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Friday, 30 September 2011

Liberty Lawn fabrics

I am using a great many Liberty Lawn fabrics in this quilt, simply because they are so suitable for tiny piecing and of course I have a great many of them, as I have been collecting Liberty for very many years.  However, I  am still buying the odd bit on eBay and am constantly amazed at the variety on offer.  In fact as I'm typing this I just bought one!

Though I have all this Liberty fabric and know a bit about the company, I wish I knew more.  I know at one time manufacturing was in Lancashire, because friends from the Manchester area had access to the mill shops, but I suspect that this is no longer the case and production has moved east?  If anyone can enlighten me please do?

The pictures here are not of the ones I'm working with on the Cottage Orne Quilt, I thought I would just pull out one drawer of my stash and photograph it!  Please excuse the creases - LL does crease when jammed in a drawer! 
There is a range of classic designs in lawn that is current for quite a few years.  There is also a yearly collection with no guarantee that it will continue, but it may do and all these designs and the classics, have different colourways. Now there seems to be a new kid on the block "Liberty Art Fabrics".  I first saw it last year when they started producing reproduction fabrics for the big patchwork exhibition at the V&A.  I didn't like or buy that fabric, it didn't look "Liberty" to me, the colours and quality weren't up to standard, in my opinion and it was cheaper, which indicates something?

Liberty Lawn is expensive stuff, retailing at £21 per meter at the moment.  It has always has been expensive in comparison to other cottons and for decades it was bought by the upper class for their children's clothes.  At one time, when we were feeling extravagant, we actually dressed in it (I have a dismembered blouse I cut into regularly) and clothes can still be bought at the store. You would need deep pockets though!

I should perhaps calculate the value of my stash?  No - better not!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Original and mine.

I am making this tribute to the Sundial Coverlet without attempting to match either fabrics or colours.  Many of the fabrics in the original are quite strange and I have nothing like them, so I decided to make the blocks from my current stash,  just as I make all my quilts, to try and capture the essence of the original but not  attempt to reproduce.

I have always used Liberty of London and Laura Ashley fabrics because I want my quilts to have a British dimension and will certainly continue to use them in this project and others in the future.  Sadly I don't think either are produced here in the UK now, but luckily I have a large amount of both collected over many years.  I need never buy another piece of fabric, but of course I do, now mainly on eBay!

The first picture is a block from the original coverlet and the second is my version and they are not remotely alike-

As it happens this is one of the few that I have simplified - I drafted it a while ago, probably meaning to add in the extra details.  However, when I chose the fabrics,  I felt that they would work without the extra piecing involved in dividing the central square and adding others.

Writing about this block here, I realise that I could draft another little block using a pinwheel centre. I don't particularly like the "card" blocks and there is one block that I haven't a clear enough picture of, so am subsituting these with blocks from other quilts of the era and maybe a new pinwheel one?

The black and white zig zag fabric (which I have also used to border the house in the centre) and the one with tiny spots, were cut from the same Nina Ricca handkerchief that I bought in Japan.  The Japanese have departments of designer handkerchiefs in their wonderful stores and I bought quite a few to cut up!


Saturday, 24 September 2011

A few more blocks

This last week I have been working on these three blocks and they have been rather a struggle -

As I said before, the square blocks are just a matter of coping with fairly small pieces and sewing them together in the normal way.

I  had been rather dreading the Sunflower block because cutting its very small pieces needed pin point  accuracy, but the first problem was to figure out how to draft it!   Fortunately I found a 360 degree Angle Measure in Staples and I did it without too much trouble.  I pieced it without papers (unlike the original which would have been paper pieced) and it went together like a dream.

It was a different story with the third block.  I worked it partly over papers to get the defined heart shapes, but I didn't get it right.  The hearts still weren't defined enough, so I'm doing it again.

Until next time!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Some little Gothic houses in Sidmouth

Last Autumn I visited Sidmouth, a coastal town in South East Devon.  It's attraction for a fan of Gothic architecture is that from the 1780s onwards when this style was all the rage, it became a fashionable place to live. The Napoleonic Wars had closed the Continent to the upper and upper-middle classes, so they had to find somewhere nice to go and many settled in  Sidmouth and built "cottages".  Sidmouth has a shingle beach which doesn't appeal to families with children and the railway didn't reach in until 1874, all of which helped to preserve its character. This is a great bonus for those of us who don't like the usual British seaside attractions!

