City and Guilds Study Day

Students had a play at three different activities.  They spent the morning folding, stitching and furrowing to create folded fabric roses.

Then we carried on stitching and the students perfected the art of finishing an edge with their own double fold  bias binding with mitred corners and a bias seam finish!

Then they looked at decorative reverse binding and faced binding, and also how to mitre the corners when the backing fabric is brought forward to create a binding.

After lots of stitching there was just time to have a quick play with Thermofax screens using thickened Procion dye and  print paste.

WHQ Wednesday March 13 2014

Thanks to Juliet Griffin for this post.

Thirty members of the Welsh Heritage Quilters crammed around the tables at the Minerva Arts Centre this Wednesday afternoon to hear a talk by one of the group’s members, Judith Barker.

WHQ members gathered to hear a talk by Judith Barker

Judith spoke about the concepts and ideas which have inspired her work over the years.  Her talk was amply illustrated by a large number of beautiful examples of her work, many award-winning; some bed quilts, and some pieced, but mainly wall hangings skilfully worked in various types of appliqué.  The oldest piece shown was a charming classic crazy quilt made from scraps by her grandmother as a coverlet for the dolls’ cradle made for Judith by her grandfather.

The cheery vigour of folk art is a frequent inspiration

Her influences range from folk art through cathedral interiors to archaeology and landscape.  Like many highly creative people she keeps a notebook to jot down any and every idea, and she participates fully with the groups she belongs to, joining in with “challenges” and contributing to exhibitions and charity sales.  She is also a qualified quilt show judge.

A recent work consists of a set of four hangings exploring the way that ancient civilisations have left their mark on the landscape. While Judith was developing the concept, a visit to the National Museum in Cardiff was a key “lightbulb moment” giving the inspiration for the colours of the pieces; a museum label described how in the bronze age people made important items out of bone, amber or jet. To complete the set of four colours, Judith added clay. This is “Barrow Landscape – Clay”. Judith’s exhibits in the forthcoming WHQ exhibition at the Minerva Arts Centre will further explore this theme.

After the talk, everyone descended on the pile of quilts for forensic examination and heated discussion, keen to learn as much as possible about Judith’s techniques

One of the groups Judith belongs to held an exhibition in Brecon Cathedral and challenged its member to create work inspired by the Cathedral itself.  Judith’s piece was a reflection on the tombstones embedded in the paved floor of the cathedral, many of which give the names of women along with their roles: “wife”, “mother”, “daughter”, and in one case, “widdw”.

The session was for me an eye-opening reminder of the depth of the talent and experience lurking untrumpeted behind the affable, cheery fun of the WHQ meetings.

Learn more about Judith’s work at

PS  There’s a custom in the group that if you have a birthday or a special celebration you bring a cake or some delicious biscuits to share round at teatime.  This week there were three – we were rolling in scrumptious biscuits!

Are you focused on the biscuits or the beautiful quilt?


WHQ Quilt Stretch

Many thanks to Juliet Griffin for this post!

Everyone’s favourite game at last Wednesday’s Welsh Heritage Quilters meeting – a quilt stretch!  This is Gerry’s beautiful “barn-raising” quilt, being expertly stretched and basted in her absence by a keen team led by Polly.

Jeni, Polly and Sheila

The stretching frame consists of four long pieces of timber with wide strips of firmly-woven fabric stapled right along their length.  The frame is made up to the correct size for the quilt by simply assembling the pieces of timber into a rectangle of the correct size and clamping the corners with extremely strong sash cramps.  The chosen backing fabric is pinned, face side down, to the fabric on the four sides of the stretching frame, followed by the wadding (batting) and the completed quilt top.  (Gerry’s quilt is being stretched the other way up, backing fabric uppermost, as her top is unusual in being a little larger than the backing.)  The clamps are adjusted so that all the layers are kept reasonably taut; this helps ensure they are all lying flat and square.  Then the three layers can be secured together.

Jeni and Polly

Polly spent a while visiting the Amish while she was in America and is enthusiastic about the methods they taught her, including the use of a large lattice of herringbone stitch to tack together the layers of a quilt before it is quilted.  Some quilters use special safety pins instead, or straight tacking stitch, but the herringbone holds the layers together a little better.  The lines of herringbone stitching run all the way along the quilt from top to bottom and all the way across from side to side, about five or six inches apart.  Polly always uses white or off-white thread, just in case the dye from a coloured thread should run and spoil a quilt.

Jeni and Sheila

The sewing always progresses from one end of the quilt to the other.  This is because human beings have arms of a limited length.  Once each line of tacking has gone as far as our arms can efficiently reach, the sash cramps holding the end bar of the frame are released and the basted section of quilt rolled carefully around it.  Then the bar is clamped back to the side bars and sewing can resume from where it left off.

Once the whole surface is basted, the quilt can be unpinned from the frame and taken away to be quilted.  The tacking will hold the layers firmly together while the sandwich is manoeuvred around, whether in a long-arm quilting machine or in a hand-quilting frame.

Rose busy threading needles

It’s a race against time to stretch and baste a quilt in the hour and a half of working time available, so we work very fast and get as many people as possible around the frame.  Two or three mighty souls sit and thread needles as fast as they can, sticking them ready in a polystyrene block.  As each sewer uses up the thread in their needle they dash across to the threading table and swap their empty needle for a full one.  This quilt was a king-size one so we started at half past twelve to get an extra hour or so.  (These photos were taking in the tea break, when most of the working team had dashed off to grab a well-earned cuppa and a biscuit.)

Rosemary taking tea – Julie is being mother today!

This is only the second quilt stretch I’ve had the chance to work on since I joined WHQ.  You’re a bit concerned the first time in case you do something wrong and spoil someone’s lovely quilt, but the more experienced members of the group are extremely encouraging and happy to show you everything you need to know so that you gain confidence very quickly.  The sewing is great fun, fast and flowing, and the frame is always surrounded by banter and gossip and laughter.

The bargain table at WHQ

Meanwhile, a selection of weird and wonderful scraps had been dumped on the neighbouring table, and WHQ members were rummaging for crazy pieces to work into their future projects.

City and Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Patchwork and Appliqué Study Day

No snow, no floods and no high winds!  At last we were able to meet up for a City and Guilds study day! Sadly too few Daffodils out yet considered it was St David’s day.

It was a jam-packed day!  Busy tables!

Jam jar dyeing is just about the most fun you can have without finding out that Elvis is still alive.  It has a mad-scientist’s laboratory look about it initially.

The results however, are pure delight.

However, the fun did not stop there.  While our fabric was curing in the jar, students had a go at mono-printing – comparing a Gelli-plate with a glass plate on both paper – using acrylic paint – and fabric – using fabric medium and concentrated print colours.  After a lot of play, it was agreed that whilst both methods had their own characteristics and each would suit different intentions, the Gelli-plate had the definite edge as regards pleasure of use, not least because of the delicious thwuck noise and feel it has when prints are pulled.

We rounded off the day with some curved piecing using a technique which always feels slightly magical and a bit edgy.   After learning how to quickly and easily draft a quarter-circle block, students learnt a reliable piecing method.  Without pinning or marking, the fabric is stitched using a quarter-inch foot as a wall against which the fabric is aligned.  Once you have given yourself time to master it, the method works every time – as you reach the end of the seam you find that –  Yay! – the fabric lines up!!.  The students quickly got the knack! And it works for wiggly seams too.  More of the secret is only shared with City and Guilders so if I told you more I would have to wrap you in batting to silence you!