This is my new quilt. It is a cautionary tale really. I wanted to have a second large ‘statement’ piece in the York exhibition and so I went flat out to finish it, with predictable results. I love all three elements just not together.
The idea of the piece is that it is about patchwork and quilting. In the middle is St Laura. I have made her up. She is the patron saint of patchwork and quilting because Laura Ashley got so many British quilters started. So this is a thank you. But, as someone pointed out at the exhibition, she doesn’t have any hands. So I am not sure just how good she would be as a patron. The reason for this is that I used the very simple forms that I have been seeing in great museums over the past couple of years.
These are based on examples in the stunning museum of Catalan art in Barcelona. I have become worrying interested in using very simple shapes like smock-type sleeveless dresses or t-shirts or bottles and seeing how many different designs I can use them with. It’s a bit obsessive when I get going. The little keyhole shaped figures are perfect for this. And that’s why I used the shape on the quilt. The interesting part is filling that shape:
There is more than a hint of Klimt here, of course. but I also think that there an allusion I wasn’t particularly expecting to illustrations in children’s picture books possibly from vintage sources. For example, I love Eric Carle’s work:
The other thing I love about this is that it was the opportunity to work with things that I have been given by great textile enthusiast friends. So there is some wonderful silk fabric (the whole thing is done in silk) donated by one of my blogging friends who makes historical reproduction textiles – I am sure that isn’t the correct term but her blog is well worth reading www.opusanglicanum.wordpress. She sent me a packet of the most exquisite woven silk scraps. My mother donated a lot of the plain silk from some sumptuous sample books. I got the silk for the wimple at Maculloch and Wallis in a ten pound bit bag of bridal fabrics which was a huge bargain in a shop which does not exactly give it away. A lot of the beads and sequins came from my lovely friend Janice, who does frankly gorgeous bead weaving and makes scarves and neckpieces I defy anyone to resist. And much of the lace came from a wonderful woman and ex-student of mine, Julie, who passed them on from her grandmother:
The background, which is a wool and cotton Laura Ashley fabric I bought in a sale years ago, needs a lot more quilting, but I thought that it gave a suitably medieval manuscript feel:
I think these are characteristic of the early Middle Ages which fitted the central figure. The rose floral Laura Ashley chintz at the bottom is a reference to the banks of flowers you get at the feet of madonnas in Roman Catholic churches in the Netherlands. I bought that remnant from the Llanidloes Quilters on the visit to Wales which started this whole project.
So, apart from needing to do more quilting and the fact that the halo, which is a bit too extravagant, overbalances the whole thing, I quite like the central panel.
The piece as a whole is meant to show my own transition and that of the craft as a whole from stitching those fifty pence big bags into patchwork to the contemporary freer, wonkier and more design-led style of piecing:
My very elementary nine patches on the left were made from packs, but by this time they were die-cut rather than the fents or offcuts originally sold. The same for the much more sophisticated fabric on the right, pieced in Gwen Marston’s liberated piecing style. The left hand side is hand-quilted and washed in very hot water to get it to puff up a bit like an antique quilt. The right hand panel is machine-quilted with a bit of hand embellishment. The separate bits are great but together they don’t quite work. I think this is because of something that quilters have known for years: you have to be very careful how you use white. Here it completely unbalances the whole thing. So, I might have to resort to the collager’s friend, black tulle, and my own friend: the bead. I certainly need to think and salvage.
That said, I loved making all the bits, and I think the piece even in its unsatisfactory state really does say something about my love of the craft.