I have no idea whether the buildings are as lovely to live in as they look, but they are certainly very easy on the eye. It's a delightful town and probably a pleasant place to live, but though  I like the idea of living in a country town or by the sea, I'm used to living in a city, so it's not  for me,  There's no harm  choosing a house though?

This is the little house I picked out and the street just beyond it -

It's a pity about the parked cars and the municipal tennis courts but that's modern life for you!  In the olden days when Sidmouth was being developed these houses would have probably looked out onto a green sward, or maybe gardens, but now we need cars and I suppose tennis courts, so we have to put up with them cluttering up the view!

And here's the one my friend Pauline chose -

It was being renovated for sale and was behind me when I took the previous photo across the tennis courts, so we wouldn't have been next door neighbours but not too far away!  Pity we don't play tennis!

I was going to talk about a finished block but this post has gone on far too long so I will do it next time. Though progress is slow I am nevertheless working hard!.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Two finished, three progressing.

I usually work at at least three blocks at a time because if I come up against a problem, I can take a break and pick up another.  Of course I have to keep up the cutting out so that I don't come to a complete halt.  Strangely  I find that quite tiring, I suppose it's the most creative bit and saps the brain power.  Rummaging for fabrics takes time too and then of course there's the tidying up!

I keep all work in progress, together with their patterns and templates, in this flat basket which I recently bought in my favourite shop. (I'm going to post about this shop on my other blog fairly soon.)  It's really good shape as finding things in it is easy as they can't get buried at the bottom.

I don't have any difficulty with piecing, it's the applique that gives me problems.  I don't really enjoy it and am never pleased with the result and no matter how much I prepare, things seem to end off centre.  I'm having to do a fair amount of it on these blocks because I have only ever paper pieced hexagons and octagons which are fairly straightforward and am certainly not up to the very complicated methods used in the 18th century when pp was used in preference to applique.

I have laid the blocks out on half of my Block Butler - unfortunately I cut it in half because usually my quilts are small but now I could do with the full size.  I did think I would buy another but when I was quoted £48  I thought that was too expensive to contemplate, so I am making do.  I will try attaching the other half somehow because careful placement of the blocks is crucial for a properly balanced design.

I have a rough plan of the layout of the coverlet which will need about 56 small blocks and 4 large corner blocks, which I have yet to decide upon.  Then of course there are the borders which I will design after I have completed the blocks - so a long way to go!

Friday, 9 September 2011

How I work

My computer has picked up a Malaware thingy which has been causing me worries and chasing technical support, so my blogs have been neglected, which isn't a good thing at the beginning of a blog's life!

I thought I would show you some of  the blocks I have already made and tell you something about my approach.  I seem to work to certain rules which I have set myself over a period of years, rules which I am comfortable with, but of course are very out of date in the present world of quilt making.

The blocks in the original Sundial Coverlet are two different sizes - 3 and 5 inches I think?  No measurements are given and it was my guess when I viewed it at the V&A, but I decided to make mine all 12 cms. square.  It is easier to draft patterns that can be divided by two, three and four so I chose this size (just over 4.5 inches) which is about as small as I feel I can work. ( I draft patterns in both Metric and Imperial depending on the size of quilt I want to make, it's very handy having two options!)

The above pictures will give you an idea of the process.  Of course I could draft on Electric Quilt, but I like drawing on graph paper and it's probably quicker though not as professional looking.  I have, however, done (the above block) on EQ because it was proving impossible to do the old fashioned way.  I amaze myself now when I look at it because I have already forgotten how I did it! 

I am using mainly Liberty Lawn because it is ideal for small blocks, but I also use vintage Laura Ashley if I can, though it is thicker and I save it for the bigger pieces.  I have a large collection of fabric and the whole process is very messy, with boxes and bags of fabric cluttering my workroom.  As it is also a through room as well as the cat's room, I can't leave everything strewn around, so I have to tidy up as I go along which isn't ideal.

