Monday, 4 December 2017

A Liberty Print Map of the UK


I talked a bit about the quilt that I used as the inspiration behind the blocks that I contributed to the V&A's new book here, but what I didn't mention was that I'd become completely obsessed with the maps that lay at the outer corners of the quilt. The photo below shows one of these maps - the maker had chain-stitched around each county and then embroidered its name on in almost impossibly tiny cross-stitches. I fell in love with all the small snippets of colour pieced together like a jigsaw, although I also loved what the presence of these maps represented: that the maker was outward-looking; that she brought her education and her sense of her place in the world to her quilting...that feels no small thing bearing in mind that she was living in 1797, when women's access to travel and education would have been relatively limited. I've talked about it in the post I linked to above, but the structure of this quilt was interesting, with symbols of the maker's own world and domesticity placed at the centre - such as needles, scissors, a pin cushion; then moving out, the garden was depicted with flowers, ducks and birds; finally two globes, Scotland, England and Wales in the far corners of the quilt.

Since I first studied the details of the quilt last year, making a similar kind of map had been mentally added to my 'one day' project list, but it was an idea that bobbed back up to the top, even as the list became fuller - a sure sign of something that wants to be made, as it's so easy for ideas to disappear from sight entirely.


Then, one night at a quiz - take from that, that I was sitting at a table with other people who were answering questions, while I ate the cheese they'd thought to bring along - someone said that their husband often spent time in the evening studying maps, looking at river names, mountain ranges and the myriad of tiny details that filled the page, trying to memorise it all specifically for boosting his quiz knowledge. You know when you first hear about a hobby and think: Wow! I had no idea that people did that. Well, that was what I was thinking as I cut a little more stilton to tide me over for the next round. When I lay in bed that night and thought back to it, I suddenly linked it up with the 1797 quilter, who'd wanted to appliqué maps on her quilt...and in fabric-form, the desire to know and name and label made more sense to me. Deadline-based work recently cleared off my desk, I got up the next morning and started making a map.

My initial idea was to fill each county with some kind of embroidered or woven fill, mixed in with the odd Liberty print, but it started to look slightly chaotic and I couldn't work out how the county names would show up over the stitched areas (I hadn't thought of printing them at that point, as I did in my final version, but that totally would have worked). The image you see below is where I got up to with that idea.


In the end, I decided to use solely Liberty Tana Lawns (it's probably predictable that I'd decide that, but it came as a revelation to me at the time...Oh, I could just use Liberty prints! What a novel idea. But really, the scale of them works so well for tiny pieces like this, so it's predictable, but also really sensible)! I divided the groups of counties into their regional areas (South East, Midlands, East Anglia etc) and assigned each a colour, and then tackled the map region by region to avoid missing out any counties. I was amazed, delighted...and also slightly appalled, that to complete a map that required so many different Liberty prints, I only had to send away for two pieces. Luckily, Duck Egg Threads sells Liberty prints in fat sixteenths, for just £1.38 a piece! It's a really economical way of stocking up on a good range of prints for a project that uses tiny pieces like this.



When you use an iron-on fusible for appliqué, you have to use a mirror-image of the shape, so that it will be orientated the right way on the front side. For this, I printed out a mirror image of the map I'd chosen to use and then traced all the counties from that map. I also kept a regular copy for reference and marking things off as I did them.


Once all the counties were cut out and ironed on (I love it when what felt like nine million hours of cutting and sticking, is later reduced to ten words), I then appliquéd it all into place on my machine. I decided to use the same thread colour all over to give some cohesion, and also to use a really narrow satin stitch, so that the lines defining the counties didn't feel too heavy.


While I'd been appliquéing, I'd come up with the idea that I could print out county names and then appliqué those on too. I wrote up the names using a lovely old typewriter font and printed them onto creamy-coloured plain cotton backed with fusible web, cut perfectly to an A4 size. My printer only objected a little to this pseudo-paper and eventually agreed to print out a full sheet of names without any smudges at all. 


You can see them being appliquéd in place above.


I wanted to tell you quickly at this point about this awesome seam ripper that I've had for a while now. It has a magnifying glass attached to it, along with a very powerful light, and together it makes light work of unpicking even the tiniest of misplaced late-night stitches. Particularly in low light, my eyes are really starting to struggle, so this is invaluable. 


