my study, a quiltmaker or patchwork quilter was the person who both pieced the top and quilted it. If they referred to quilting, they were talking about the stitches of the actual quilting, not the entire quiltmaking process as the word 'quilting' is used in the States.  I like the more defined terms.  Years ago, I taught a beginning patchwork class (piecing only) but the shop listed it as a beginning quilting class.  One of the students was a bit confused that we never got around to quilting the project but only talked about options and then steered the students to the hand or machine quilting classes to continue the process.  Now, I think that American quilt influence in the U.K. is erasing the subtle little cultural differences that made us unique and I find that a bit sad.  I like the little things that set the Brits apart from American tradition.

These days, I do a bit of everything.  I teach needleturn applique, free-form piecing, machine quilting in addition to other things I do and I can see the influence of the old Welsh quilts.  It might not stand out to the casual observer but I see it.  I think they've made me a better teacher and quiltmaker.  So, there's no arguing that I'm definately inspired by tradditional Welsh quilting.  So, when I look back to the day when my English friend Chris offered to get some phrases translated for me, I should have added another phrase, 'consumed by tradditional Welsh quilts' as well as my favorite phrase.  Life would have been different if I hadn't had this experience with Welsh quilts and the other people I've met because of it.  I'm glad for the experience.  My Welsh great granny would have been pleased also.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The 'Return' of the Welsh Quilting Pattern & Design Handbook

It's been thirteen years since I printed my first copies of my WELSH QUILTING PATTERN & DESIGN HANDBOOK.  It was created out of a need for a pattern resource for students and myself because by that time, I had mountains of sketch notes along with every book I could lay my hands on with any reference to a Welsh quilt.  Not much help in a class. 

In 1994 when I discovered Welsh quilts, studying them was more akin to doing detective work.  Along the way, I learned about Welsh culture which was really intriging for me because I had a Welsh great-grandmother, Grandma Jones.  I really idenified with the Welsh quilters which added a very human element to the Welsh quilting.

When the time came to pull the handbook together and print it, the absolute last thought on my mind was that it would ever reach beyond my own classes.  If I remember right, the first printing consisted of twenty copies which I needed for one of the first classes I taught for a guild.  So why does this all matter now?  Over the years, I've had offers from people who have very kindly offered to help me 'clean up' my Handbook and I want them to know that I really appreciate their interest and support.  But the Handbook has taken on a life of it's own for me.  It's spelling isn't always correct, it got rushed to finish and probably could have included additional information such as how to bind the quilts correctly.  But at the same time, it has a kindred connection to the culture it represents, it's a one-of-a-kind, it's a little unpolished and a bit of an outsider.  It isn't just another commercial product of the quilting marketplace.  When I look through it, I don't see line drawings in black and white, I see colorful, textured quilts made from wool or cotton sateen.  I also see the faces of the Welsh women who stitched the quilts.  The Handbook represents my new appreciation for my Welsh ancestors who I know little about and the friends I've made in Wales and around the world as a result of the research experience and teaching.  In a way, my Handbook is a bit of a rebellion against the computer age and perfectly printed quilt books and the fast moving, financially driven quilt business which I've been involved with at many levels.  Don't get me wrong, I own many quilt books and I operate everyday in the quilt 'business' but I don't want to be consumed by it.  

So, the Handbook will stay as it is and will continued to be printed in some form for the time being but there are no promises in regard to how long it will be available.  In 2011, The Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre starting publishing the Handbook for sale, it's bound differently and has a color photo of the Quilt Centre inside the cover but it's the same book.  I consider it a major honor that the book has been accepted by Jen to sell at a place which is so important to preserving Welsh quilt history.  If you order the book from Jen, the sales proceeds go to the upkeep of the museum so I would encourage you to order it from her website The Handbook is due to be available through a Texas quilter and possibly a quilt shop in Texas in the near future, details will be listed when I have them.  I prefer to let others sell for me.

So, if you're drawn to Welsh quilts, I hope that you'll see them through eyes of the ancient culture of the Celtic Welsh rather than the trends and marketplace of the global quilt marketplace.

May your journey into Welsh quiltmaking be a path of discovery of old ways and new friends.