so check those out if you are interested in my nature photographs (and the occasional Border Terrier).
So much has happened since my last post in February. To misquote Hamilton, "The world has turned upside-down." I couldn't have begun to imagine how much my life would change over the course of just a few months. If you had told me in February that the Festival of Quilts would be cancelled (along with my summer holiday in New Jersey), I wouldn't have believed you. But here we are in the midst of a pandemic with no end in sight. It really is mind boggling as they say here in the UK.
One of the best things that has happened is that my daughter acquired a new Border Terrier puppy just before lockdown commenced. Saké (named after the Japanese rice wine) has proven to be a life saver in so many ways. Alysson had been talking about getting a puppy, and being at home 24/7 was the perfect opportunity to get one.
We moved to Oxfordshire in early March, Two of the three children moved in with us for 2 ½ months, as they were able to work remotely from our cottage. It was good to be out of London during those crazy scary times. I embraced the incredibly good weather we had in the Spring and basically spent every minute outside, either gardening, walking, training the puppy, or just sitting on my terrace with binoculars to see what flew over the garden. We had Red Kites nesting on our property so they spent a lot of time calling each other from this branch.
My main obsession is now photography and nature. I am sending out an email a day to our local neighbourhood and interested friends (I'm up to day 110) featuring either a wild plant, bird, butterfly or insect. On a recent walk with my husband, I mentioned that a year ago I wouldn’t have known the name of a single plant we were passing, but now I know them all, or photograph them so I can find out when I get home. It’s been such an education, but it does take a lot of my time, which is fine as time is what I have got.
Here is a Hummingbird Hawk Moth feeding on Valerian in my garden. The Hummingbird Hawk Moth’s wings beat at an amazing 70-80 times a second, so it it ‘hums’ as it hovers. This motion sometimes makes it look orange.
Another great joy of living here in the countryside is that we have at least five hedgehogs who come to the special restaurant outside our front door every night (I leave out hedgehog food and water). A few months ago while I was gardening I found a plant with gigantic leaves in my compost area. I decided to take a photo, so cleared away some of the twigs and nettles around it. I lifted up a leaf and there was a hedgehog sleeping right in the middle of the plant. Needless to say, I gently dropped the leaf and walked away to let him slumber on. It's fascinating to think about all the wildlife living on our property as we also have rabbits, squirrels, muntjacs and various voles and stoats. Also a rat or two and the occasional fox or deer. Loads of birds have nested here earlier in the spring we so have lots of baby birds coming to our feeders.
I vacillate between being really happy and really anxious. It depends both on the weather and whether I watched the news or read the newspaper. I’m trying not to do that, as there is really nothing I can personally do about this world situation. I just have to ride it out as best as I can. But I do feel that we’ll be living here in the country at least for the next year and maybe longer. Our lives won’t get back to normal until there is a vaccine. The children have moved back to London permanently and it’s really much better for all of us, although I do miss Alysson’s cooking (not the clearing up!) and Saké, who grows more enchanting by the day. I am now on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/quiltmaniac1/
so check those out if you are interested in my nature photographs (and the occasional Border Terrier).
Can it really be true that I haven't posted anything since last October? Where on earth has the time gone? I must have had my head in the clouds.
Never mind. Just a quick update: My book: The Complete Book of Patchwork, Quilting & Appliqué is going to be re-published by Search Press later this year. I have a meeting with them next week to discuss updates to the art and text, although going through it again after so many years made me realise it is actually quite a good book for beginners! I am looking forward to working on it again and making it an even better book.
These photos were all taken at dawn on January 20th. I feel that they will be a good inspiration for a new quilt....after the book is done.
I gave a lecture to the London Quilters on October 15th entitled Contemporary and Modern Art Quilters. Here's a review! The quilts in the images were made by Natalia Manley and Luke Haynes.
I'm very pleased to report that Bernina has posted a video about my quilt, Jack of All Seasons. I made this for the Bernina Challenge for this year's Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England.
If you go to this link, you'll be able to watch it! I hope you enjoy it.
I bought this heavenly fabric a few months ago and finally had a chance to try Paula Doyle's fabulous "Easy Stack" technique with it. Paula's technique for making kaleidoscopic blocks is based on her new book, Easy Stack Quilts. A simpler version of the popular stack-and-whack concept, Easy Stack allows you to create a multitude of totally unique blocks from just one fabric. It is so much fun to do and and really brought me straight back to my quilting roots of sewing simple 4-patch blocks.