One day, when my father popped in, I took him up to my sewing room to see what I was working on and he broke it me that some of my counties seemed to be missing! He was pained by telling me this, so I felt awful for him, but when I looked, I realised that Rutland was indeed missing and several other mapping crimes had been committed. It was then that I started reading up about county divisions and discovered that counties have been redefined regularly throughout history and that those on the map I was working from were only correct between 1974 - 1995.  I did mention earlier that I'm better at eating cheese than answering quiz questions, so you can see how this oversight might happen.


But either way, it was most unwelcome news. But do you know, when I checked around (obsessively), I found that half the country isn't aware of this and that there are all sorts of places where incorrect maps are still being shown on official websites...quite something when the internet wasn't really in full swing until well after this map became outdated. Some things I decided to leave as they were, but I knew that it would really bother me not to include Rutland, our smallest county, so I did some surgery and I think it was fairly successful. Also, I felt traumatised not to have all the Yorkshires labelled correctly, because my maternal grandmother had grown up in South Yorkshire (although she would have found it really funny), so that too was updated. I then typed up a little note that read 'Map of the United Kingdom, based on county divisions between 1974-1995. Some areas updated to include Hereford & Worcester as separate counties; Rutland being recognised as a county; Humberside becoming West Riding of Yorkshire.' I appliquéd this on and felt quite relieved that I'd catalogued all the inaccuracies...although my husband thought that my need to do this was absolutely curious and that it should be taken off. It was. 

UPDATE: It seems this is a map that's going to need a larger frame, just to hold the correction notices that could be placed beneath it...it's come to my attention that I meant EAST Riding of Yorkshire...not West Riding. Looking at it now, I have no idea how I didn't notice my mistake or then pick it up when very carefully [incorrectly] notating the first fault. I'm going to bury my sorrows in a large piece of White Cropwell Bishop Stilton and then sort it out at a later date, once I've relocated a modicum of trust in my own mental faculties. I could be some time. (My father introduced me to white Cropwell Bishop when we visited a cheese counter together last weekend. If you see it, get a piece - it tastes like a cross between Stilton and Wensleydale...tangy, creamy but crumbly at the same time. Perfection). UPDATE part II: Although I'm going to change the issue mentioned above, I'm not going to attempt anything else as it would probably ruin the map to do so - it's tricky to successfully unpick dense satin stitch and remove fabric that's been heat-fused without everything falling apart. Although I appreciate from the comments section that there are people who feel passionately that accuracy in these matters is important, I'm going to bury my head in the sand and enjoy my map simply as something that I loved making, which happened to be based on an outdated map, with a few of my own inaccuracies thrown in for good measure.  



It makes me really happy that Scotland (also underrepresented in counties back in 1974...it's now divided into many more pieces) is depicted in beautiful icy shades of grey, which feel like they capture the temperature of Britain's most northerly point...I later wished I'd graduated the colour on this basis across the whole map.


It's now being framed and should hopefully be on a wall soon. It's really hard to photograph because it's so tall and thin...it just seems to disappear in pictures, but I think if you click on them you'll get a bigger version, if you'd like to see any close up.


It was an odd project to work on - my mind wandered all over the place, cutting out the squiggles of rugged coastlines. It was so funny to think at each point of the lives the space might contain. More often, I imagined lovely old ladies pegging up washing in remote clifftop houses, a bit like Hannah Hauxwell in demeanour - does anyone remember the documentaries about this incredible woman, who lived alone on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales? If you're interested in doing something similar (appliqué that is, rather than lone farming), my e-book guide goes into great detail about the whole process from using fusible web to achieving a nice satin stitch (although obviously not specifically related to this map). You can find it here. It was written when I had a very basic machine, so no high-tech equipment is needed :)

Wishing you a lovely week,
Florence x

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Woven Orbs


Despite the fact that I've dropped off the edge of the internet for a month, sewing has continued behind the scenes and I've made all sorts of things that I'm hoping to share with you over the coming weeks: a dress, an appliquéd map, a quilt sewn at high-speed for a baby shower, some more Eight Dials piecing, as well as some more Matisse inspired Eight Dials blocks...the list goes on, but most of it is yet to be photographed (although randomly, I do have a picture of me standing in the middle of a field wearing the new dress accessorised with wellingtons, while on a dog walk. I am a big fan of dresses for muddy walks as it means that my favourite jeans aren't faded by constant washing...tights somehow never seem to attract mud).

