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I am a quilter living in Woodbridge, Suffolk who has made quilts since I was a teenager. I also ring bells! Both are great British traditions....I will try to feature some of my antique Welsh and Durham quilts, the quilts I make myself, my quilting activities and also some of my bellringing achievements. Plus as many photos as I can manage. NB: Double click on the photos to see greater detail, then use back button to return to the main page.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Cot size Pelaw Eiderdown

I recently bought this little cot quilt - it is a Pelaw quilt, and is pretty cute! I certainly have a soft spot for little quilts, and as I don't have room for the larger Pelaw quilts, I thought this a good compromise...

The cot quilt looks much like a scaled down version of the full size quilts, with attractive satiny fabrics and decorative embroidery.

The quit is very decorative and the baby that had this in its cot must have been a fortunate one....

The reverse is pink sateen, and the whole is filled with feather down and has eyelet holes for excess air to escape.
The Pelaw factory was located near Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Here is an extract from Gateshead Places - Pelaw, the Cooperative Wholesale Society Pelaw Works by Joan Hewitt at www.gatesheadlibraries/gateshead-local-history-/gateshead-places

"The vast group of factories which occupied the ground between Shields Road and the railway was established by the Lancashire cooperative movement, to spread the commercial principle of cooperative trading into the North-East at the turn of the century.

At first the cooperative movement was entirely made up of retail stores sited in heavily populated industrial areas, particularly in the North of England. In the 1870s a change to manufacturing began, again in Lancashire, round Manchester. The Coop saw the advantage of producing its own goods. Soon it required to expand its manufacturing base, and Tyneside was seen as a splendid place to put up new works.

Before the first factory could function, a workforce had to be found and trained, and skilled men came from Lancashire to start this process. There are still families in and around Pelaw today, whose grandfathers came and settled down to work for the rest of their lives in the C.W.S. works.

In the clothing factory, women workers at their sewing machines turned out not only shirts, nightwear, underwear, coats and suits, but also industrial clothing - overalls, boiler-suits, and pit clothes. A memo on this last read "In the North-east, so strong is the tradition, that men’s pit-drawers of flannel kersey are still in use and must be supplied."

Pelaw’s famous Down Quilts were first made in 1914, in the Quilt factory. Again the workers were women. They were clever quilters, probably because here in County Durham there was an ancient tradition of quilting, and the skills thus acquired were drawn on for the Pelaw workforce. But the Durham quilts though popular, were later eclipsed by the Eiderdowns, filled with the soft, warm and light down feathers of the eider duck. The covers were in satins and silks of deep, lustrous colours and strong patterns.

The Pelaw Quilt factory had its own buyers, who travelled the world to find the finest materials. Its first year’s output realised £396, and in 1933, so great was the demand, the factory was enlarged and the staff increased. In 1938, its total sales were over £90,000. Not only were eiderdowns made, but there was a thriving service in the recovering of old eiderdowns originally made there. Some people still have them! In the Second World War the quilting works made uniforms and flying suits.

The tailoring factory grew like the others, and was extended twice, in 1933 and 1937. The women who worked there were all expert machinists and tailoresses. All the female workers were paid less than the male staff, as was the general rule. There were wage disputes at times even in this benevolent regime.

One would suppose that this vast and busy works would continue to progress and expand after the War when demand for goods returned, and prosperity was much improved. It proved not to be the case. As the 1960s passed, the Coop fell behind its competitors in both retailing and manufacturing. It was slow to see the potential of supermarkets, and did not modernise its production methods soon enough, losing a large share of the market.

Some say that its employees were busy looking after themselves rather than customers. Others assert that the management was too old-fashioned and the goods likewise. Retail Cooperative societies began to amalgamate or disappear, and membership fell. A general decline began which in the 1970s greatly accelerated and by 1980 most of the factories were closed, a sad blow to the district which had for so long taken it for granted. The printing works gave up in 1993, but still stands forlorn and battered by vandals. In 1998 only the Shirt Factory is alive. The other buildings have been demolished and in part replaced with private houses and an Aldi supermarket.


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

"Quilt as Desired" - Today's Quilter, June 2017

I was very pleased to see this feature, which appeared in the June edition of Today's Quilter.
It is titled "Quilt as Desired" and is primarily about hand quilting. I had written up some tips to share, but the rest of the article is the result of a telephone interview with Anne, the author of this piece. As I was having my little VW serviced in Stowmarket back in March, I found a comfy seat in front of the duckpond at the Museum of East Anglia and chatted for about an hour...

The photos which I sent in have turned out well, and I think that the text, which is pitched at "improvers" or "beginners", is well written. No obvious mistakes!(which is important after years of proofreading and correcting student scripts....)

I was even mentioned on the front cover! just to say that I am very pleased..

 Now, just to see a published copy of the V & A book that I have submitted three projects for, but I am not sure when that is to be be published....

