01/07/2018 § 7 Comments
Trefin is a village on the north coast of Pembrokeshire. My great-grandfather James Price, stonemason, lived there with his wife Rachel and raised his family there. My grandfather, William Price was his eldest son and at the time of James’ death, aged just 42, Will was working as his apprentice.
I’ve grown up always knowing that ‘my great-grandfather built the slate gateposts for Capel Trefin’. Whenever we visited Pembrokeshire we would stop and ‘touch the gateposts’. Over the years, the Chapel began to fall into disrepair but a few years ago, on a trip with my father, we saw a sign saying the Chapel was open to the public.
It is now a heritage centre for the village of Trefin and the doors are often open to allow everyone some peace and tranquility and to glimpse this imposing building’s glory. The outer shell has undergone extensive work and inside, the lime plaster and restoration has breathed new life into the once very tired building. As I walked around, I had an idea to make a quilt for the Chapel and approached the owner. As we chatted via email, he mentioned the frame behind the pulpit and my mind began whirring with ideas for a textile collage, instead of a quilt.
The plaster frame is long – over 1.5m and narrow – about 0.5m. That’s a difficult shape to work with but almost immediately I could imagine what I wanted to do. The owner and I agreed a target date by which the panel should be on display and this gave me many months, though in truth I like a deadline so I can focus over a shorter period. I always have a deadline, and then a few weeks before that, my own date for completion. I met both, with some serious stitching on my little Janome 525S. As regular readers will know I have 2 big Janome Horizon machines that I (and my students) absolutely love but they don’t like doing freehand, however, the little 525 took on the job and stitched along very merrily – literally millions of stitches.
Fibre art, or textile collage is my new favourite sewing pastime. For a panel of this size, it takes a lot of planning – and a lot of scraps. The process is complicated –
- To begin, I drew the shape and then simply ‘colour-blocked’ it with scrap fabric.
- The next stage took longer – every section was covered with minute scraps and then covered with a soluble film and stitched – tiny, tiny freehand stitching on machine (photo 1 above). It looked like a misty, washed-out mess. Then it was soaked in the bath to remove the soluble film and to tell the truth, it then looked even worse!
- As I started to add the details, the buildings and landscape took shape, building the gateposts in exactly the same pattern as my great-grandfather (I’d taken lots of photos), even adding in a few mossy bits where they grow. This part of the project was both satisfying and painstaking.
- I wanted the door of the Capel to be open, and the gate too. I needed to add colour and some words from the famous poem Melin Trefin, written about the old ruined mill, where the millstone still sits. Sharon Larkin Jones, who describes herself as ‘passionate about Wales, its language, literature and history’ has written a wonderful post about the Welsh poem, with translation and photographs.
There are some very personal details – the slate bench above the beach where Dad and I have enjoyed many a sit down and the stunning view out to sea, the village pump where Dad as a little boy would fetch water for his family who lived in the house by the pump. The family house in the top left of the collage, is speckled with tiny yellow crocus flowers. James and Rachel’s headstone in a nearby cemetery is an imposing red marble memorial, carved with crocus flowers. I wonder whether that’s because he passed away in February 1906 when the flowers are in bloom.
My father, who spent all his school holidays in Trefin with his family, tells the story that as a tiny baby his mother made up a cot from a large chest drawer, in which he slept in the upstairs room on the left. His aunt kept the village Post Office from the front room of the house, with her sister keeping a small-holding on the fields behind. There are lots more family stories and we hope to record Dad retelling them on our next visit.
I hope the locals and visitors like the panel. Although it now lives in Capel Trefin, I couldn’t quite bear to just hand it over, so it’s on permanent loan to the heritage centre. If you’re visiting Pembrokeshire, in west Wales, do pop in and see it.
07/04/2018 § 2 Comments
A good while ago, I gave a presentation about my patchworking adventures, to a local WI group. I chatted on about what inspires me to make quilts and showed lots of photos of quilts that I’ve made over the years, including Memory Quilts. I once made 4 quilts for the same lady – I can’t believe that was back in 2014!
One lady at the WI meeting had her imagination sparked, as she’d kept lots of her 3 childrens’ baby clothes, so there was a memory quilt just waiting to happen! We had quite a wait as a very special snuggling blanket needed to be ‘released from the clutches of her youngest’ and form a very significant patch in the corner of the quilt – so it was easy to snuggle up to some more!
As always, I regard Memory Quilts as a huge responsibility. To be trusted with precious tiny clothes that remind a mother of her children as babies, is not a task to be undertaken lightly. I love making memory quilts and make a huge effort to include tiny labels, hidden pockets and as many details as possible.
One morning in early March, I donned my leather glove – to save from blisters with all the cutting out – picked up my scissors and cut out for 6 hours with hardly a break. Many, many more hours of cutting and stabilising, stitching and applique followed and here’s the finished quilt …
I won’t give all the personal details, but the applique stars & hearts are significant fabrics and bind the quilt with clothing pieces from 3 generations of the family. There are almost 20 tiny pockets and so many appliqued details that I lost count!
Here are some lovely words, from the recipient …
I have to say a huge thank you. Whilst I am typing this, I am sitting underneath my wonderful new memory quilt (oh how lovely and warm it is). It is beyond anything I could have imagined and the lovely touches you have added like the pockets, the added shapes of sentimental fabric and the inclusion of so many beautiful features from their clothing makes it such a unique and special item. I can’t wait to show it off.
Many thanks for sharing your amazing talent with me. EG, Hants
There’s now another huge project underway here in the studio – a textile collage to mark the 175th anniversary of a village chapel in Wales – the village where my great-grandfather lived and worked as a stone-mason. I’m working to a deadline and will have it finished for a preview evening here in Winchester (let me know if you’d like to attend), before it goes off to The Land of my Fathers later in the month. Very exciting!
Workshops are booking up for the summer and early autumn – we’ll have to discover whether Spring ever actually makes an appearance – it’s a long wait! Next time I’ll show you some of the finished quilts that my students have been making over recent weeks.
Have a lovely weekend
linking up with Finish it up Friday
12/01/2018 § 12 Comments
I thought I was going to show you a finished quilt today, but instead …
I wish you could touch it – it’s all wibbly wobbly from the freehand embroidery. It’s taken me most of the day to finish and now I have to work out how to mount it onto a canvas.
I especially love how the blossom on the trees and in the hedgerows has turned out,
It makes a change from patchwork!