Anyway, first up are these little orbs. This year, I've kept being struck with the desire to do some weaving. I've intermittently researched looms, but ultimately decided that it may require a whole new room to accommodate it (or at the very least a cupboard to store a table-top one) and also wondered if I would have the patience to thread up the warp on the loom, which seems a necessary, but somewhat complicated-looking, precursor to weaving. But either way, I have totally fallen in love with this particular piece of weaving and the thought of it continues to make me want to learn. Do you weave? I'd love to hear more about it and what the learning curve is, if you do.


For now, at least, these tiny woven orbs have dampened the insistent voice of the marauding maker-beast within, who seemed to be pulling at my sleeve and grumbling BUT I JUST WANT TO WEAVE whenever my attention was turned to any other craft! I posted a photo of the first few orbs I made on Instagram near the beginning of October and then lost myself in a flurry of undocumented orbing, which resulted in a further two dozen being created. The original inspiration for these came from an image I spotted on Pinterest and it was one of those lovely things where you then search up a name hoping they've written a book and then find that they actually have written a book...AND with the point of inspiration dotted all over the front cover, which you can see in the photo above. I was so pleased!


The book is by Karen Barbe and you can find it on Amazon, here. The content was a surprise, as it doesn't actually give any hints on how to make them, rather it's actually all about combining colour successfully. However, the book is a visual feast of orby inspiration and it wasn't hard to imagine how one goes about making them. I used Aurifil Lana wool (this shop has a really good range of colours) - I love how natural and textured it looks. I also used a wash-away marker and the base of the Lana wool reel to mark out the circles. For the weaving, I used a thick, blunt needle to avoid splitting the wool and I interfaced the pale base fabric, so that any stray threads wouldn't be visible on the front.



I've ordered some tiny picture frames from Ikea and will be putting these up on a wall in my kitchen that's always felt curiously empty. This is clearly what it's been waiting for.


In other matters, I'll be venturing out from behind my screen to go to The Village Haberdashery this Saturday to chat about the V&A book I contributed to. I'll be talking for a bit (if I can remember how to speak) about the project I offered up and I'm also looking forward to hearing about the inspiration for the other pieces in the book and hopefully time just spent chatting with other makers - it would be really lovely to meet any readers in real life, if you happen to find yourself in London on Saturday afternoon. It's from 2-5pm at The Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead - it may be worth checking with the shop to see if tickets, which are free, are still available.


Finally, the gorgeous teapot, above, is made by Jo Avery, who has just begun a block of the month quilt-along with Today's Quilter. You can find out more on Jo's blog, here, and follow along as she unveils a full kitchen's worth of crockery over the coming year. Jo invited me to post about one of the blocks, so in the new year I'll be sharing the one that I've made when it gets to the relevant month.

It's now feeling horribly close to the end of November and, unusually for me, I've done very little in the way of buying or making any Christmas presents. Have you started making anything? Or do you have any wonderful ideas for shop-bought gifts?

Have a lovely weekend,
Florence x

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Tracy Chevalier and The Sleep Quilt


As teenagers, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I used to watch two hospital dramas if we happened to be in when they were on (although 'happening to be in' may understate how much we enjoyed those programmes at that point in our lives...ensuring that we had a family-sized bag of chocolate Minstrels for viewing and both leaping onto the sofa in time to hear the theme music is probably a more accurate description). One was a drama set in a casualty department and the other set on the wards of the same hospital. I tell you all this because, very occasionally, a character from one show would make a fleeting appearance in the other and we would feel curiously delighted to find the two worlds colliding!

Anyway, that's kind of what happened to me a few weeks ago (minus hospitals and chocolate, although with the addition of things that appeal to me far more twenty years later...), when I met with one of my favourite novelists, Tracy Chevalier, to talk about her forthcoming book with Fine Cell Work. The colliding being that I'd interviewed both Tracy and Fine Cell Work separately about different things last year and suddenly found myself with Tracy chatting about their joint project. (Those initial interviews are yet to be published and I don't want to duplicate anything here, so what follows is, to me, only half the story, but I'm not sure the page would be long enough to accommodate the whole story anyway)!