Regarding patterns - this project is a personal journey for me and I hadn't thought about making patterns for teaching etc.  Saying that, I am not averse to sharing, but as you can tell from the above, my patterns are hand drawn and I would have reservations about putting them on the Internet.  However if any of you have any suggestions as to how it can be done I would be interested. Of course this would mean dusting off my rusty computer drafting skills and that takes time away from working on the project!

Monday, 5 September 2011


Maybe I've chosen the wrong title for this blog and my quilt project because most computer keyboards won't add an acute accent and one is needed over the last letter "e".  I managed to get the blog title right by copying and pasting from an already printed document.  I wanted to use the name because a cottage orné is particularly appropriate as a centre for a quilt inspired by one made in 1797, because they were just becoming fashionable at that time.  Here is a drawing of one built in South Devon in 1815 -     

This quotation from Clive Aslet's book "The English House" sums it up nicely -

"Towards the end of the eighteenth century and particularly during the Regency, when fashionable life was becoming more and more artificial, complicated and luxurious, the simple life looked deliciously refreshing to jaded palettes. Never mind that the real life of labourers was often brutal. For the first time in its story, the English house fell victim to inverted snobbery: it became voguish for houses to ape the appearance of dwellings towards the bottom of the social scale, rather than at the top."

In other words they weren't actually cottages but quite substantial houses built by the well-to-do to embrace the rustic life. Many smaller buildings were also built in the style, such as lodges and gate houses and also estate villages, but this was purely to make them look pleasing to the rich folk who owned them.

The style of build was very pretty to look at with curved and pointy arched windows and doors and lots of intricate detailing both inside and out.  It started when Horace Walpole built his house "Strawberry Hill " in Twickenham around 1750 and because it was the first of its kind, the style is known as Strawberry Hill Gothic. Here is the link to Strawberry Hill which will give you plenty to look at as there are some wonderful videos if you really want to absorb the style -

This new Gothic style became extremely fashionable among the wealthy and they went to town, even Gothicising their existing houses as well as building new ones such as cottages orné. Then the Prince Regent took it to extreme by building the Brighton Pavilion, which is seriously over the top but wonderful.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Inspired by the Sundial Coverlet

Let me tell you a story?  It all began a very long time ago when I saw this picture in a book -

The book was called "A  practical guide to patchwork from the Victoria and Albert Museum", now out of print of course, but you can buy it on Amazon UK for 1p plus postage!  It has a few patterns of other quilts, but only this one picture of  the Sundial coverlet.  I didn't know much about patchwork when I first read it, but I was instantly taken with the way the maker has used  fabric and thought it very clever.  I also liked the colours and variety of the very pretty geometric dress prints, but combining them with black had saved the colour scheme from being too sweet!

Scroll on many years, by now I was teaching patchwork, quilting and embroidery and had just written my first book "House and Garden Samplers",  I had made a special sampler for the cover and chose to depict a  pink cottage orne because it was a house style that I had always admired. 

Then, because I was teaching courses on patchwork houses,  I made a patchwork version (see header picture above) intending to extend it into a sampler quilt.  It didn't happen!

Last year in the Quilt Exhibition at the V&A Museum, I saw the Sundial Coverlet for the first time.  It lived up to all my expectations and I decided that now was the time to do something based on it.  I had a file of pictures and collected writings, I also had lots of fabric, so it was time to stop faffing about and get down to it.  I didn't want to do a replica because, though I love the original I wanted it to be my own design.  I decided to put my languishing pink cottage orne block at the centre and surround it with the small blocks from the Sundial Coverlet, to make my personal sampler quilt.

So far, I have found drafting the patterns and piecing them challenging. Some of the designs are simple but others are complicated and were designed to be paper pieced, so I have had to rethink my usual way of working.  It has been the most demanding quilt project I have ever undertaken but stimulating as well.  It is a complete change from my other life in quilting, as it couldn't be more different to making Welsh quilts.

I started this blog because I thought some of you  might be interested in my progress so far but which has a long way to go.  I will be writing regularly so please tune in again..