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I am a quilter living in Woodbridge, Suffolk who has made quilts since I was a teenager. I also ring bells! Both are great British traditions....I will try to feature some of my antique Welsh and Durham quilts, the quilts I make myself, my quilting activities and also some of my bellringing achievements. Plus as many photos as I can manage. NB: Double click on the photos to see greater detail, then use back button to return to the main page.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Trip to Nadelwelt, Karlsruhe, Germany June 8-13 2016

 Last year, I was invited, via a German Facebbook friend, to exhibit some of my quilts at Nadelweldt, a quilt and craft show held every year in Karlsruhe, SW Germany. The original idea was to show some Welsh quilts - but they are very heavy to transport! The organiser was much more interested in my Hawaiian quilts, which are very striking and perhaps rather different to other quilts seen on the Continent. So, during the intervening months, I emailed various information over, and even signed a contract. I didn't really know what to expect...

I booked a budget hotel on the advice of friend Andrea - and booked parking at Stansted and air tickets to the nearest airport, Baden Baden. I planned to carry the quilts with me on the airplane rather than ship them - and managed to carry on three quilts and pack the other five into a large suitcase.

The big day finally arrived - how glad I was to see the suitcase with the quilts appear on the carousel at Baden. As is usually the case with these cheap airflights, Baden was quite a distance from Karlsruhe, about 25 miles. There didn't seem to be another direct bus for quite some time, and as I didn't fancy struggling with two suitcases on two buses or trams, I opted to take a taxi.

No problem finding the hotel then! As I checked in, Andrea Strache and Birgit Shueller did too, which was fortunate. We were able to go out together for a meal in Karlsruhe together. Both speak excellent English, in fact I was struck by Birgit's extensive vocabulary! It turned out that in a former life she had been a translator - however, she is now a very well known long-arm quilter. Both were there to exhibit the quilts that had gone from Germany to the World Quilt Competition in the US.

The next morning, off we went to the new Karlsruhe Messe, or Exhibition Hall. It is some way out of town, and I was glad to be given a lift by Birgit in her car. The roads were crazy! I'm sure that there would be multiple pile ups if these roads were in the UK.....

I had pre-ordered measured battens for the quilts to hang on and these were ready. But, the hanging system was different than in the UK, as the battens were attached to hooks and monolfilment....the quilts hung against white display boards....

My display area was well lit and right next to the glass quadrangle, thus the quilts could be seen from many parts of the hall. It took several hours to hang all the quilts by myself, climbing up onto two chairs. Once I got the hang of it, it wasn't too bad. And the quilts did look very striking once they were up! An adhesive sign was pasted up...The sun was at full strength now and the hall acted as a greenhouse, becoming very warm! I was rather flushed by this time...

Looking into my area....I was very proud of the way that the quilts looked...very striking...

I had brought a part finished quilt, Lei Momi or String of Pearls. I had planned to enter it into FOQ this summer, but the quilting was still "in progress". This quilt aroused a lot of interest as you could see how it was constructed. Also, so as not to become bored if things got too quiet, I had brought my current applique top to work on. I ended up by demonstrating needle turn applique for most of the time on  Friday, Saturday and Sunday - again, attracting a lot of interest.

Nearly all of the German quilts on display were what I would call Art, Contemporary or Modern quilts, so most people were rather bemused by these Hawaiian quilts which were all hand applique and hand quilted. The most common question was how long did they take to make? and my answer was, one year to applique and one year to quilt, only doing a bit most evenings, so about two years....

Not my photo but Birgit's, showing the exhibition area from the mezzanine. Of course there were workshops being held, and there was a very large vendors' area. But no quilt competition, the explanation given was that there are no quilt judges in Germany...

Andrea Strache and Birgit Shueller on Sunday, prior to packing the World Competition quilts away...

I was able to share a taxi to the airport with Alicia Merrett on Monday, and was able to compare notes. Alicia of course is a much more seasoned traveller than I and had been in constant communication with the organisers. She was teaching, which I would have found rather stressful, even with a translator.