For those who haven't come across Fine Cell Work already, they're a wonderful charity whose volunteers teach prisoners to stitch and sew, enabling them to earn money by making things based on the charity's commercially-viable designs, which they collaborate on with interior designers, such as Kit Kemp and John Stefanidis. The finished hand-made cushions and quilts are of incredible quality and are sold by FCW to an appreciative (often high-profile) customer base. There are countless benefits from this scheme: prisoners who stitch are statistically calmer and less likely to get into fights; the long solitary prison hours are passed doing something productive; positive feedback from customers builds self-esteem; it allows them to offer some financial support to their family while they're inside and often when the stitcher emerges from prison they have the skills, enthusiasm and small nest-egg necessary to begin a new life, rather than returning to old habits.

Tracy's first meeting with Fine Cell Work was when they invited her to talk to some of their stitchers at Wandsworth Prison about a novel she'd written, where the central character is a quilt-maker. She said that on that first visit, despite her initial apprehension about entering a male prison, she actually felt relatively safe. Although most of the FCW stitchers are category A prisoners (high security), they value their time sewing so greatly that they are at pains not to jeopardise the privilege and tend to be respectful and eager to please. Tracy said that conversation with the assembled prisoners quickly felt curiously akin to that of any quilting group, where people are united by a shared enthusiasm for needle and thread. She said that the FCW stitchers were eager to share their own work with her and hungry for positive feedback. It was an experience that left her feeling she wanted to continue her connection with Fine Cell Work.


Around the same time as her visit to Wandsworth, Tracy was also invited to curate an exhibition of quilts at Danson House in Bexley Heath. She called that exhibition 'Things We Do in Bed' and chose to give each of the five rooms a theme - birth, sleep, sex, illness and death - to be explored through the medium of quilts. After her prison visit, she felt inspired to invite the Fine Cell Work stitchers to create a quilt for her show; she decided that the least controversial theme for that may be 'sleep'. What she discovered, was that sleep isn't as neutral a topic in prisons as she'd first imagined and the resulting quilt is as heavy with emotion as it is with stitches.

Through Fine Cell Work, prison stitchers were invited to create a patchwork square for the quilt, depicting what sleep meant to them. In eight prisons, a total of sixty-five prisoners brainstormed ideas and, if anyone lacked the artistic ability, collaborated on artwork to help each person successfully convey their feelings around sleep. The resulting quilt is a richly tapestried piece of wakefulness, dreams, insomnia, escapism, counted sheep, guilt, regret, sadness, vulnerability and, at times, hope.

Photo credit: Fine Cell Work
To give the Sleep Quilt a feeling of cohesion, dark blue sashing was placed between the blocks and the predominant colours used were white and blue. Additionally, Fine Cell Work decided that just one stitcher should do the hand-quilting to bind the layers of the quilt together - a 'burly Polish inmate in London's Brixton Prison who worked 10 hours a day for six weeks on it, in between bouts of weight-lifting' was chosen. When I saw the quilt, for all the beautiful blocks it contains, I found this hand-quilting equally captivating. The stitches are exquisitely even and consistent...it puts my own hand-quilting to shame. As a quilt-maker, I think we're always left wanting to know the exact techniques used - in one place I could see the faintest blue line beneath the stitching, which I recognised as the distinctive ink of a wash-away quilt marker. I don't usually rule out my lines of stitching, tending to 'eyeball' it, so I may try this next time. Tracy pointed out the decisions the quilter had made: where to quilt around a picture or where to stop; whether to use navy or white thread. It's not until you begin to analyse it that you can see the sensitivity of the quilting decisions and appreciate that he somehow called it exactly right every time. It's a huge responsibility to make stitches on a block that someone else has pieced.


The blocks themselves are at times humorous and, at others, tear-inducing. Some tell a literal story of sleeping in prison - in one block, a vast torch light looms over a prison bed and the words 'Turn that bloody torch off' and 'I only get two hours' are written on the intricately thread-drawn brick wall above.


Some blocks convey dreams of home, a camper van, family or a partner. The quilt block below is the only one created by a female prisoner.


Here, a block shows a sleeping man, tears on his cheek and his face heavy with sadness, depicted in delicate blue floral fabric...it's a surprising fabric choice that feels both brave and vulnerable.