But after tearing the fabric half and trying to find the repeats, I realised it is a very unusual fabric indeed. Only the blue flowers on the left (above) and the red on the right (below) have any sort of repeat! I have never seen this before. And even within the repeat, there are variations due to the flowers to the left and right of the usable strips.
Undaunted (and because I had already torn the fabric and was quite determined!), I gave it a try.
Here is one block. Note the strange appearance of the pink flowers around the edges. So two pairs of squares were totally matching, but all four didn't match perfectly unless I turned them a certain way. However, I don't think it matters.
Again, for this one, the white flowers at the edges are different on two pairs of blocks, even though the middle flowers match.
I decided to use the yellow flowers for the sashing since I couldn't do Easy Stack with that section.
Here are all the blocks I made, arranged with the yellow sashing. I didn't quite have enough of the yellow so had to piece one of the long sashing strips, but just made it. I plan to frame it with the white and pink flower strips, so watch this space!
Paula's Easy Stack book came out in time for Festival of Quilts this past summer and I love it! I'll be teaching this technique for Paula at Lady Sew & Sew in Henley on November 30th. Book soon to reserve a place!
I made this quilt for Urania who will be 98 in July. She is the mother of my friend Judith.
Urania loves dogs and gardening. I originally pieced in the navy blue dog fabric, but then found a fabric with golden retrievers (like her favourite dog, Cedric), so added that as a flap on top.
When Urania unzips the zipper, bright flowers are revealed. The stretchy net is from a shower scrubber and is lovely to pull.
The doily was crocheted by my grandmother, Grandma Fett. It's hidden under some spongy shelf liner that feels really nice to touch. Urania loves travelling so there is a little Eiffel Tower key chain on top of the strawberry fabric.
I went to visit Urania today to give her the quilt.
She loved it!
She enjoyed looking at all the fabrics and fiddly bits with her daughter.
We had a lovely chat and some tea.
Jack came too, but he was more interested in the squirrels in the garden.
It's lovely to be able to make something that brings so much pleasure.
I just finished making this memory quilt for my friend Roy Stout. Roy was a talented architect who designed fabulous buildings that have enhanced the London skyline.
He designed and oversaw the building of my house, so I wanted to put some images on the quilt that would remind him of the job he loved so much. (He especially loved bricks!)
He also enjoyed visiting churches, and the cities London and Paris. I was very glad to find fabrics with those images to include in the quilt.
As I was sewing the last stitches on the binding, I got a call from Roy's son to tell me that he had died a few days ago. I am so sorry that I'll never see him again and that he will never see this quilt. He was well loved.
I was thrilled to be invited to talk about the wonderful Ann West hanging on a programme called Moving Pictures on BBC Radio 4. The series has been created by Cathy Fitzgerald, who looks in detail at various works of art. She decided to devote one episode to this textile hanging which is in the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in Lonodn. Here is the link:
What you do is to click on the quilt to open up a new window and zoom in on the areas we are talking about. It's fun and really gives you a great opportunity to explore this wondrous textile in great detail. I hope you enjoy it!
The quilt is currently on display at the V&A so you can view it in person.
This is my second attempt at making a Fiddle Quilt. It is for a good friend who loves cricket, golf and gardening, amongst other things!
Ken's favourite colours are red and blue, so I started out by appliqueing his name using fusible web. I machine-embroidered around the edges using a buttonhole stitch, which worked well.
I ordered golf and gardening fabrics online, but couldn't find any cricket-themed fabrics. However, I found a cricket key chain (hooked onto the belt loop in this photo). It has Ken's initial, his birthstone and a cricket bat and stump. The handkerchief is made from one of cricketer Ted Dexter's ties left over from another project.
I pleated some blue fabric for texture and sewed on a beaded ladybug that my daughter made. I included some tomato plant fabrics as Ken used to grow them.
Ken worked in shipping, so I've hidden a lighthouse underneath some star/planet fabric that he'll have to unzip to find. I quilted a brick garden wall on the right and sewed on a crocheted flower for texture.
Ken and I shared a fair amount of wine in our day, so I've added some drinking fabric for his amusement, along with some wooden shapes on string and ribbon. I'll be giving this to him over the holidays and I hope he likes it.
