This quilt was a kind of ‘accidental’ make that came about one rainy weekend in November. Usually my quilts sit in the back of my mind for months or even years before they get their turn in the making queue, but this one came out of nowhere and somehow got made in record time, in and around the other slower longer term projects I had in progress.
I had been saving rich heathery purple fabrics along with warm pinks for a while with an urge to pair them with a cool crisp pale blue ever since I fell in love with that combination in a magazine spread for an interiors shoot and whilst making my 1820’s applique quilt. Most of my quilts begin life as a pile of fabrics that I add to and remove fabrics from for weeks or months. I usually don’t have a project in mind, the project and the pile just kind of come together eventually and that’s when it’s that projects ‘time’ to be made.
I was familiar with the Quilters’ Guild Hearts and Crosses Quilt from The Guild Collection and had bought the pattern in the QShop by Carolyn Gibbs several years ago, but had no immediate plans to make one. Whilst I was fascinated by the idiosyncratic construction of the original, it wasn’t a quilt I really planned to tackle any time soon.
One of the best things about my marketing role with The Quilters’ Guild is that I get a special super large file of all the high resolution pictures of the Quilters’ Guild Collection to use in my day job. These pictures are a treasure trove of otherwise unseen detail about the close up colours and textures of the historic quilts that I love to reference in my work. Whilst working on another Guild project I found myself studying the Hearts and Crosses Coverlet. I confess that when scrolling past this quilt it can look a bit ‘brown’ and a bit busy to my eye, but when you scan in close you start to see the fabrics in detail and I was intrigued by the amount of pale pinks and heathery purples and blues hidden amongst the ubiquitous traditional brown fabrics. The link between this and my as yet unplanned purple/blue quilt was made in my mind and then I just wanted to start to make!
I started by following the pattern layout of the original quilt, and whilst the weight and shape of the crosses was pleasing in the original layout, as ever I wanted to make the quilt my own. I live in a small rural village nestled at the foot of the Chiltern Escarpment with the ancient Ridegway cattle drovers path running along its top. A local landmark is a carved chalk figure of a pagan cross, which I’ve always imagined in my head to be a matriarchal cross, with its skirts. It’s origin is lost in the mists of time, but its a kindly shape to me, rather than the perhaps sterner more patriarchal cross of the original quilt. I decided to swap up my crosses for Whiteleaf crosses.
The Whiteleaf cross is immortalised in paint by the great Paul Nash who was also fascinated by the pagan roots of these symbols and you can see his beautiful painting at the Whitworth Gallery I think his version perfectly captures the soft mists of the hills around the cross and the pervading sense of deep roots of time that I always feel when walking the Ridgeway. It’s a special place.
After constructing the first strip pieced sections I decided that I wanted to break up the original pattern with some solid colour to give the eye somewhere to rest. The original always leaves me with a faint sense of a kaleidoscope spinning. The hearts element of the original set me to thinking that at the centre of my hearts should be my children and each one is represented by the animal that they are most often likened to in character and pet names.
Miles of strip piecing to a brown paper foundation backing later ( and an epic paper removal session that the whole family got involved in 😉 ) and the quilt was a surprisingly quick finish compared to the other applique quilts I have worked on recently.
I decided that I wanted the quilting to reflect the strong diagonal lines of the quilt so set on a simple diamond cross hatch to keep the quilting sympathetic to the quilt top and to make sure I wasn’t adding any additional busyness to the already quite busy pattern. I quilted it on my Gammill – it was a great training piece as I get more adept at managing the challenges that each quilt introduces me to – keeping all that stretchy wavy strip pieced bias in control so that my diamonds were lined up and the final quilt sat square was a fun challenge that I mostly won!
I had the perfect backing in my stash, a large meterage of a classic Liberty print in rich berry hued colours. I now find that loading the quilt on to the longarm and seeing the backing rolled against the front like in the picture is great reassurance as to the final success of a quilt and its back to live together harmoniously. I am a huge believer in the edict that the back of your quilt should be just as beautiful as the front. I make quilts for beds and sofas rather for display on walls and at shows and so the back is always on display at least 50% of it’s rumpled life.
The wadding is my favourite silky drapey 100% Bamboo wadding and the combination of Liberty Lawn, Bamboo wadding and close quilting has given it the most divine texture. I love my quilts to be wrinkly and rumpled. This one will crinkle up beautifully after a whizz through the washer and dryer and my pup appears to be beseeching me to get on with it!