Just before Christmas, at the delightful farmer’s market in Richmond’s Heron Square, I met a Bengalese chap selling Kantha quilts. They were pretty reasonably priced for the size, and for the immense amount of work that goes into them. Mostly made from old saris, they’re quite thin. I had a good squeeze and didn’t detect any wadding, not the type used here at least. It gives the quilts such a lovely, soft, fluid feel, enhanced further by the silky texture of the fabric. The old saris are so well-worn-and-washed, that they have taken on a gorgeous, delicate quality, with a slight sheen. The colours are faded, but so bright originally that they will never completely be vanquished by detergent/scrubbing against rocks in the Ganges. I particularly liked, and will be using, the running quilting stitch they had – neon thread contrasting and complimenting the top and backing. Exotic and stunning.
Kantha is a type of intricate embroidery originating in West Bengal, that is applied to quilts along with the simple, sometimes multi-directional running stitch I just mentioned. Here’s some of my favourite examples that the infogrid has provided.
So, I see 2012 isn’t letting the door hit it on the way out. Where have the last few months gone? Work is insane at this time of year usually anyway, but this annus hath taken the biscuit. So much so, that I’m having to make apology quilts for the people I’ve been canceling on repeatedly. This weeks grovel-project: a baby Bargello.
My father’s cousin was recently on a sojourn from her native Australia to attend my sister’s wedding. Very nice it was too. Barbara has been a quilter for ten thousand years, so it was brilliant to get some tips. I showed her a picture of a cool quilt I’d seen at a show and she told me it was a Bargello. The name comes from a series of chairs found in the Bargello palace in Florence, which have a ‘flame stitch’ pattern on them.
I love this look. I have great plans for my fabric stash now. I thought I’d have a little practice this weekend and, although it’s not as full-on as larger Bargellos, it uses the same technique and it’s come out rather prettily. The method seems forgiving of my TERRIBLE wonky cutting, as the staggering of strips produce a curve affect anyway.
I haven’t batted, backed, basted or quilted it yet, but I have bordered it.
Here’s a visual step-by-step in a fancy new slide show. And yes, that is Rod Stewart’s Christmas album in the background. I am not ashamed:
Oooooo, check out the Calaveras on that! I’ve just stumbled upon a really cool website. Fancy Moon, “Purveyors of Fine Fabrics”, have some really off-beat designs. I particularly like their Alexander Henry collections. The Pinata de Los Muertos in black is on my list.
Had a smashing last evening at Kew Gardens. Grease on the giant screen. Scotch eggs from Ginger Pig. Fat cherries from a carrier bag and a half bottle of Nyetimber from our chum Tom on the Sparkling English Wine stand.We have the perfect terroir, don’t you know? But where a good night is had, a slightly shoddy morning must follow. So, as Mr Welch is (finally) outside, laying the last remaining bricks of the barbecue he started in March, under the bluest sky I’ve ever seen, I fancy doing something that does not require my getting out of my pyjamas all day. Ooo, how about some patchwork? Oh go on then.
After recently making a very simple cushion cover, pictured above, for a dear friend, Mr Welch kindly said he wouldn’t mind if I wanted to re-cover our existing cushions. And, in the spirit of reciprocity, I wouldn’t mind if he wanted to re-cover his wife in expensive jewellery. Sapphires please, darling.
SOME HOURS LATER…
My pyjama-in was very rudely brought to a halt when the neighbours passed their four year old over the fence to pick some of the ripening tomatoes. They’re in the habit of doing so and at least Mr Welch got her to pull up some weeds while she was here. When invited in to wash some baby carrots she’d liberated from the raised beds, she told me I should really get dressed, regarding with distaste my slatternly get-up. Never mind. It’s quarter to seven so I can get back into them soon enough.
I haven’t been setting a bad example to the neighbourhood youth all day though. Not only did I make a lovely stripy cushion cover, but I also listened to Beethoven’s Symphonies No.1 through No.4, and a little bit of No.7, ’cause it’s my favourite. And then I had a 2 hour nap on the rug.
Who’d have thought you could have such a good time surrounded by thousands of the over 60s? It just goes to show that anything is possible at The 2012 Festival of Quilts! It really was brilliant. The scale of the show was impressive, with exhibitions of textile art integrated throughout. The gallery of competition entries was epic and I picked up so many ideas. I also picked up a tiny shed load of the softest, fluffiest, cosiest flannelettes. How did I not know about flannelettes already? Where have they been hiding? I suppose my propensity for Jelly Rolls is to blame. Well, anyway, the flannelettes and I are together at last. I think it will be one collection of fabrics that I have to be completely selfish with. Definitely. Defo. Def Leppard. I’ll add it to my list of ‘Quilts To Do’, which currently comprises of the following:
1 x Queen size ‘Blue Lagoon’ in taupes and creams for Mr Welch and myself. Status: top almost complete, just missing a border. Started: 2 years ago (oh dear).
1 x Bed size ‘Stacked Coins’ in peacock blues, purples and emerald greens for my Mami. Status: strips sewn together in fives, awaiting further attention. Started: 8 months ago.
1 x adaptation of ’Stacked Coins’ in 1930s reproduction fabrics for Pops. Status: top complete, backing bought, quiltwich made, awaiting basting. Started: Three days ago.
1 x freestyle squares in blues, turquoise and white, possibly with appliqué footprints, housewarming present. Status: needs a border to complete quilt top. Started: 4 weeks ago.
1 x potential ‘Tumbling Blocks’ for a wedding present. Might be cutting it too close though, so may have to simplify. Status: pipe dream.
Hmm. I’d better not go to work. I have far too much to do.
For the last five years Mr Welch and I have photographed weddings. Yesterday we did our last one. We’re hanging up our cameras as the weekends are just too precious. The thing I’ll miss most is probably the opportunity to see inside people’s houses. It’s quite fascinating really, how people decorate.