Final thoughts - I was so proud of the quilts and how well they looked together.  I did enjoy this experience and enjoyed talking to quilters from a variety of countries. What would I take away? That it was a bit of a learning curve for me - if I were to do this again, I would have to communicate much more closely with the organisers. I had assumed that things would be much as they were in the UK, and was a bit caught out by the differences. Better communication on my part would have made me better prepared. Also, I did not get much help from the organisers, but this was perhaps because I did not ask for any help. I found out that Quilt Angels were available had I but known it.

Finally, thank goodness for Facebook. Birgit and Andrea helped out immensely, by transporting me to and from the Exhibition Hall each day. I enjoyed our evening meals together. It would have been rather lonely without them!

Here are links to two other blogs which have further photos of the quilts at Karlsruhe, and also my Hawaiian quilts:


Petra at Not all is Grey:

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Applique Pots of Flowers Top

Here is an unfinished quilt top - it is very large at 90 x 104 ". Perhaps it just grew and grew, as many tops do, and then was never finished off!

The quilt top is made of applique flowers set with plain blocks. The fabrics are a mixture of prints and plains, and have a perky charm to them.

Narrow green borders are seen together with smaller flowers and leaves.

The cats had a look......

It looks a bit rumpled, but nothing that won't "quilt out"....

Pink flowers....

Blue flowers...

Purple flowers...
Even green flowers...but all have similar colour pots....

The rather pastel colours remind me of 30's colour schemes - especially that green colour, which at one time was very popular. This quilt top has been made solely by hand - even the long borders are sewn by hand, not by machine. The seller was located outside Edinburgh, and this top came to them with other linen; nothing more is known about it. So it could be British or it could be North American.....there was much cross over, both amongst patterns and also quilters, so it is difficult to be certain where it originally came from. A very jolly sort of pattern!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Small Welsh Quilt?

Here is a small quilt. It was originally bought by the seller in Greenwich Village in NYC - so could be Welsh, North Country or possibly French.

The size is what I would term a child's quilt - too large for a cot quilt at 49 x 55 inches. The style is a frame...a pink print with diamond hand quilting in the centre....

Then, hand stitched swirls with fans and flowers around the edges...

The edge is neatly hand stitched.

The centre has somewhat of a French boutis feel to it...

The reverse is a pale print with a small fern motif - difficult to know what the original colour was.

The reverse - a printed fabric. Like most cot quilts and children's quilts, one feels that it must have been much used and much loved, so the shabby quality adds to the charm, I think..

What so you think, Welsh, Durham or French?

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Quilt Studies 17

My copy of Quilt Studies arrived on contains the written versions of the papers we heard at a BQSG seminar held in October 2015 in Brighton Grove, Manchester.

The article that I find most interesting is the one by Clare Claridge, "The Quilt Wives of Aberdare".
The article sets out in detail the story of the quilting initiative of the Rural Industries Bureau in Wales. Leading quilters in the Aberdare area are identified, and to the rear, some quilting designs set out.

Other articles are: "Pride of Place: The Bed and its Furniture: An Analysis of 88 Wills (1580-1680) from North Staffordshire and South Cheshire by Paula Hulme; Egyptian Quilting: The Documentation, Structural Analysis and Conservation of Two Mamluk Caps in the Newberry Collection, University of Leeds, by Jacqueline Hyman; The History of Cyanotype (Blueprinting) and its Use in Photography, Industry Art and Textiles, by Dr Cathy C Michel; A Stitch in Time by Jennifer Vickers.

Copies of this Quilt Studies can be purchased from The Quilt Museum, York.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Crossley And Bancroft Shuttles

Some years ago, our BQSG seminar was held in Burnley, Lancashire. The area was once one of the most important in fabric production in the past. Susan L., her husband and I just managed to squeeze in a visit to the Queen Street Mill Museum.....and I was mightily impressed! Although only a small fraction of the weaving looms had been preserved, when the huge room of looms was turned on, what a noise! No wonder the workers lost their hearing and thus were adept at lip reading and sign language. Fabrics were an important part of Britains industrial history, now almost vanished...

So I was pleased to find this is a flying shuttle to be used in a weaving machine, as proved by the metal tips. Hand weaving shuttles lack these metal tips, which would be too sharp for the weavers hands....

