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.
I had a lovely time on Tuesday evening, giving a lecture to the Regents Park Decorative Arts Society. Thanks to all my quilting friends who turned up and were so supportive!
During the lecture, I took everyone on a brief expedition into the quilt world that I love so much. I told them:
and their modern equivalents
This was a really fun talk to put together and I had loads of help from art quilters all over the world, as well as Jonathan Holstein and Christopher Wilson-Tate, who supplied images of antique quilts. I'm very happy to give this brand new talk again, so do contact me if you are interested!
I will be giving a lecture to the:
Regents Park Decorative & Fine Arts Society
October 3rd, 2017
St. John’s Wood Church Hall,
Lord’s Roundabout NW8 7NE
8pm; coffee serve at 7:30
£8 for non-members
This lecture traces the development of the quilt, from its origin as a utilitarian item to its rightful place in the world of art. Learn about the 3 traditional types of quilt, then discover how these styles have developed into textile art. The slide talk features antique quilts as well as the exciting work of 30 contemporary quilt artists.
I would love to see some quilters there too! I believe this is the first lecture they have organised about textiles, so it would be wonderful if there was a good turnout.
I'm conscious of the fact that I haven't posted on this website in absolute ages! I've been re-doing my house, which has taken loads of time and I've also been doing some quilting. So that's my excuse.
I'll post more often now, showing some of the new projects I've been making. In the meantime, I'm going to post a story I wrote for The Quilter magazine last year. Readers of that magazine have asked me if I have a photo of the quilt I was writing about: here it is. The article starts below the photo.
I have just finished the largest quilt I ever made in my life (230cm/90” square). And I realized, as I sipped a glass of celebratory champagne (we are always looking for an excuse to pop the cork), that I have been working on this quilt for over seven years. That sounds like a long time, but there were some “interruptions”. Let me explain.
It all goes back to the quilt I started when my eldest daughter went off to university. I decided to make her a basket quilt — each basket containing something pertinent to her life. Here is a photo of Alysson's Baskets:
I had so much fun making Alysson's quilt that I wanted to make another basket quilt for my second daughter when her turn came to fly the nest.
Before her departure, I let Emily loose in my stash so she could pick some fabrics. She is a scientist, specialising in plants, so she chose fruit, flowers, insects, butterflies, trees—it’s incredible how fabric manufacturers cater to almost every whim.
I found a scrap from her baby quilt, and other fabrics that I knew would mean something, like golf balls to remind her of her dad and brother, and skulls to remind her of me (I have a “thing” for skulls and skeletons). I thought that an image of our dog Jack coming out of a basket would be a good touch (that block is at the top of this post), so popped him in a basket, posed his paws and took a photo. I printed that on fabric, as well as a picture of her monkey (given to her when she was born). When she was little, she embroidered an owl that I had kept (see below), and when a bit older, she punchneedle-embroidered a panda (this appears later on). These were put aside to be incorporated in the quilt as well.
So, armed with these exciting textiles, I started making patchwork baskets. Around basket four, I signed a publishing contract and began writing my art quilt book. The baskets I had made hung forlornly on my design wall until I took them down to put up a publishing schedule. Three years passed and Emily graduated from university without another basket being sewn. She went to Harvard for a year and I finished my book. Back in the UK, she started her PhD and I began to work on her quilt again. All this time, she had lived in hope.
I progressed at a steady pace and when the baskets were ready to be joined Emily and I went shopping at Lady Sew & Sew in Henley to pick out fabric for the sashing, borders and back. She found a birch tree fabric for the sashing and borders. Then we looked for fabric for the back. She fell in love with a number of fruit fabrics so I told her to choose one. “Mom,” she said, “I like them all! How about a Log Cabin back?” This girl knows her quilt patterns, and knows her mother can’t say no. Reader, I bought a metre of each and began sewing. The quilt was already heavy with the patchwork on the front, and I thought that if I made a normal Log Cabin on the back we wouldn’t be able to lift it. So I made huge Log Cabins that really showed off the fabrics. But this did entail a lot more sewing, when I thought I’d only be doing a simple seam! Here's the quilt back. (It sort of looks like a Modern Quilt, doesn't it?)
You might have noticed a little lump at the top of that photo - that's my helper, Jack!
The quilt was sandwiched and basted (which took more than a day, such is its size—did I mention how big it is?). I like to start by quilting the sashing and borders, so I can later concentrate on the blocks. This I did, and because I knew it would take a long time to quilt, I also bound it. I don’t recommend this for every quilt, as sometimes the work becomes distorted after it’s fully quilted, and requires blocking. But I also knew that I didn’t want the wadding flapping around for months so it seemed like a good idea.
However, I lost the impetus once the binding was on, and the quilt languished on her bed for over a year. She slept under it when she came home for weekends and had pleasant dreams, but she let me know that she’d sleep a lot better once it was fully quilted.
Finally, the time was right to quilt, so I began. My machine quilting is always rusty at first, so I quilted the easy blocks where it wouldn’t be noticed, outlining leaves and shapes in matching threads (I love when the quilt back is a crazy melange of colour and pattern).
As my quilting improved, I tackled the blocks where it would show, making feathers, flowers, leaves and insects in appropriate places.
And now, seven years later and after about 60 hours of quilting, it’s done. I didn’t tell her I was quilting it, by the way. She’s coming home on Wednesday and it’s lying on her bed, waiting to be noticed. I wonder what she’ll say?
