Feeling Quilty…

Set of Chintz bed hangings (detail), 1730-50. Museum no. 242-1908.

Just quietly, hand-quilting is about the most impressive craft I can think of. Insane, but still impressive. Imagine taking hundreds of mathematically perfect shapes and piecing them together by hand, then turning it into a padded blanket and overlaying the whole thing with zillions of tiny stitches. I never thought much of it while Mum was doing exactly this all those years. Though it’s a little out of vogue at the moment, many die hard hand-quilters are still out there (right Sam?) defying the machine-quilting mania.

But it seems they may be making a come back. If you’re lucky enough to be in London this month, on behalf of us all please check out the Quilt Exhibition at the V&A. Quilts: 1700 to 2010 features items from the V&A’s unseen collection as well as many that were commissioned for the exhibition. To mark the occasion, the V&A has teamed up with none other than Liberty of London. Liberty has released a line of limited edition fabrics based on quilts from the museum’s collection. Here’s a selection;

Seed Head in red
Shells
India Flower in green
Lattice

They’re almost enough to make me have a go. All I can say Mum is I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate it more when I was younger.

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8 Responses to “Feeling Quilty…”


  1. 1 Carol Jesson May 16, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I am absoluteyl “drooling” at that Quilt – oh to be in London!!!

  2. 3 Sarah May 16, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Ally I agree completely. I don’t think I ever really appreciated the worth of these intricate treasures when I was younger. In fact I used to think of quilting as just a good excuse for Mum and her friends to have a Friday off work to gossip about their children and eat delicious home baked deserts without feeling guilty (who can forget Jude’s Apple Cake, mmmm)! It’s not until you find yourself shivering on the couch that you realise how much you really appreciate the efforts of Mum and her ‘Stitch and Bitch’! It’s a shame these bundles of warmth are not allowed to leave Camden, my new living room is in desperate need of one of Mum’s quilts to snuggle under in front of BBC on a Sunday!

    Your writing is ingenius Ally and reading your blog makes me feel so close to you. Often the anticipation of a new post makes my walk home from work a fast one! Can’t wait for the next one.

    Love to Rose and a huge congratulations to Tony on the PhD thesis. Love you as always, Aunty Skel xx

    • 4 mavisandfrank May 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      Can you believe she let me take one to Germany? I think it was to make sure Rose wouldn’t forget her. I’ve found myself underneath it a few times, and Lesley slept under it often when she was here. Jude, your apple cake was amazing. We still have the scribbled recipe that Mum brought home to make it. I wonder what it would taste like with rhubarb in it?

      Love to hear you’re enjoying it sweetie, makes me feel much closer to you too.
      Love from Rose and Tony.
      Talk soon
      xxx

  3. 5 Jill May 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Ally,

    Know what Sarah means when she says she hangs out for your blogs. It’s way past my bedtime and I’m being urged to turn off the computer….but, once I spy that ubiquitous ‘Mavis and Frank’ email announcing a new entry…how could I turn the computer off without checking it out? We’ve been doing our share of making the most of home grown produce this weekend with Joe (4) and Wilf (2)…cumquat jam (never made jam before in my whole life, mind you)….corn, beans, tomatoes, spinach (sure the boys only ate it because it was home grown), capsicum…not to overlook the pikelets for the jam…Would you believe we ground the flour? (Thought that would be pushing it). Lots of love to all three, Jill

  4. 6 Samantha May 16, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Yes Ally I am a hand quilter! Oh and what a slow process it is – but the result id definitely worth it!!! For a while I was against machine quilting, but now my heart has softened to it after a few experiences. First was a dear blogger friend in America who suffers from MS. She is in a wheelchair and does not have good use of one of her arms. She still loves quilting, and having quilts machined quilted gives her the satisfaction of seeing her projects completed. Secondly, my blogger friends sent me a wedding quilt they all made together, after posting it literally all over America for each of the quilt making stages. I received it a few days after my wedding and fell in love with it. It had been machine quilted – but how could I not love it 🙂 The other was when I decided to make Camilla a quilt to take with her to America. Only problem was I had left very little time to do it. The quilt top involved a lot of piecing, so that took a considerable time. I had Mills quilt machine quilted by a well known quilter in Camden, and to my relief it I managed to sew the binding on with a week to spare! So I have to say, machine quilting does have a place. And I think hand/machine quilting can both look nice if done right, or terrible if the person making it lacks a little taste…!

    Are you feeling the quilting bug nibbling at you? Please say yes that would be so exciting! I could send over a little quilting care package with your mum….. we will chat about this via email! Sam xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

    P.S The first picture you featured in this post is a clam shell quilt. The picture you have is very typical of a traditional clam shell quilt, with the variation in creams and red, and the gold line running through it. These were completed by hand, both piecing and quilting. I love those quilts but they would be soooo tricky… one day maybe…

    • 7 mavisandfrank May 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm

      That’s a good point Sam, I never looked at it like that before. I guess I tend to be a bit of a handmade snob. But I guess there’s no real difference between a quilter using a sewing machine to quilt and me using a sewing machine to make clothes (instead of hand sewing them – perish the thought). I have to admit, I’ve started a little collection of old hankies that I’m hoping to turn into a quilt one of these days. But I’ll need so many I think it’ll be quite a while till I get round to it. And there’s a million and one things on my crafty list…Maybe I could start with a cushion? What do you think?

      • 8 Samantha May 19, 2010 at 6:16 am

        You’re not a handmade snob! 🙂 I absolutely love handmade things too, there is just something about it isn’t there. And I don’t think a beautiful handmade quilt can really compare with one that has been completely produced using machines. I am glad in a way we make clothes by machine and not hand – if it was my hand sewing my clothes would be falling off me and that would not be a good look. I want to say more but I will email you, Sam xoxoxox


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A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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