Making this quilt was a labour of love for several reasons. I work for The Quilters’ Guild as a Director of their commercial company and our role is to find ways to show off everything that’s great about the Guild to as many people as possible. The Red Manor House Block of the Month was one of my favourite projects that we commissioned this year. One of my real passions in the work I do with The Guild is the opportunity to use The Museum Collection of historic quilts in new ways to encourage our members to create new work today ( listen in to my Great British Quilter Podcast to hear more about my role). With this BOM programme we wanted to create a project that bought one of our treasured historic quilts to new audiences in a fresh new way by creating a new quilt that gave all quilters the chance to perhaps learn new skills and sew communally across the Guild.
I live in a little village in the south of England and I’ve always been fascinated by the Red Manor House quilt because of it’s links to my area. When Jenni Smith and Kay Walsh, our pattern designers, needed pattern testers I knew I’d love to help out. A big team of Guild members helped out making test blocks but because this is a classic ‘frame’ style quilt someone had to make the whole quilt to make sure that it all fitted together seamlessly.
I’ve long been entranced by the structure of classic British Frame quilt since I made my Old English Frame Quilt more than 5 years ago now. This style of quilts are quintessentially English in form and so many share this colour scheme of light pretty pinks and tan browns with floral sprigged fabrics so I knew that I wanted mine to reflect that look. I decided that I would make mine using stash fabric in a scrappy style to give members an example of how great this quilt would be made from their own stash as an additional option to the more planned fabric official version made by the designers Jenni and Kay.
My version followed the form of the Block of the Month pattern but I also wanted to show how much personalisation makers could add to this pattern. The original quilt is packed full of quirky details from the life of the maker, from geese to lions! I added the ponies and sheep from the fields around my home and added some swans, the symbol of my county. I loved the cute little flowerpots in the original and added the little birds peeking out like the original and I also couldn’t resist the little dragon flies. I like to add motifs that are in other quilts that I have made. I love to imagine in the future that those details would link the quilts together and so I added the same horses as appear in my 1718 Coverlet and the same ‘Whiteleaf Cross’ symbol from my Whiteleaf Hearts and Crosses quilt. I’d really encourage makers to spend some time exploring the original quilt. There are so many little details that quilters could make their own.
Making this quilt was such a lovely process. I’m a huge fan of the process of making a frame quilt because the very style means that you always feel like you’re making great progress. Starting in the middle you work your way out ticking off each row until the end, or stop once the quilt is big enough for your needs. I think this would make a lovely kids or baby quilt too if you just made the first few rows, or a cosy lap quilt if you stop before the final large appliqué blocks.
I chose to longarm my quilt using a fine pink 50 weight thread so that it just added texture. I might have liked to hand quilted this one, it’s the kind of quilt I like to sew by hand with lots of variation, but the looming deadline of Festival of Quilts meant that speed was of the essence.
I couldn’t resist taking my finished quilt back to the village where it is believed the original lived after it returned to England after a soujorn in Africa in 1850. You can read lots more about this quilt in the Guilds book Forty
Fittingly, for such a globe trotting quilt it then took a trip to Utah USA to hang in The Garden of Quilts show, which was a huge thrill.
The Quilters’ Guild Block of the Month kicked off this month (October 2019) and you can still join in. Buy the pattern here to join hundreds of other makers working on their own Red Manor Quilt all around the world. You can search the hashtag #redmanorbom to see other versions take shape too.