Of all the amazing, technically challenging quilts in the historic section of The Quilters’ Guild Collection, I still find myself returning to the humble, simple, often wonky but charming quilts. One of my favourites is the Cumbrian Triangle Quilt. The original of this quilt is attributed to Bertha Mitchell (but may have been made by one of her sisters) in 1899. Made of a range of pink, beige and navy blue prints, the soft tactile washed and worn nature of this quilt has always appealed.
I feel passionately that the resources of collections like that of the Quilters’ Guild and museums like The V&A and the Bowes Museum are treasure troves of inspiration. I love to feel that the quilts that I make now have their roots stretching back in time to the quilting traditions of the past. I decided to rework this humble workaday British quilt for today by remaking it using only fabrics that were designed by British makers in the last 5 years.
****You can now buy this pattern as I gifted it to The Quilters’ Guild Museum Collection and it’s for sale in their online shop as a PDF download so that you can also make Bertha’s beautiful quilt****
I wanted to make a quilt that future quilt historians could link back to here and now and link to fabric designers and makers working today. A truly local quilt rooted in 2019 but with its roots in 1899.
To find British fabric was easier than I first thought. I started with Liberty fabric – a British classic, added Lewis & Irene – quintessentially British and a favourite of mine with their design inspiration firmly rooted in the British countryside. Janet Clare’s beautiful fabrics for Moda were next on my list – her palette of colours so reminiscent of this quilt, moody blues and soft pinks. Then my all time favourite fabric – the map print from Priory Road by Katy Jones for Art Gallery Fabrics. I hoard this fabric jealously – eeking it out in projects over the last 6 years or so – I’ve no idea what i’ll do when I run out! Based on old British OS map print, as a geographer it’s my most loved fabric. I was spoilt for choice with the extensive range of Karen Lewis‘ fabrics. I’ve followed Karen’s work since 2008 when she was printing small runs of fabric at home ( although she loves it so much she still does) except now she has a huge global range of designs printed on the range of Kona cottons. I picked out soft taupe, pale pinks and navy blue prints in a range of modern prints.
As well as commercial fabric designs distributed globally I also wanted to reflect the rich talent base of UK makers producing short runs of individual printed fabrics and selling on sites such as Etsy or Folksy. I love the fresh modern style of Lucy Engels and picked her iconic Bees, Chrysanthemum and Umbrella prints.
I also used a couple of favourite British designers from my stash. Lu Summers was an early influence on my modern quilting life. Her Quilt Improv book remains in my opinion the most fresh and uniquely artistic take on a technique that in less refined hands can just look messy and ill considered. Lu’s quilting works ( and latterly her textile art and prints on etsy) are always perfectly, beautifully balanced and understated. I had hoarded a piece of her early printed fabric (she later produced a commercial line with Moda which I never bought enough of and still bitterly regret having none left as it was a favourite of my sons and went in all his quilts). This treasured piece of mid century modern fabric sits beautifully in amongst the squares.
Lastly I added another treasured fabric from Aneela Hoey. Another of the first wave of British designers when the modern quilting industry was young back in the early 2010s, Aneela’s beautiful quirky hand drawn illustrations – reminiscent of my other favourite Heather Ross – but full of little nods to a British childhood rather than a stateside one. Aneela now writes fabulous books with the best embroidery and sewing storage patterns out there but her early fabric, with its perfectly pitched colour palette, remains much missed by me! I used all my favourites, long stashed for this quilt!
This is a fast fun make. I love the repetitive nature of making Half Square Triangles.
In placing fabrics I tried to reflect the placement of the original to give the quilt the same feel. When it came to the piecing, the original is very ‘relaxed’ in its accuracy. Part of it’s charm is this wonky nature but I had to make a decision to either throw out the rotary cutter and embrace wonky or to stick to modern techniques and match my corners. I decided that if the quilt is made for now then I’d stick to modern techniques – but I off set just one row in a nod to the original.
The original has straight line hand quilting diagonally within each block. I decided to quilt mine in classic modern quilting style with straight lines using my Gammill.
I wrote up a pattern for this quilt ( its a simple make!) and gifted it to The Quilters’ Guild. You can buy this pattern and raise money for The Guild at their website here My friends from my quilting group pattern tested my pattern and I quilted their versions too. This quilt is such a great stash buster – you could make one from stash only!
If you make a version from my pattern do share it online using the hashtag #berthamitchellquilt and #modernberthamitchellquilt. I’d love to see 🙂