Another densely-stitched block tells an autobiographical story, described in the accompanying words with startlingly frank self-awareness: 'The lower right figure represents past relationships, where a candle of enlightenment belatedly reveals my true nature' and 'the most prominent design on the left symbolises my daughter. I have never met her and she subsequently displays my burden of shame.' It is not an easy read.


The projects that the stitchers usually work on are patterns provided by FCW, so Tracy and some of the volunteers had felt apprehensive about whether working on such an emotive project may unleash feelings that were difficult for the prisoners to deal with, but she said that ultimately, the prisoners seemed to find it a positive experience. I wonder if exploring feelings through stitches may be easier than talking, as the soothing repetition of the work simultaneously offers its own balm to any turmoil the actual work may stir up.

The men collaborated on layout and Tracy pointed out to me how the four outer corners are weighted with darker-coloured blocks; the sheep blocks are evenly spaced to avoid ending up with a field's-worth clustered in one area; and the nine central squares have also been carefully placed in terms of colour value. Once the layout had been agreed, one prisoner was then tasked with sewing it all together, a privilege as well as a responsibility. Assigning duties like this was handled by Caroline Wilkinson, one of Fine Cell Works most active volunteers, who oversaw much of the quilt-making.


I asked Tracy whether she feels apprehensive when she commissions a quilt - it's something she's done several times, also commissioning quilts for her subsequent show celebrating Charlotte Bronte's bicentenary. She told me that in this case, when the initial squares were shared with her, she worried about whether the final piece would have enough impact, but like any quilt, it's often only once it's viewed as a whole that the individual components feel 'right' and she was delighted with the finished quilt. I also asked her about the experience of curating an exhibition. She said that she's learnt something each time she's done it - one thing being an acceptance that she won't always get viewers to do what she wants them to do! She explained that at the Things We Do in Bed exhibition, there was a brief and unmissable piece of writing, which, if read, would make sense of the whole exhibition for the visitor...and she watched as person after person walked straight past it. When I went to visit the Matisse in the Studio exhibition at the RA recently, I caught myself hungrily striding towards the paintings, only forcing myself to return to the introductory writing when Tracy's words rang in my ears and I imagined some poor curator watching on in horror. Although it was like a bit like sucking a sweet to appreciate it's flavour, when my instinct is to chew it briefly and then devour it almost whole, I feel I will probably always stop to read the introduction from now on!

The sleep quilt ended up being displayed alongside works by the likes of Grayson Perry and Sara Impey. It's yet another facet of Fine Cell Work's genius that through their relationship with Tracy, prisoners have been offered an opportunity like this. Although, in order to protect their privacy, their names aren't shared, the positive effects on one's self-esteem in taking part in such a high-profile project, when one's life to date may have lacked any kind of praise or affirmation, seem inestimable.


And now, a book, reincarnating the sleep quilt in paper-form - something I'm so delighted by, having missed the exhibition when it was on originally. It's a small, perfectly-formed book, ideal for gifting, self-gifting or coffee-tabling. The quilt blocks have been beautifully photographed and fill the pages, sometimes with a short explanation alongside elaborating on the meaning it holds for the maker. There's an introduction by Tracy, as well as Katy Emck, Fine Cell Work's Director. And at the end of the book, several pages of quotes from prison governors, FCW volunteers, and the inmates themselves, sharing the difference that Fine Cell Work and needlework has made to their lives.


If you'd like to support the production of the book, you can purchase it through the KickStarter, where you can also choose a handmade purse or cushion to go with it, if you'd like. Any surplus money raised will help finance Fine Cell Work's new hub, where ex-inmates will be able to find work and learn to re-integrate in society. If you'd prefer, there's also the more conventional Amazon route (although I think the charity would love it if you'd consider being part of their Kickstarter). It's a really beautiful book - I think anyone would love it and I'd wholeheartedly recommend buying a copy!


Tracy's actually holding two of the aforementioned prisoner-made cushions in this photo (she also showed me the loveliest side table, which was covered in the same colourful needlepoint, also made by FCW stitchers). Tracy explained that these cushions are often one of the first things prisoners will make when they finally reach the point of being skilled enough for Fine Cell Work to sell their stitching. Each little square in the cushion contains only two colours, so the stitchers are able to be fairly creative with less chance of a demoralising failure, because the duos of colour just always seem to work well together.