Anyway, whilst heading to the Bride’s house for the preparation photos we drove past a sign for Tudor Rose Patchwork. I practically jumped up and down in my seat, begging for Mr Welch to pull over, which he did. Good old Mr Welch. He elected to stay in the car as I pottered through the bolts of cloth and tables, every surface covered with pristine folded fabric. Fat Quarters. Fat Eighths. Jelly Rolls. Charm Packs. Layer Cakes. Freedom Rolls. Strips. Remnants. Big Fat Bolts. Mmm…quilting vernacular…how I love thee. As I can’t help myself I bought of quarter packs and some new Creative Grids rulers for triangular cutting. Perhaps I’ll make a little video tutorial once I’ve figured out how to use them.
It was a very functional shop. It had a huge stock and had lots of things I’d never seen before, but it lacked the magic that some other quilt shops have. I can’t understand why, if you have the kind of window-display fodder that a quilt and craft shop has, why you wouldn’t use it. Fill a giant fishbowl full of those jewel coloured bobbins. Sew your own bunting, rather than rely on the black-and-beige plastic set you got free from your sewing machine supplier. Hang hundreds of pairs of pastel, polka-dotted embroidery scissors from some of that almost invisible nylon thread. Instead, in the huge windows was a swathe of net curtain, with a smattering of fading 90s-esque promotional posters.
I don’t wish to be mean. They were lovely ladies that I spoke to behind the counter. It was just a bit of a shame, is all, and if you’re ever on the outskirts of Bedford (see rubbish map above) I recommend a visit. Their Fat Quarters Pick ‘n Mix table is a joy to behold. More like this please.
Vivienne Westwood once almost ran me over on her bike on Clapham High Street. I don’t care who you are, darling, you shouldn’t be riding it on the pavement. However, despite such censure I have decided to take her advice to the general public of several years ago and not buy any clothes for a year. I have gone a month so far. It’s not so bad really. My clothes have not started to deteriorate just yet. Besides, my AMAZING new sewing machine that the darling Mr Welch bought me for my birthday does a fabulous darning stitch so I should be fine come the inevitable escape of my poor old buttocks from their threadbare, faux-denim hammock. It’s all about making do and mending for the next year. The original point of quilting, of course, was to use up scraps of fabric from old clothing. I’ve not really entered in to the true spirit of things by only every buying pre-cut fabric collections specifically designed to be made in to quilts. They are just so gorgeous. It takes quite a long time to amass a decent stash of fabric, I have found. At least I’ve started though. I have been collecting Mr Welch’s old shirts in the lower compartment of my bijou Chinese cabinet to make…A SHIRT QUILT. That is genuinely what they’re called. The patterns and colours are all sort of the same-but-different, much like the styling of teen pop sensation One Direction. A nice stripe here, a little herringbone or chunky gingham there. All on a pleasing spectrum of blues. Slowly, slowly I’m fattening up my reclaimed fabric collection, my particular quest being for good quality pieces in white, cream and golds. The aim being to have enough of the right stuff to make my dream quilt. Out of the swathes of princess satin that was once my wedding dress. Too precious to me to leave hanging on the back of the door in the spare room forever, and not timeless enough to be the sort of piece that my daughter might like to wear, it is destined to be cut in to hundreds of 2½” squares, sewn together all pretty, backed with velvet as cosy as a kiss and put on our bed to warm us forever.
Well, would you believe it? My darling husband has bought me a new sewing machine! Not just any sewing machine, but the one I asked for in my previous post. He is so clever. So, following on from the success of said post here is another one. I think it shall become a series. And I shall get lots of presents.
2. Variegated thread (some). Imagine! You only need ONE kind of thread for the WHOLE quilt! Variegated thread is a continuous thread of different coloured fibres, so you can quilt fabric with multi-coloured patterns without having areas where the stitching clashes or disappears completely. Colour matching is no longer a problem. Ish. I was surprised to find that spools of decent quality thread are insanely expensive. For the most part I have been using up an old Cadbury’s Roses jar full of cottons I inherited from my Nanna. I can usually find something that matches what I’m working with.
Variegated thread looks like this:
And you can buy it from The Cotton Patch. They have a great selection of colours.
Thanks in advance. Love you x
I have a day job that, on occasion, gives me the opportunity to leave the office and expand my tiny mind. Today I fancy going to the V&A and working on the things I’ve got to work on there. Their website is a wonderful thing. They contextualise their exhibits incredibly well with videos, behind-the-scenes and useful tools for those who are interested. What has caught my eye this time around is a natty little quilt pattern generator. You can turn any image you want into a patchwork blueprint. As you may have guessed, I have done a ghost. Lovely.
Think I will check out their Ballgowns exhibit and probably the British Design 1948 – 2012, and hopefully see lots of fabulous things.
1. A new sewing machine. I recently found out that Janome make all of John Lewis’ own brand sewing machines. If this is true (and there’s no reason why Jana in haberdashery should lie to me), then it makes JL’s machines pretty good value. The ones on show were £100 or so cheaper than their Janome branded neighbours. Although I don’t need a 200-kinds-of-stitch-letter-embroidery-options-robots-in-disguise behemoth, I really, really want one. I do need a longer arm (just a few inches*), a very solid motor that can handle daily use, something well lit and easy to use. Although, as I write this I am getting flashes of some of the gorgeous dual-screen digital, pre-programmable fancy stitch muthas that Jana was teasing me with. Jana, you old retail floozy.
The machine pictured is the Janome TXL607. It was released earlier this year and has been getting brilliant reviews. So, if anyone would like to buy me one I’d be ever so pleased. It’s my birthday coming up. I’ll be 22. Again.