This year I didn't get to take a course at the Association Summer School because I was of course teaching... in the past I've used the week to really get immersed in something brand new, and enjoy creating something with none of the pressures and distractions of being at home.
So I decided that I was going to treat myself, and used my teaching fee to go and learn how to do something new. I'd heard great things about West Dean College so I browsed their list of Short Courses, and found myself a course on contemporary quilt making at the start of December.
I know my way round a sewing machine, and have helped a friend make a couple of quilts, but it's something I wanted to learn more about, and I fancied the more freeform approach, because I am very much of the "what's the worst that can happen" frame of mind when it comes to making creative decisions. I tend to feel my way through a creative project making decisions as I go rather than do a great deal of planning. In day to day life I will plan everything down to the last second (you should see my Christmas holiday menu planner), but somehow when it comes to making things I am happy to just have a go and see if I can make things work.
I had the best time.
If it wasn't for the horrible train journeys (fingers crossed medical stuff gets sorted out so that I can go back to driving early in 2019) it would have been the perfect holiday.
This was the corridor to my bedroom.... there were tapestries from the 1700's on the wall, a marble staircase... I could go on. It felt like I was staying in a country house.... because I was staying in a country house!
The food was absolutely wonderful, the biggest problem was that I wanted to eat all of it! To the point of sitting looking wistfully at the pudding display and being genuinely sad about only being able to find room for one of the selection.
During lunch breaks you can walk the grounds and gardens. It being December they weren't at their best, but walking in to this greenhouse was like entering in to a tropical jungle!
The course was taught by Abigail Booth from Forest + Found, and was truly excellent.
Abigail introduced us to the principles of the style of quilt making we were using, but then was quite content to let us go our own creative ways. Of the 6 of us on the course we all produced very varied quilts by the end of the 4 days. Three were very unstated affairs in blue and white 2 using Japanese style fabrics, one using old clothing. One was closer to a more traditional quilt, but still took the sew it together and don't be afraid to fiddle around to make it work principle, and one really embraced the idea of using a quilt to make a piece of art and used the fabric in a collage style to create an abstract landscape.
As ever, I wandered my own path, and turned my mountain of colourful fabrics in to something of a trip down memory lane. The centre is a tea towel I bought on a trip to Scotland when I was going to teach a workshop at Grampian Guild (that workshop became the start of my book, so is one I always remember very fondly).
From there I did something that bears a passing resemblance to log cabin, but without worrying about the length of the bits of fabric. The quilt uses some of the wax resist pieces of silk I made at Summer School 2015 with Isabella Whitworth, I also used pieces of the naturally dyed eco printed silk from Summer School 2017, and some of the scraps of a large piece of fabric I screen printed and then messed around on using some Procion dyes. It also uses some of the cotton I ice dyed and turned in to pyjama bottoms earlier this year, and some of the cotton I eco-dyed that also became pyjama bottoms. From Summer School in 2019 I bought some little bundles of fabric from Textile Traders adding in some more batik fabrics and some Ikat. There are a few pieces that I dyed with Montgomeryshire Guild earlier this summer when I shared some of the eco dyeing skills I'd picked up in 2017. I also used the scraps from various sewing projects, some Liberty lawn, and some Liberty linen, along with raiding the scraps bin from Mum's bags and needle cases. I even managed to use up some of the silk I bought back from my gap year trip to Thailand in 2002. The only fabric I bought specially were a few charm packs with small amounts of lots of colour.
The end result....
It is definitely not to everyone's taste, and I think a few of my course mates were utterly horrified at my freeform approach to colour and pattern. The quilting is a little erratic in places, going by train meant I had to borrow a sewing machine, and we had many disagreements as I battled with a large quilt on a small machine.
Abigail hand quilts all her work, but I am a realist and know that my speed of stitching would have left me going home with work still to do, and I was keen to avoid that, so the majority is machine quilted, with areas that are hand stitched using hand dyed silk threads.
The back uses up the larger pieces I had leftover, and revealed that Liberty lawn hoovers up loose dye. One of the staff at Westhope kindly bought along some bits of Batik she'd dyed and never used. I knew all my fabric had been washed, and wasn't going cause any problems, and therefore never even thought about any dye run off as I used the donated pieces. Luckily it pretty much only ended up sucking in to the cotton lawn, every other bit of fabric is exactly the same colour!
The quilt has been on my bed every since I get back, and I still can't believe that I made it. It contains so many happy memories and fabric that reminds me of places and people.
Writing this is my last job for 2019, after I hot publish I'm off to cook tea for my group of local spinning friends, and then have a couple of weeks with no work planned... there may well be sewing.