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Turkey Red and Roses Strippy Summer Throw

Here is a throw that arrived yesterday - it is a summer throw, as it has no wadding. It is not quilted. The colours are very bright and it must have never been used, or very seldom.

The throw was very simply made - matching pairs of strips were seamed to another pair of strips, and the process continued across the throw. The throw is completely reversible, each strip having its twin on the reverse side. The throw measures a hefty 88 x 102".

The turkey red fabrics are so cheerful!

A part of this very large throw.

Teamed with the turkey red fabric is an inexpensive fabric with roses and leaves.

The folded throw.

The interesting thing is to compare the unused fabrics in this throw with well worn fabrics in other quilts. Here, we see a Turkey red fabric that has received a lot of wear - the red and white hold up, but the overprinted yellow, green and blue are almost entirely lost.

Compare this with the vibrant colours when new!

 Again, with a well-worn quilt, one can only guess what the original colours and patterns were...

Whereas, in the unused throw the colours show delicate roses and foliage.

The edges are simply finished by over sewing.

This throw was languishing under "bedspreads" and was bought very cheaply. The seller was from Cornwall, but the throw was originally the property of her grandmother from Yorkshire. This pretty well settles the question that I originally asked myself - Welsh or North Country? Definitely North Country - but in the absence of quilting patterns it would be difficult to tell otherwise...apart from the width of the strips...

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Popular Patchwork June 2017

The Patchwork of My Life - Pippa Moss, in June's Popular Patchwork is now on the newsstands. Although a few small errors crept in, generally I am pleased with this. The layout is lively and my photos have turned out well. The text has been modified and simplified, but still has my "stamp" on it. This is pretty much the first time that I have dealt with editors other than academic ones - so an interesting experience! And, I was pleased to give the people at Penyrralt Farm some publicity for their gypsy caravan; it made a good photo.

I also have been dealing with the folks at Thames and Hudson, for a V & A Patchwork book, with three hopefully fairly easy projects.  And, shortly, there will be an article "Quilt as Desired" in Todays Quilter. That will be written on the basis of a telephone interview - so it will be a surprise to see what makes it into print! I have again sent lots of photos of various quilts and quilting motifs. Patchwork shows up well, but the wholecloth quilts don't make for very exciting photos, I'm afraid.

I also have a small cot quilt in the Jen Jones Quilt Museum - looking forward to seeing that exhibition in July when we go to Wales again.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Floral Durham Wholecloth Quilt with Strippy Patterns

I had to laugh with this quilt - the seller described it as a handmade Indian quilt sold in the 1970's
"oversewn with a pattern of stitches, willy-nilly but in a repeated almost shell pattern."

I had to laugh, as this is obviously a vintage Durham quilt. Perhaps it was bought at a charity shop, which took in donated items as well as selling third world goods? Anyhow, it is definitely not of Indian origin.

The quilt has a pinky/beige floral pattern with a mid brown reverse.

The quilting patterns are unusual - although a wholecloth, it has strippy or border patterns. Here you can see half a feather wreath used on the edge, with a running feather and a Welsh twist.

But, a circular feather wreath has been plonked down in the centre of the quilt - similar to the Welsh custom of always having a central "coin"!

Most of the quilt is done in running feathers, in a bellows pattern.

The top is an attractive floral fabric with rosy terracotta background and large brown and tan flowers.

The patterns are not matched (as the extra fabric for this matching could not be afforded) but is not so noticeable...

The floral hides the quilting patterns but the textures are pleasant to see...

The edges are machine sewn on the two longer edges - and - an unusual rolled edge to the two shorter ends. This is original and not a repair. The quilt doesnot look to ave been used much.

Another look at the two edge treatments.

The overall effect is attractive, and I can see why the seller bought the quilt in the 70's (probably for very little)...

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Designed (RBI?) Welsh Quilt

Here is a nice quilt that has clearly been designed, and may be a product of the Rural Industries Bureau, or one of their trained quilters. The colours  of the cotton are a mid brown and a dark green. The thread is green, so it is easy to tell that the green side is the top or right side and the brown the reverse. The stitches are small, so that one cannot really see the green thread against the brown fabric.

This quilt came from a sale of textiles and quilts may years ago at Christies, so has no provenance.

The borders are a nicely set out church windows - there are circular coins in the corners with a rose and a simple twist.

Inner borders are a four lobed design with cross hatching and spiral infill.

The centre coin has paired rams horns/scissors surrounded by a twist. All very nicely marked and sewn.

The stitching is excellent and even.

Here you can see the brown reverse and the green top, rich colours that contrast nicely.

This didn't photograph well - it is a dark green colour. Unfortunately as is very common in Welsh quilts the green has bad fades at the fold lines. The quilts need not be in direct sunlight for this to occur.

Another fade mark. This does not bother me as I just enjoy the quilt and its textures.

