Friday, 18 August 2017



The idea for nostalgia came when I was waiting at Heathrow to board a flight to go to a funeral in South Africa. Normally I am super organised and have everything to hand that I might need, but on this occasion, I had forgotten to pack a notepad. I was already at my gate so no chance to buy a   notepad, but the young man next to me passed me a small piece from his notepad and I started sketching the idea I had in my head.  When I unpacked my bag on my return I found the paper and positioned my magic mirrors to see if I liked the design and then enlarged it onto a foolscap paper. I still liked it so then enlarged it onto a piece of paper cut large enough to be the same size as the quilt is going to be (I buy paper by the roll for this purpose). I had to make some minor adjustments to get the scale right and then started adding background ideas onto the paper. Mostly I stick to what I have drawn out but sometimes I need to make adjustments as I have a tendency to draw far too small and detailed which when stitched out will be too small for the scale of the quilt. Once I am happy with the overall plan, I use a lightbox to transfer the main elements of the design onto the quilt top, using a blue water erasable pen. On a dark fabric, where the blue won't show up, I use a Bohin chalk pen with fine point in white.

Initial sketch on notepad

Doing a rough sketch onto A4 size paper
Enlarging onto full size paper to check scale using rulers
Drawing main elements full size
Adding in feathers and experimenting with infills
Drawing the background design in to figure out best placement

I often get asked "How long did it take you?" My answer usually is "Until I am not enjoying myself anymore".  It does not matter how long it takes to make a quilt. I once started a quilt and got fed up with the borders that did not meet in the corners the way I wanted them to. I did not enjoy it, so I put it away. I discovered it a few years later and could not believe I gave up so easily, unpicked it and redid it, it worked out perfectly. Probably because I could look at it with fresh eyes and had picked up a little bit more experience in the meantime.  And I loved working on it until it was finished. Now if anyone asked me how long I had worked on it, my honest answer would have to be about 5 years, yet it was a machine pieced quilt for a bed, with minimal quilting, done on my domestic sewing machine.  But when I say that I worked on a quilt like this one for 4 months, there are either looks that say incredulous or others that are horrified. It does not matter, as long as you enjoy it. You do it because you want to do it, show me a quilter that ever has made a quilt because they did not enjoy it or did not want to do it, we choose this hobby or job because we like it or love it.  Therefore it does not matter how long or short it took. 

Main elements marked onto quilt top
Back of quilt: First all main elements and border lines are stitched, then feathers are stitched out

Adding feathers and piano key borders
Adding detail to piano keys to add depth

Quilt from the back: Outline of main elements as well as feather border and piano keys all stitched 

Quilt from the back after twisted continuous lines have been stitched out

Back of quilt showing ruler work done today

Trying out size of infill, in this case far too small, drawing with fine draughting pencil can be deceptive

Back of quilt showing back ground infill stitching

Quilt on the front, showing scribble quilting to highlight and outline feathers, deciding if colours are balanced

Adding the coloured infill stitching  

Beaded piping all stitched

First edging stitched on

Adding the beaded piping by hand

Hand stitched the second piping on
 I have used silk in ivory that I bought from a wedding dress fabric shop in London, for the quilt top. The piped edges and beaded piping are all stitched in silk from the same shop.  For the back I have used a silk duvet cover that was bought years ago in a sale in Harrods. I have used the other half of the duvet cover as backing on another quilt 'Lords and their ladies' (see separate post) and just love how it looks quilted. I have used silk wadding with high loft polyester wadding on top.  The variegated thread is Magnifico, I also used Glide threads and for the infill quilting used Microquilter and Infisival threads.  It was quilted on my Handiquilter Avante, freehand, using rulers for the main elements.  The feather border was marked using a stencil but I have customised the feathers to my own style so they are not all uniform.

'Nostalgia' front view

Showing detail of stitching

Detail of edging
I am also frequently asked what my quilts are used for or who they were made for. This quilt was made as a gift as commemoration of a special event. The recipient has not been told and will not be given the quilt for a while.

'Nostalgia' was my entry for the World Quilt Show in New England this year and I have just found out today that it has been awarded FIRST place in the traditional category.  I am obviously over the moon. Not sure I am going to be able to sleep tonight.