This shuttle was made by Crossleys. The firm was located at Woodbottom Mill, Hollins Road, Walsden, Todmorden in Yorkshire. Crossleys closed in 2006, after 118 years of manufacturing shuttles of all sizes for automatic and non-automatic looms. The reason given for closure was the decline of the British textile industry and foreign competition.

The detail of the shuttle is pretty amazing, and shows great engineering...this is the end feed mechanism...

There is still a spool of artificial silk in the shuttle. The little brushes must facilitate the movement or get rid of fluff? Not sure! So sturdily made....yet not vastly different to ones found in archaelogical sites!

Fabric is a wonderful product....

I was so intrigued by the shuttle that I bought two more - different silk colours this time, and by a different maker - these are made by Bancroft of Blackburn. Given the incredible number of looms in Britain formerly, there must still be very many of these shuttles still floating about, as these cost very little. I think that they are very decorative....

Friday, 29 April 2016

Cot quilt from Sunderland

Here is a little cot quilt in "art silk". It measures 21 x 28 inches.

Cot quilts are not as common as they might be, as they get hard use and often don't survive.

This quilt comes from Sunderland where it was a family item.

The design is a simple one, a daisy, cross hatching and a simple zig zag outer border.

The edges are a bit worn, and have been finished by hand. I expected cotton wadding, but it is a bit springy, and may be polyester....which might mean that this is not such an old piece. I will have to examine under the microscope!

Friday, 22 April 2016

1861 Quilt made by Katy Low

I bought this quilt recently.....not in good shape, but with some good history and dated, so very interesting to me from a fabric dating point of view.

The label reads, as best I can make it out - This quilt was made by Katy Low in 1861 under her Mother's (???direction??) for her great Grandmother. After her death it was given to her Grandmother who now gives it to her Katy Low. Dec 1867

This quilt is Welsh in origin, the sellers bought it at auction about 25 years ago.

Many of the fabrics have disintegrated. The seller thought that this was because they were silk dress fabrics, but it fact the rotting is due to a problem called tendering which is caused by the presence of iron oxide used in the printing process for cotton fabrics. The problem is at its worst with dark brown cotton fabrics. 

Barbara Brackman on page 99 of her book America's Printed Fabrics 1770-1890, says the following:
Madder style prints - Madder is  vegetable dye derived from......Rubia tinctorium. 
Cottons dyed with madder are among the most common fabrics in nineteenth-century was colorfast and inexpensive, yet versatile.....producing colors ranging from red-orange through purple, brown and almost black. 

Then on page 101 she states: Madder browns and near blacks have an unfortunate tendancy to deteriorate or "tender" fabric. Iron used in the mordanting process interacts with oxygen in the air, essentially rusting the fabric over time. Antique quilts are full of madder-style prints that have oxydised, leaving holes in calicoes and empty lines in stripes. The darker the brown, the more iron in the mordant, and the more likely the fabric is to rot over time.

Here, you can see that the thin border of dark brown has almost completely disappeared over time, exposing the woollen wadding.

This stripe in brown has also disappeared over time.

The backing of the quilt is in linen, common in quilts of this era.

Quilting patterns seen are chevrons in the border, while the blocks are outlined and then filled with a scale or clamshell pattern.

There is a variety of patterns to be seen. Phillip Sykas told us that most quilts seem to have a ten year spread of fabrics, although some quilts do seem to be made from scrap bags containing some much older fabrics.

In addition, bundles of fabric pieces were readily available at markets, along with tradesmens sample books which could  be also turned into patchwork. In this quilt, although the squares are varied, many have a twin, suggesting that the fabrics were bought in, or perhaps came from a seamstress' supply.

Larger amounts of fabrics were needed for the inner and outer borders.

This quilt is entirely hand pieced. The sewing machine was not available at the time this quilt was made...the stitches are tiny. This is especially evident on the binding, in which the backing linen is brought to the front and fixed with tiny stitches.

There are some attractive blue colours to be seen, probably Prussian Blue. The red and orange fabrics are all madder style, with no turkey red fabrics to be seen. The fabrics are mostly roller prints. Artificial fabric dyes did not exist at this time.