Friday, 30 March 2012

New Makower London fabrics

Although we live in Scotland, my mum lives in Cambridge and since Caitlin was young we've gone on many happy day trips to London.  On our most recent trip we took the Docklands Light Railway through to Greenwich thorough the surreal Canary Wharf and walked back under the river along the tunnel, and visited Trafalgar Square to climb on the lions.  As she'd just finished a school project on Egypt we visited the mummies, statues and Rosetta Stone at the British Museum and took the tube to Embankment to see Cleopatra's Needle.  She adores London, and I can't wait to buy her these new Makower fabrics released to celebrate our capital city in the Olympic and Jubilee year.  Not sure what we will do with them yet, but as soon as they're back in stock I'll get these  three for her and I'm sure there will be a project to follow.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Around The World - Quilters' Guild AGM Dundee 2012

This is my 8 year old daughter Caitlin's Australian quilt which she had been working on since Christmas, her answer to the theme of 'Around the World' inspired by a school project on the country and my fabrics brought at my very first Festival on Quilts in Birmingham from Aussie Dreams, these make up most of the territories of Australia on the top right panel and the various animals and Uluru in the bottom left panel.

The rest of the fabric was all bought at the 2011 Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate, the bottom right was a Langa Lapu sun print from The African Fabric Shop.  They are a long time favourite of myself, my daughter and my mother, the owners, Magie and Bob, travel around Africa to source their fabrics directly from the weavers and dyers and each piece is unique.

For the first two panels, Caitlin sewed strips of fabric together then cross cut them to make the backgrounds of squares, using the sizes to give the effect of zooming in from outer space.  In the first panel she appliqued on Australia, New Zealand, Antartica and Indonesia and then appliqued the whole globe onto the dark spacey background.  In the second she used 505 spray to stick the Aussie Dreams fabrics down and appliqued them onto the squares background with a space dyed WonderFil thread she bought at her Quilters Guild Region 16 Regional Day.

In the third panel the sky, land and billabong were strips of fabric sewn together, then all the animals and the rock were appliqued on.  The sun and Uluru are reverse appliqued.

The koala and kangaroo joey were the successful product of my first foray into printing onto fabric with my laser printer with Crafty Computer Paper, who I've used before for inkjet printable fabric.  I printed onto their laser heat transfer paper and we carefully ironed the animals onto white fabric.  I was so nervous because the paper is not cheap, but the results were stunning.  Caitlin then used my Derwent Inktense pencils to colour in the kangaroo joey and a little bit of the koala joey, they are quite grey anyway, and then appliqued them on.

You can't see it, but the quilt is backed with the most fabulous green liquorice allsorts fabric.  Caitlin quilted in the ditch round each panel and also quilted a couple of stars with invisible thread.  She sewed on the binding, which is from the Very Hungry Caterpillar range by Makower, and I slip stitched it in place.  I found basting with 505 spray easy and it held the sandwich of quilt top, backing and 80/20 backing in place perfectly while she was machine quilting.

The borders are strips pieced in turn, and there is a kangaroo button from The Button Lady sewn onto the central square.

It can be difficult to fit the time and mental energy needed to focus on sewing inbetween the busy day to day life of an 8 year old and I was very proud of her hard work.  She created really all of this, designing and executing the whole thing with me acting as faciliator more than anything else, holding down the ruler for rotary cutting, paying for fabric, being an extra pair of hands and providing support if needed, moral and practical!  She won her class in the YQ competition for the Quilters' Guild AGM in Dundee and I freely admit to being a very proud mum!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

McManus Archive Visit - Quilters' Guild AGM 2012

On 23 March I made my way eagerly to Dundee's Barrack Street museum, once the holder of the zoology collection of the McManus Galleries, now the home of the curatorial staff.  We were going to see quilts selected for us by members of the Quilters' Guild.  We were escorted into a beautiful room lit from above by a central circular skylight that allowed us to see the quilts in a way that artificial light cannot match.  Quits were spread across tables all over the room and the curatorial staff took us through what they knew about each piece.  I've just included three here, the ones for which they had the most information.  To be able to see these pieces up close was a real treat.

Whaler Quilt 1880-1890
Quilt showing reverse side at right
This quilt was made by Mr Nicholas White, a whaler born in 1853 in Cork.  He served on The Balaena  as a steward and harpoonist, one of six men in a small wooden boat who would harpoon the whale and bring it back to the ship for processing.  He was married to Margaret and had two children.

The chevron pattern on the quilt is similar to those found on the northwest coast of England, on the Isle of Man and in Northern Ireland.  The turkey red fabrics would have come from the Vale of Leven near Glasgow, one of the first places in the UK able to produce the fabric because of the quality of its water.  Turkey red dyeing came over from France who were the first Europeans to produce it, but the fabric had been brought in by traders since the 17th century.  Turkey red and associated discharge prints were very popular as it was the first red dye that did not fade or bleed.

Contrast fabrics, blocks were patched together
The other fabrics in the quilt could be from a sampler book that Mr White took to sea with him, or perhaps from shirting.  It was created on board ship as a way to pass the time on the long journey to the Southern Ocean.  The quilt is in two layers  and the edges are butted which indicates it is English or Irish, as opposed to the American tradition of binding.

The quilt was donated by Mr White's nephew.

Paper pieced hexagons tablecloth circa 1840
Front showing delicate stars created from pieced hexagons
Tablecloth made of silk, velvet, brocade and ribbon.  Made by Anne Loney, her husband was gardener at Fingask Castle and the fabrics are believed to have come from the household.  The matching tea cosy is on permanent display at the McManus Galleries, and this quilt is featured in Janet Rae's book Quilts of the British Isles.  The border is precisely worked out on five sides, but on the sixth it is completely disorganised.  The hexagons are pieced with string over what appears to be scrim but there are no paper pieces, it may have been stiffened and used in place of papers, or it may have been used to back and stiffen them.

The story of this quilt reminds me of Lucy Boston's book The Chimneys of Green Knowe.  In it Tolly sits by the fire with his grandmother while she mends old patchwork quilts made of paper pieced hexagons just like this tablecloth, and she tells him the story of the pieces of fabric which have come from Green Knowe when it was a much grander house.  There is evidence of designing, of fussy cutting of hexagons and careful placing but also of making do, of running out of fabrics.  On the reverse the rainbow coloured edgings of ribbons are clearly visible, it must have been slippery stuff to sew!

Prohibitionist Party Banner 1904
This banner was created as a fund raiser for the Scottish Prohibitionist Party.  Party members would have paid to have their names embroidered on the diamonds and the banner would have been used at their meetings.  Names on the banner include Walter Walsh, chairman and radical minister of the Gilfillan Memorial Church, and Edwin Scrymgeour, organising secretary.  The banner was created at an important moment in the history of the Scottish Prohibitionist Party, in 1903 there was 1 branch which expanded to 3 in 1904.  The banner was donated to the McManus in the 1970s and its remarkable condition is due to it being kept away from light.