Back in 2011 or 2012 when I had just started running my Patchwork and Quilting School The PlainStitch Workroom, from a tiny room above an estate agents in the village where I lived, I was contacted by a gentleman whose wife had been an ardent quilter and she had sadly passed away the previous year. He was clearing out her sewing room and he wondered if I’d like anything, particularly a floor mounted beech-wood hand quilting hoop that had been her pride and joy ( he had added carpet to the foot of it so that her feet weren’t cold as she sewed- a detail that still makes me want to cry.) Along with some books and other items was a box of templates that he wanted me to take too. The templates pre dated the plexi acrylic templates today, made from metal- their packets sporting those curiously decorative shaped little price stickers that used to adorn everything in a shop showing values of 50p and £1. Amongst these templates was an incomplete set of templates for a giant Dahlia.
The fuzzy packet picture looked beguiling, despite its grainy black and white shaded photography. The size and the complexity of the pattern was fascinating. There were no instructions on how to piece it. Over the years I searched books for inspiring examples of Dahlia quilts to no avail. Even today a cursory search of the internet yields only a few and many in a darker, more 1990s palette than my making.
In the end I decided that I would just have to bite the bullet in my search for a functioning pattern and try and redraft the missing pieces. The pattern looked hard and I had reached that place in my making where I wanted the challenge of a complex pieced make. This involved a comedic Sunday afternoon with a dressmaking French curve ruler and a huge piece of brown paper held together with 10 or more sellotape seams. You see as I started to build the jigsaw of the pattern I realised that instead of radiating out from the centre of the flower in a straight line the pattern curves and arcs out – necessitating the need for more and more sheets of wrapping paper to be added hastily to my makeshift pattern!
With a little ‘fudging’ sand a retreat to EPP method it call came together beautifully and I ended up making two over the course of a year – it’s a pattern I feel sure I will return to again – its placement possibilities is so infinite.
The top quilt was hand pieced and hand quilted, the one below hand pieced and long arm quilted in a bubbles design.