If subtle cushions are more your thing though, I am also swooning over these and have one of them on my Christmas wishlist (I wrote about a beautiful hotel where I'd stayed for my 40th birthday and it's owner and designer, Kit Kemp, has collaborated with Fine Cell Work to create this range of hand-finished cushions).



In the days before I met Tracy and was thinking about The Sleep Quilt, several things bobbled up in my mind. One was a book about sleep by Matthew Walker that I'd heard being discussed on Start the Week and read various articles about (do listen here, if you have the time and inclination). His book suggests that sleep deprivation impacts on virtually every aspect of our mental and physical health. An extreme example of this is that when the clocks go forward and we lose an hour's sleep, the rate of heart attacks increases by a staggering 24% in the days that follow. By contrast, when the clocks go back and we gain an hour of sleep, the rate of heart attack decreases by a similar amount (I share this news from the relative safety of the clocks having gone back just three days ago...)! Matthew's book sounds fascinating from a personal point of view, but I then started thinking about it in the context of the Sleep Quilt: for those who are potentially most in need of an environment that fosters mental stability, level emotions and resilience of spirit in order to make positive life changes, prisoners are thrown into a place that couldn't be more hostile to facilitating the kind of sleep that could make those things more attainable, with clanging doors, bright torch lights, pacing guards and potentially intimidating room mates. It seems just another of the many ways in which our current prison system seems set up solely to punish, eschewing the need to also rehabilitate. On the subject of room mates, I listened to a podcast a few months ago called Ear Hustle, which is recorded, under supervision, by prisoners in an American state prison. The first one, Cellies, gives a really interesting insight into how sharing a cell impacts on one's day-to-day experience of prison.

Finally, last year, I read about a government-led system in Brazilian prisons where inmates can reduce their sentences by up to 48 days per year, by reading books and then writing reports on them to demonstrate their comprehension of the text. The carefully curated reading list offers a range of literature, philosophy and Brazilian classics for different reading abilities and is labelled Redemption through Reading. When I think about how life-changing certain books have been in my own relatively sheltered life, it's not hard to imagine the possible impact they may have on a life that's gone awry, where exposure to thought-provoking literature may be an entirely new experience. Although the Brazilian prison environment is almost certainly more gruelling than our own, implementing systems like this seem a relatively low-cost way of bringing about small, positive changes. One of the teachers who works in a Brazilian prison says 'We hope to create a new perspective on life for them. This is about acquiring knowledge and culture and being able to join another universe.'


Just before I left, Tracy indulged me with a show-and-tell of her work. You can see her beautiful baby quilt in the photo above on the left - all the squares were fussy-cut to create a whirligig of pattern. I also saw some glorious patchworks and even some of her very first piecing, all hand-sewn. This initial piecing actually set off an idea in my head that I'm hoping to try out at some point, so more on that when I eventually do!

Finally, because I know some long-time readers may be thinking it: how did I meet one of my favourite authors and retain the power of speech? As I stood on her doorstep, it did suddenly occur to me that I may indeed lose all my words and have to gather them up from the pavement. But talking about quilts together somehow very quickly made her seem more Kindred Spirit than Author God.

Florence x

Friday, 13 October 2017

Patchwork & Quilting: A Maker's Guide


It's been a while since I last posted, so now I have a whole queue of things impatiently lined up waiting to be shared, but this book, published by Thames & Hudson for the V&A, has leapfrogged straight to the front of the queue.


Last year, an email landed in my inbox asking if I'd like to contribute an English paper pieced project to a book that the Victoria & Albert Museum were bringing out. Contributors were invited to pick something from the museum's collection and create a piece inspired by it, which felt like such a delicious premise for a project.
I chose this Sundial Coverlet from 1797 as my inspiration piece, drawn to it through a combination of it containing some wonderful blocks suitable for EPP, as well as finding the thoughtfulness behind its structure appealing. Described by the V&A as 'a microcosm of her world in cloth', the maker has placed matters close to home at the centre of the quilt and slowly stitched her way out to the far corners of the world. The central blocks relate to domesticity: a pincushion, needle, scissors and it also looks to bare the initials of either herself or family members. Moving outward, the coverlet is dotted with blocks that reference the garden: ducks, birds, butterflies and honeysuckle. In the four corners are pieced maps: the top two showing the Eastern and Western Hemispheres on the globe; while the outline of England and Wales, and then Scotland, are depicted in the two bottom corners. It's a structure that made me imagine a maker who appreciated what was close to home, but who was also outward-looking and whose dreams were filled with travel and adventure.

While the more figurative blocks initially attracted me to the quilt, I focused on some of the geometric piecing that the quilt encompassed, which is better for EPP. I chose three blocks, which increase in level of difficulty, beginning with simple hexagons, working up to smaller pieces and some gentle curves. Having drafted the blocks, I chose to use Liberty prints, which feel to bridge the gap between old and new. This is the most simple of the three blocks:


In the photo below, you can see the direct inspiration for the quilt block that follows. I've tried to mirror the original maker's careful placement of prints - you can see that she's used the same prints at 12 and 6 o'clock, and then again at 1, 5, 7 and 11 o'clock and so on. The curve sits on the outside edge of the outermost pieces, so one doesn't actually have to sew any curves together.



Again, in the block below, I've tried to make my placement of repeating fabrics sympathetic to the original layout, as it was so thoughtfully done that I didn't want to dilute its loveliness in translation. The blocks could be made placed in repeat to make a whole quilt, or framed and put on the wall, which is where mine will be going.



I wanted the three blocks to each have a distinct feel, but also to work together as a cohesive trio for photography. When choosing fabrics for a block, I'm always waiting for that illusive feeling of 'ah, yes, of course', which comes when I finally feel I've found a combination of colours and prints that works. It's long been a source of frustration for me that I'll hold a project up for weeks, while I wait for that combination to materialise (although this subsequent sewing exercise has really helped with conquering that - I'd really recommend it for fellow indecisives). In order for me to meet my deadline and not steal too much time away from another project that I was immersed in for much of last year, I knew that I had to make quicker decisions with these blocks, so I decided to confine myself to just one weekend for fabric choices. 


I've found the quickest and least wasteful way for me to trial a large number of fabrics is to scan them in and then mess around with them on my laptop, swapping fabrics in and out, until I have a combination I feel happy with. My sister had offered to be a second pair of eyes for me and that weekend we had countless texts and phone calls, discussing what was or wasn't working with each version. I was relieved that by about 7pm on Sunday, I had all three blocks finalised and a digital image of how each fabric should be cut there for my reference and the finished blocks do look identical to those first images (above, the first photo shows the digital version, the second is the hand-sewn versions)! It made the cutting and sewing bit really speedy and a few days before Christmas, I posted my blocks off to the our editor, ready for their photo shoot in the new year. 


So, on to the actual book, which is a thing of beauty. It's peppered with samples from the V&A's collection, which makes it feel a really rich and weighty book. It's also fascinating to see how each contributor has approached creating a modern version of their original inspiration piece.


The book's other contributors are Jenny Barlow, Susan Briscoe, Caroline Crabtree, Jenny Haynes, Pippa Moss, Ruth Singer and Gillian Travis and their makes are all gorgeous. One of my favourites is this reversible cot quilt by Pippa Moss - I haven't tried making a whole cloth quilt, but this makes me want to have a go. Beautiful tactile fabric and intricate hand-quilting.



Another project that jumped out at me is this gorgeously bold quilt by Jenny Haynes, finished with hand quilting in thick perle cotton.



There are so many other lovely projects inside - too many to mention here. 

Finally, I wanted to show you some of the beautiful step-by-step illustrations by Eleanor Crow. When I first received proofs of my pages, I could scarcely believe how perfectly she'd reproduced the Liberty prints...almost lovelier than the originals. 


If you're interested, you may well be able to hunt a copy down in your local bookshop. Alternatively, you can find it on Amazon (that's an affiliate link by the way - it means if someone buys a copy, then Amazon give me a tiny percentage of the sale price. Amazon doesn't share any of your details with me though. If you'd rather they didn't pass on a share of the sale, just type in 'Patchwork & Quilting A Maker's Guide' on Amazon and it should come up for you).

I think a launch party for the book is being planned at The Village Haberdashery in London on 25th November. I'll share more details nearer the time, but if you fancy coming along, it would be really lovely to meet you.

Wishing you a happy weekend,
Florence x
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