The corner - faded again - the edges are neatly hand sewn in the Welsh manner.

The edge, neatly hand sewn.

The Rural Industries Bureau is of special interest this year, as the Quilt Museum in Lampeter has an exhibition "As Good as It Gets" based around the work of the RBI. I look forward to seeing this exhibition in July.  I also have one of the small challenge quilts on display in the smaller gallery.

The elegance of the Art Deco period and the wealthy purchasers of quilted items are contrasted with the ordinary lives of quilters in Wales.

Although the workmanship and design of the quilts from this era are superb, the liveliness and originality of earlier times is lacking, and seem a bit sterile after the extraordinary  and sometimes quirky creations of earlier, local quilters, who all used their own patterns and arranged them as they fancied.


I have had a busy time recently. Most importantly, I have this week paid off my mortgage, a major accomplishment in my eyes! Twenty years of hard work....The extra money each month will now be channelled into sprucing up the house, then possibly downsizing in a few years - but there must be space for a quilt repository in any future home...of course.....

I have also been writing - three projects for a Thames and Hudson book for the V & A, an interview with Today's Quilters on "Quilt as Desired" and finally a lifestyle piece for Popular Patchwork.

I have rebooked the gypsy caravan in Wales for a short holiday in Wales in July - as well as visiting with Jen Jones, I also hope to visit the Tin Hut with Jane Becks quits and blankets near Tregaron.

Plus, the hotel is booked in Solihull for the FOQ in August. A lot to look forward to!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Striped Norwich Shawl

I am really enamoured of this shawl - I don't know much about shawls - but - this has some lovely colour combinations. What skill to weave this..

This seems to be the right side - bands of blue alternate with a sinuous band in mossy greens and rust.

The reverse has a striking magenta colour with darker shades of green - very sophisticated.

You can see how intricate the patterns are!

Shawls fell out of favour in the 1870's, so most of these have been languishing in trunks and lofts for over 100 years - many are not is very good condition - but still lovely. The best are wool or wool silk mixtures so subject to moth attack....

These shawls were used as wraps (coats) over the larger dresses popular at the time.
One can only imagine the social events and concerts that these attended!

The shawls are often very large and were meant to be folded and draped about the woman's shoulders. I am trying to learn more, but unlike quilts, there are few books to read on the subject.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Tan and Cream Strippy from Evenwood

Another strippy quilt, not very expensive and rather worn at one end! Yet, I was interested as the quilting designs stood out and were attractive. Also, the seller was from Spennymoor....Dorothy Osler recently organised a group of BQSG members to look into the Spennymoor quilters visited by Muriel Rose and Mrs FitzRandolph. I thought this might have a it turned out, this quilt is not from Spennymoor, it is from Evenwood which is a mining village Southwest of Bishop Aukland.

The quilt is made from tan and cream strips....

The designs are a four lobed design and a running feather....

I noticed something unusual about the running feather...

Although nicely quilted, the plumes do not all point is "wrong" in that the plumes point forward and backward....not the usual! All the tan strips are quilted with this pattern. The reverse is a faded floral sateen.

This quilt was one of several made by Edith Wilkinson, mother of three. Born in 1888, she lived most of her life in Evenwood. A miner's daughter, she also married a miner. She lived just short of 100 years.

The quilt measures 76 x 90 inches. 6" of one end is very worn where no doubt, it was tucked under the bed springs. I wont trim this off....

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Yellow and Grey Green Strippy Quilt from Bedale with Wave Quilting

Strangely, I bought this quilt at the same time as the previously posted strip quilt. Again, the main point of interest is the wave quilting pattern.

This quilt is from Bedale, which is in North Yorkshire but just across the border from Cumbria. The wave pattern was traditional in Cumbria, the Isle of Man and Ireland.

The colours do not show up accurately in these photos; the colours are yellow and a light grey-green on one side, and a cream and light grey-green on the other. The fabric is cotton sateen.

These strip quilts were easy to sew together, with little waste of fabric, so were the utility quilts of the day. Much needed in a cold unheated house!

As I said in the last post, I have wondered how these waves were marked. In the last quilt, the peaks and troughs of the design coincided with the centre and edges of the strips. As you can see, this is not the case with this quilt.

The quilt has carefully been darned in a couple of spots to repair a tear in the fabric...

More careful darning, a lost skill in our age of cheap, disposable textiles and clothes.... The strips have been joined by a treadle sewing machine...

The edges are hand sewn.

To show both sides of this quilt...

This quilt has a calming effect and must have been a warm covering.

This quilt was brought into the Bedale Post Office (which also acts as an antique store) by a local family for sale. Interestingly, another quilt sold the day before mine was another quilt from the same family in the same colours  - however, that quilt had fairly elaborate North Country patterns.

In the next post, I will briefly compare the two wave strip quilts...