I've been a quilter for about 15 years now. I was drawn into quilting through a love of colour (see the story below) dyeing all my own fabrics and have now developed a love of playing around with pattern and free-motion quilting. I have attended a few workshops and learnt much from many books, but most of all I have learnt from doing. Each piece I do sparks of many more in my head (what I call my 'mental-masterpieces' on account of my imaginations great ambitions and ability to overlook all technical and artistic difficulties!) My aim with this blog - a new venture for me - is to record the life of those 'mental-masterpieces' that actually succeed in making it out of my head to become hopefully enjoyable pieces.
The whole of my quilting life began by accident. I was working abroad and one of my treats on my annual holiday home, was to stop off in London and spend a delightful afternoon browsing in one of the really big book shops. I can’t remember what book I was looking for on this occasion, but the book that caught my eye was ‘Dyeing to Quilt’ by Joyce Mori and Cynthia Myerberg. I loved the colours and was absolutely fascinated. But I was neither a dyer nor a quilter, so there seemed little point in buying it. It went back on the shelf. The next year and a different book store, and suddenly I found myself with the same book in my hands. I remember distinctly looking at a colour gradation showing eight values of the same colour - a delicious blue ... and something in my soul stirred. I was sorely tempted, but, I persuaded myself, the book, and therefore the dyes used, were American and would not be available in the UK. ‘Dyeing to Quilt’ was again returned to its shelf.
Move on another year, another book shop and there again, staring me in the face, was the same book. This time I decided fate really wanted me to have this book, and I returned home with ‘Dyeing to Quilt’ in my bag. My fears over supply were of course unfounded – Procian MX dyes are readily available in the UK (where I had now returned to live).
One kitchen swathed in protective black bin liners and I was on my way. I started by dyeing two colour runs. I was thrilled and enchanted by the jewel like colour of each 8” square steeping in its dye filled plastic beaker. I was disappointed and perplexed by the greyed apology of a colour that each square possessed once rinsed. The jeweled effect had certainly departed down the plug hole with the spent dye.
With the help of my book, I diagnosed the problem as a lack of urea. My step-father, a retired chemist and inveterate collector of maybe-could-be-possibly-in-the-future-be-useful stuff appeared with half a sack of urea that he had 'rescued' from a disbanded lab years previously. It had been sitting in the garage for years, had gone solid and had (don’t ask me why) got quite a lot of bits of straw in it – but it worked. My next dyeing attempt left me with a washing line full of little squares moving in incremental steps from blue to green. Over the weekend, red to yellow followed and even some experimental browns and bronzes.
Wonderful! I now possessed a collection of colours squares of cloth that delighted me – but what was I going to do with them. The obvious answer was to sew them together. I bought a basic sewing machine. Since I had squares, squares seemed like a good place to start. Much as I love colour and fabric, I am not a fan of traditional patchwork and didn’t want to follow a traditional pattern. I decided that I would chop up and reassemble the squares, making each one different. I had no plan. I just improvised each square, making it up as I did it. It became obvious to me, that each one being different was just going to look muddled, so I decided on a few patterned squares amongst solid colour – rather like bathroom tiles. I didn’t have quite enough to make it as large as I wanted and at that stage did not have the skill to re-dye matching colours. So I bought some red and yellow fabric, put a broad band of yellow around my squares, then made a border of all the meaning bits a pieces, adding in a sort of log cabin way (although I didn’t know it then) strips of red and a final yellow to complete.
|My First Quilt|
I had no idea how to quilt in those days, so the layers are joined together with buttons. This is a much loved piece, by both me and cat and is used over knees and under paws on many a cold winter's evening.