That's how the article ended. I'm happy to say that she loved it. When she arrived home I was sitting in the kitchen trying to be nonchalant, but my heart was pounding. After the initial greetings I said nothing, just waited for her to go to her room. She stopped in the doorway, looked inside and breathed, "It's finished." Couldn't have been a better response, except for the hug that followed!
This is a rather bad photo of the finished quilt on the floor. It really needs to be hung in order to take a better photo, but I can't get it off her bed!
In the previous post, I featured just some of the celebrities who agreed to sign the patchwork blocks for this quilt. Over the months, Dennis would gather together a number of signed blocks and bring them over to me for embroidery (and a cup of coffee). I prepared “packs” of blocks and threads for London Quilter volunteers to embroider. These were done beautifully over the course of several months, with each signature embroidered in red, white or blue.
Eight members of London Quilters assembled the quilt at my house on 21 January 2016. We first arranged the blocks to create a harmonious mix of the different fabrics.
We made a careful note of the location of each of the signatures so we could later create a diagram.
The blocks were sewn together in rows.
The rows were sewn together with a considerable amount of help from Jack who made sure everything was in the right place. When that was done, we stopped for a well-earned lunch and some home-made chocolate cake!
After lunch, red borders were sewn around the edges of the patchwork.
The next important step was to clean up the back of the patchwork by removing all the threads and frayed fabrics. This was quite a communal effort!
The quilt was layered with wadding and a back. We all got on the floor to baste it together. It's very satisfying being part of a group effort like this, and everyone agreed it was a lot of fun too. Not to mention the cake, coffee and biscuits!
We were all done by 4pm. It was a very good day’s collaborative effort. Many thanks to the London Quilters who did so much to make this quilt a reality.
I machine quilted the work, which took several weeks.
Here's the embroidered signature of my friend Ted Dexter, former Captain of the England Cricket team.
After the quilting was done, I hand-embroidered the title of the quilt and the charities that it will support. Money raised will be split between Veterans Aid, which helps homeless military men and woman, and Soldiering On, which recognises people in the Armed Forces for their work.
Dennis came to the January 2016 meeting of the London Quilters for his first glimpse of the finished quilt and a formal presentation.
He also met many of the volunteers who worked on the quilt.
Dennis said, " I enjoyed getting the celebrities involved, and I think it’s an important cause. I served in the military back in the 1960s. I had a great time, it served me well and taught me a lot. I want to repay the 10 years of service I had.” The quilt will be auctioned on 30 June 2016 at a Square Mile event in the city. Let's hope it raises a lot of money for Veterans Aid and Soldiering On.
In January 2015 I was contacted by Dennis Gimes. As a former member of RAF Bomber Command and a Trustee of Soldiering On Through Life Charity, he wanted to start his own campaign to raise awareness about homeless veterans as well as some much needed funds.
Dennis told me of his idea to make a signature quilt: as he is in touch with many celebrities through his charitable work, he believed that the quilt idea would generate good publicity and felt he was in a position to get famous people to help. So we invited Dennis to come to the January 2015 London Quilters meeting to discuss the idea of making a signature quilt. Everyone agreed that it was a good idea to work on this project, and a collaboration was born.
I showed Dennis some simple designs for signature quilts and he picked the Rail Fence pattern. We decided on a red, white and blue colour scheme, as these were the charity’s own colours. I prepared dozens of blocks using purchased white fabrics and my own red and navy fabrics so the quilt would have a scrappy look. I ironed freezer paper to the back of the blocks, to make signing them easier, and Dennis took several dozen to give to various celebrities for their signatures.
We composed a letter to send out with the blocks, with instructions to recipients about how to sign fabric. Then we sat back and waited for the blocks to arrive. We weren’t disappointed. We received signatures from such luminaries as Joanna Lumley, Matt Lucas, Sir Roger Moore, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Ranulph Fiennnes, Dame Kelly Holmes, Baron Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg and Richard E Grant.
We were very proud to get actress Barbara Windsor's signature.
Jeremy Irons took time out of his busy filming schedule to sign a block.
Here is Matthew Wright, TV presenter of The Wright Stuff, holding the block he signed for the Quilt for Homeless Veterans.
Dennis cornered actor and singer John Altman (perhaps best known for playing "Nasty" Nick Cotton in the popular BBC soap opera EastEnders) and got him to sign a block.
Writer, director, radio presenter, comedian and actor Steven Merchant gave his signature.
Denzil (Only Fools and Horses) actor Paul Barber, supports the Homeless Veterans Quilt.
Dennis went to visit Earl Spencer in his home, and he was very happy to provide a signature.
Sir Redmond Watt KCB, Governor of The Royal Hospital Chelsea, signed a block.
Chelsea Pensioners, Tom Mullaney, John Hilliar, Robert Leele and Joe Herman with Sir Redmond Watt.
One of the names we are very proud to feature is that of Miss Simone Segouin who was a French Resistance fighter during World War II. Simone was born in Thivars, France in 1925. During the German occupation of France, she was a member of the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans Français. On 23 Aug 1944, aged just 18, she was in the thick of the fighting and was credited with capturing 25 Germans in the Chartres area. She was also present in Paris during the city's liberation. For her efforts during the war, she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
And we can't forget Dame Vera Lynne, who gave such hope to soldiers during World War II when she sang, "There'll be bluebirds over.....the white cliffs of Dover....tomorrow......just you wait and see."
In the next post, I'll tell you how the London Quilters put all the blocks together.
I'm very pleased with this article in the latest edition of Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine.