Although interested in crafts from an early age, I knew absolutely nothing about patchwork and quilting until the early 80s when we moved to the United States. My sister-in-law in Massachusetts had taken up patchwork and introduced me to the craft. However, it was almost another ten years before I actually tried my hand at making a quilt. By this time we were back in England and, as far as I knew, a long way from any help.
My first quilt was made in 1990 and was a cot quilt for our second baby who, unlike the eldest child, slept. After the first three patches I was already planning a school-house quilt for his brother. I started going to classes, joined a local quilting group and explored a variety of techniques. Although initially attracted by the wonderful variety of patchwork, I found that I didn't enjoy hand quilting over the seams; so each new quilt had an ever increasing amount of plain space to show off the quilting designs.
1994 gave me a complete change of direction. A class with Barbara Chainey showed me how to draft a wholecloth quilt design. This was a hand-quilter's dream: no seams to stitch over and no patchwork to get in the way of the quilting patterns! It was the start of my lasting passion for hand-quilted wholecloth quilts. The ensuing quilt, Berceuse, placed second in the cot quilt section at the Great British Quilt Festival.
Following several other small prize-winning pieces, 1996 saw my first full size wholecloth quilt 'Moonflower'. This was Champion Quilt at the Great British Quilt Festival that year and won the Merit Quilting award at the International Quilt Association, Houston the following year. It formed part of the IQA prizewinners' exhibit at Quilt Expo Innsbruck in 1998.
In 1999 my Welsh quilt 'Tarian Aur' was also exhibited in Houston where it placed third in the Merit Quilting (Hand) section. The same year the Quilter's Guild of the British Isles had a national exhibition at Lord's Cricket Ground. The themed challenge to members was entitled 'Under the Covers'. Having been an avid knitter for years, I made the connection between the theme title and a cricket sweater and set myself the challenge of making a quilt look as much like a real sweater as possible. However, I don't think anyone expected 'Slip One, Knit One' to be large enough to fit a single bed...
In 2000, I made 'Romantic Rose' - designed using traditional Durham templates from old quilts in a Lilian hedley workshop. This quilt won several prizes at Quilts UK and a second place at Quilter's Heritage Celebration, Pennsylvania before being raffled in aid of the Quilter's Guild's 'Housing Our Heritage, Funding the Future' fund. The profits from the sale of its pattern also went to Guild funds.
Having donated 'Romantic Rose' to the Guild, I then decided that I would like something similar for myself. 'Aurora' was made in 2002 and also featured a mixture of old and new Durham templates. It was Champion Quilt at the Great Northern Quilt Show that year.
I continued to have great fun creating quilts which explored the effects of knitted texture. Purl 3 was exhibited as part of Quilt 2000 at The Knitting and Stitching Show and was awarded a judges' commendation for technical excellence. It was also exhibited in Pennsylvania and went to Japan as part of a Quilter's Guild exhibition early in 2003.
That year I (finally) finished one of several applique quilts started over the previous few years. What started out as 'Millenium Tulips' was eventually named '2003 Tulips' (nobody ever said I was quick!). Having placed second in the Traditional Large category at Quilter's Guild Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham that year, it subsequently went on to get an Honourable Mention at IQA Houston and was chosen to feature on the 'Photo Finish' page of the presigious Quilter's Newsletter Magazine.
2003 also saw me try my hand at writing. I was asked to write the Hand Quilting section of Katherine Guerrier's 'Quilting From Start to Finish' (The Quilter's Companion in the US). I also wrote a section on wholecloth quilts and enjoyed the process enough that I thought I might write a book of my own when I had time.
In 2004 I was back with my beloved wholecloth quilts and finally got around to making Fantasy, one of my designs that had been available to buy for several years. This was hand stitched on ombre (shaded) sateen that had been pieced in eight large triangles. This has subsequently gone on to become my most successful quilt, gaining prizes at Festival of Quilts in 2004 and winning blue ribbons at QHC, Paducah and Houston as well as Champion at Quilts UK in 2005.
2005 saw the completion of another applique quilt, Raphelle's Roses. This is a wedding gift for my husband's eldest nephew and his new wife. More of a wholecloth quilt embellished with applique, this design was intended to feature in Fabrications Magazine.
2006 saw the completion of No More Berries. This placed first both in the Traditional Large category at Festival of Quilts and Traditional Applique in Houston that year. It was also in 2006 that I started combining candlewicking with quilting to launch my Colonial Cushion range of patterns.
2007 was a fantastic year. Not only was the new candlewicked, beaded and quilted quilt Crystal Dreams very successful at Festival of Quilts, but I was also given the opportunity to have my own gallery space at the show. Alongside my bigger quilts I made a series of sweater quilts which I had tremendous fun designing. Crystal Dreams also won the Workmanship award at QHC, Best in World at the World Quilt and Textile Fair, and Champion Quilt at National Patchwork Championships in 2008.
2010 finally saw the completion of my quilt Whig Rose. It had begun life as a teaching sample but the fabric was so lovely I felt it deserved to be made into a quilt. Luckily the judges at the National Patchwork Championship felt the same way and it was awarded several prizes, including Champion Quilt. I also made a few more sweater quilts and the collection toured with Grosvenor Shows that year.
In 2012 my cot quilt Reflections went to the Scottish Championships and won several prizes as well as overall runner up. This and all my other cot quilts were exhibited by Grosvenor Exhibitions at their quilt shows in late 2012. I also completed my hand applique quilt Roses of Sharon which was then beautifully longarm-quilted for me by Rosemary Archer before she retired. The quilt toured with the 2013 World Quilt and Textile Fair and won an Honorable Mention.
Having taken 2013 off to write, I didn’t manage a single word! I did complete several new wholecloth cot quilts that year, my favourite being Darian which won Best Cot Quilt at the Scottish Championships. I also made some more sweater quilts, but my major achievement was to finish the applique on my quilt Roses are Red. Some quilts take time, but this one is my personal record as it started out life as a teaching sample in 1999 and was finally completed in the Spring of 2014. The border alone has over 1000 pieces in it! It was a finalist at IQA, Houston that same year and garnered several rosettes at the National Patchwork Championships in 2015.
Having finally completed Roses are Red in 2014, I decided to start another project that had been on the back burner for years. After finishing Aurora in 2002 I wished I had made several small but important alterations to the design. Rather than remake an identical quilt I had decided it would be fun to convert the design into one that featured my beloved Colonial knots and beads. However, that had proved quite a design challenge and it took me until 2014 to finally make a start on it. Pearl Princess, which heavily featured Colonial knots and beading was finally born just in time to go to the 2015 World Quilt and Textile Fair in the USA where it won Best Traditional Quilt. It then went to Festival of Quilts in 2016 and came second in the Traditional quilt category as well as earning (to my eternal delight) the Viewers' Choice award. It subsequently went on to win Best in Show at the National Patchwork Championships at Sandown in 2017.
In 2014 nine new sweater quilts, along with all the other quilts in that series, were beautifully displayed at the Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter. I was absolutely thrilled with the exhibition. One of the quilts was machine-quilted - a first (and last) for me!
My collaboration with Jen Jones had started in 2010 and is still very strong. I created several patterns using designs taken from quilts in her collection and these (and kits) are available from the museum shop at the Jen Jones Quilt Centre. Although I have drastically reduced the amount of teaching and travelling I am willing to undertake, I continue to teach there each September. Jen’s quilts are a great source of inspiration and over the years I have used one motif in particular from a quilt in her collection. The first quilt to feature this paisley pear, In the Pink, was made in 2002. In the intervening 10 years another four cot quilts with the same motif were designed and made. A conversation with Jen about them in June 2015 led to the creation of a whole series of quilts using this motif. I started designing them immediately and by mid-February 2016 there were 24 hand-stitched quilts in total making up the Paisley Renaissance collection. These were displayed in Gallery Two at the Jen Jones Quilt Centre Lampeter from early March until early November that year and toured with Grosvenor Shows in 2017.
I spent much of 2017 writing, teaching and judging, but also found time to start stitching a double bed-sized silk wholecloth quilt for my husband. The design made extensive use of Celtic knotwork and was based on (but not a copy of) a previous commission representing the Irish legend The Children of Lir. This quilt (Ahmran Eala) was exhibited at Festival of Quilts in 2018 and the National Quilt Championships in 2019 where it was awarded Best Wholecloth Quilt; it has also been juried into in the World Quilt Competition, 2019.
In 2017 I also revisited the paisley motif that featured so prominently in the quilts displayed at The Jen Jones Quilt Centre in Lampeter the previous year. These quilts were displayed in 2017 at a series of quilt shows run by Grosvenor Shows as well as in a gallery at the West Country Quilt Show, and created a lot of interest in traditional Welsh quilts. The paisley is such a versatile pattern that I found new avenues to explore, and I spent a lot of 2018 creating a new set of cot quilt designs that makes up the current Paisley Parade (2019) collection; the aim of this second collection is to extend ideas and designs beyond the traditions that encompassed the original set of quilts.
Since 2017 a lot of time has been spent finally bringing to fruition my long-standing intent to write a book about Welsh quilt design. Rather than produce a book of self-contained projects, I wanted to create one that de-mystified the dynamics of the design process itself. Having said that, it is illustrated with a number of especially-designed quilts, most of which had to be made for the book. Authoring and illustrating the book myself (so that I retained full editorial control) was a time-consuming process and my husband's technical and photography skills have been invaluable. After much proofing and several false starts, the finished product finally became available on Amazon towards the end of 2018.
So far, 2019 has been spent making quilts and putting the finishing touches to the Paisley Parade gallery for the Festival of Quilts. One novel aspect of this gallery is to try to illustrate the processes of quilt design and quilt-making, rather than just be a static display of the finished products. To this end, the gallery is supported by a local web-site (which you are looking at now) containing background to the welsh tradition and time-lapse videos of the quilt-making itself. Again my husbands' technical skills have been invaluable.
The paisley story does not end in this gallery. I have a number of unused designs still to make, and at least another 10 new quilts will be on display at the Jen Jones Quilt Centre in Lampeter from May through October 2020. There will also be a mix of the current two collections at the Minerva Centre in Llanidloes, Mid Wales next summer.
With a large wholecloth Colonial knot and bead quilt in an advanced stage of planning, a stash of material as large as it ever has been, and hands that still work (most of the time), this is hopefully not the end of the story…