A Fiddle Quilt is made to stimulate and soothe those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, who often have restless hands. It’s not uncommon for them to pluck at their sheets, rub their hands together or pull their fingers to pass the time. Also known as a Fidget Quilt or Adult Activity Mat, a lap-sized Fiddle Quilt provides an excellent way to give fretful hands “something to do” while also providing visual and tactile stimulation and establishing an interest in something tangible. A Fiddle Quilt can also give carers a bit of a respite from constant supervision, as well as presenting people with something to talk about when they visit.
The beauty of making a Fiddle Quilt is that it can be as simple or intricate as you wish, and still be appreciated by the receiver. Forget complex patterns, matching seams or tiny stitches, and instead, let your imagination run riot to create a piece that will give pleasure and a sensory experience to someone who desperately needs it.
Use highly contrasting fabrics to achieve visual interest either in colour or pattern. Interestingly, colors in the blue-violet range all look the same to dementia patients—their retinas have more receptors to see shades of red, so choose red, orange and bright pink fabrics to attract their attention. However, keep in mind that others (such as Barney who loves blue and yellow) may not wish to have a dazzling pink quilt, or may prefer calmer colours so in fact, the range of colour combinations is endless. However, do utilise fabrics that have various textures such as rough denim, towelling, nubbly silk, soft fake fur or smooth satin, keeping in mind that they need to be washable. Samples and pieces from workshops are useful additions to the range of materials that can be incorporated into a Fiddle Quilt.
Themed fabrics that will trigger memories or happy thoughts are desirable as they may help the patients remember a forgotten part of their lives. Photo transfers of family, friends, pets, etc. can also be a thoughtful addition. If the recipient was a quilter or crafter, try to include some of these elements to bring back pleasant recollections. Add texture with rickrack, pompoms, net, braid, ribbons, lace, straw, embroidered handkerchiefs, and/or pockets, collars and cuffs from used clothing. Sew these flat, gathered or just along one edge so the other edge is left hanging.
Securely stitch tactile elements to the surface such as large buttons, strings of beads, charms, bells, keys, keychains, metal rings and buckles, keeping in mind that these items should not be sharp or easily detached.
I made this quilt for Barney who was a pianist and still loves music. I hid a piano under a zippered flap so he would have to pull on the zipper to open it and see it. In the other photos you can see images of horses (as he loved horse racing) and football.
His wife Barbara told me that he loved silky things, so I made a little handkerchief out of Chinese silk and put it in the denim pocket of an old pair of jeans (attached to the quilt with a snap so he can't lose it). I also added a builders' level (hanging from the jeans loop), a beaded necklace (sewn over the horse fabric), a little beaded lizard for texture and a stretchy man that he can pull. Barbara told me his favourite colours are blue and yellow so I used that as a theme too.
In these photos you can see some details that can be used on your quilts. Above, on the left is a piece of rubbery shelf liner that feels really good to touch, followed by a little donkey on a ribbon to help him pull the zipper. Next is a flower that I made in a Stuart Hillard workshop that provides texture. There are also some beads on elastic for him to pull. I embroidered his name in stem stitch so he can rub his fingers over the raised letters. If you are making a Fiddle Quilt for a specific person, do add their name to the quilt.
This is the whole quilt. It measures about 25" wide x 15" high. This is a very easy size to work with and it fits perfectly on Barney's lap.
Here are Barney and Barbara having a good look at the quilt. I was thrilled that he wanted to see every single bit of it.
Notice that the fabric for the back of the quilt is corduroy. This feels good and also means it won't slip off Barney's lap easily. Other fabrics to use are flannel, fleece and velvet. In addition, simple quilting is advisable so the layers can’t be tugged apart. An important element of a Fiddle Quilt is that it should be washable in hot water and dried in a dryer, especially if made for use in a public institution.
I was honoured to be asked to be the patron of a new charity called Fiddle Fingers Quilts, run by Judy Harris and Karen Perry. Here is a link to the website:
and here is their Facebook page - do like it so you can be updated on workshops and ideas for making your own Fiddle Quilts:
Those living in Scotland can contact Ann Hill: www.annhillquilter.co.uk
When dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease robs a beloved person of their mind and memories, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness. These feelings can be somewhat alleviated by channeling your creativity into making a Fiddle Quilt.