ID number: TQ.2016.023
Name of interviewee: Andrea Sowton
Name of interviewer: Kathy Hunt
Name of transcriber: Take 1
Location: Andrea’s home
Address: Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire
Date: 3 May 2016
Length of interview: 0:44:19
Andrea’s ‘Shipping Forecast’ quilt was inspired by a Janet Clare quilt and made from her late father’s shirts. Andrea listens to the shipping forecast when she struggles to sleep but has annotated her map of Britain to highlight places she has a personal link with. She talks about developing the design for the quilt, making it and how she feels about the finished quilt. Later she reminiscences about her introduction to quilting, as her aunt showed her how to make hexagons for an English paper pieced baby quilt. She also talks about some of her other quilt projects including an American Civil War quilt, quilt retreats and the importance of quilting in her life.
Kathy Hunt [KH]: This is an interview with Andrea Sowton for Talking Quilts, the ID is TQ.2016.023. We’re at Andrea’s home in Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire. It’s the 3rd May 2016 and I’m Kathy Hunt. Andrea welcome to Talking Quilts.
Andrea Sowton [AS]: Thank you.
KH: You’ve a very interesting and dynamic looking quilt in front of us would you care to describe it please?
AS: Okay. This is my Shipping Forecast quilt, it was an idea brought about from a quilt that Janet Clare had made in her book Heart Of Good Wishes and when I saw a, a copy of the quilt in a magazine it, it inspired me to buy the book and, and have a closer look at how it was made because I’d, I’d often listen to shipping forecast late at night, I don’t sleep very well, and I tend to listen to the radio at all sorts of hours of the day and early morning and night and in there often the shipping forecast would come on which I would find a bit boring because it was of no interest to me, so for ten minutes I just lay there listening to it. And eventually the rhythm of it became quite, quite easy on the ear and I could sort of say it, say it along with the announcer on the radio all the different shipping areas. And so this, this happened over a number of years where I would listen to the shipping forecast, and I saw Janet Clare’s quilt and I thought, ‘I’d like to do something like that with the shipping lanes on it that she’s got with a map of the British Isles in the centre and all the shipping lanes around it.’ And she also used some recycled fabrics for the British Isles and so I decided that I would also use some, some vintage fabric which is actually cotton shirts belonging to my father before he passed away that I’d kept hold of and thought I might incorporate that in some patchwork one day. So all the British Isles which is appliqued on is made from my late father’s shirts so hence they are a little bit sort of pale [laughs] washed out, well used. And so around the edge of the British Isles I’ve hand embroidered all the shipping areas in blue and I’ve also appliqued north, south, east, west on it, and the background is of a, a, a fabric I found which I thought would be just perfect when I was at the Festival Of Quilts in Birmingham, and it’s brushed cotton which is nice and soft and it’s got grey little wavy lines on it, soft wavy lines ,and it reminded me of the waves on the ocean, so I, I bought it and it, it’s lovely, and it, it complements the sort of faded colours of the subtle colours of the, the British Isles. So there’s nothing on there particularly bright. And then I bound it around the edge with some fabric which I believe is a Janet Clare produced fabric which has seagulls on it. And on the reverse I have a different cotton backing on it which is actually very much brighter than the top of the quilt and it’s blues and greys but also with a rusty colour and a, and a black and a yellow of fishes swimming along, and I just thought, ‘Well, I’ve got the sea on to and underneath there’s fishes’. So I hand quilted the, the layers together, some of it, and did all the appliqué and quilting by hand, some of the quilting on the sea areas are quilted on by machine, and I wanted to make every section of it very slightly different to highlight the fact that it’s in different, the, the shipping lane areas and that by quilting each section slightly differently it would highlight the different parts to it.
KH: Could you just describe the colours of the British Isles and what you’ve put on the map of the British Isles?
AS: Okay. As I was… I put the shirts on there which are a pale blue checks there’s a, a, a, a red check a, a deep red check and some green brushed cotton check. I’ve, I was putting them on and thought it looked rather plain, and then it suddenly came to me well this is a bit of a memory quilt really cause it reminds me of all the, all the hours I’ve, I’ve lain listening to the shipping forecast, but also memories of my father because I’ve used his fabrics for the, for the, for the British Isles, and I thought, ‘Let’s make this into more of a memory quilt.’ So I started to embroider onto the British Isles places that were important to us as a family, and I can see this as an ongoing project, I have some local names, Birmingham, Strafford-on-Avon, Warwick which is places that the family have either lived or visited frequently. I’ve got Stafford on there for where my mother was born. I’ve got Liverpool on there which is where my grandfather was born. I’ve got Dartmoor and Calstock on there down in the South West in Cornwall because that’s where my husband’s family are from. And I have York on there because we celebrated a wedding anniversary there once, and the Lakes for the Lake District which we’ve visited frequently. I’ve got the Black Isle at the top near the Chromarty shipping lane with a dolphin on it because we’d had a lovely holiday there just before I made this where we were able to stand on the shore and watch the dolphins actually just off the shore swimming, great big… there was about eighty dolphins altogether live in that area. And so what I’d like to do is gradually add to it by still embroidering on more names and perhaps more motifs so it will perhaps grow rather than just stay static, which I think will be quite nice as well.
KH: You have some motifs around Great Britain. Where did you, where did they come from? They’ve been appliqued on haven’t they? Could you describe those?
AS: Yes, it was at another quilt show that I, I, I searched some fat quarters which had shipping seaside themes on them and, so I’ve got a lighthouse and I’ve got an anchor and a yacht and a seagull and the dolphin at the top, and so I just put those on to, as a little bit more interest. I’ve also got a seagull, a larger seagull in plain white which I appliqued following a pattern that was in the Janet Clare book that that, that, that you’re able to copy and use and that matches up with the seagulls around the edge on the border.
KH: Can you name some of the other motifs?
AS: Yes. It’s, it, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve mostly it’s, it’s yachts, anchors, dolphins, lighthouses and I have a seagull on the Isle Of Wight [laughs] and another seagull further down. I’ve also done some quilting of shipping sort of motifs on each corner and some of these I designed myself, but others were taken from the Janet Clare book which is called Hearty Good Wishes and I traced those on, so there’s something on each corner to add a little, little bit more interest and those were hand quilted.
KH: What is that supposed to be that one there?
AS: It’s, it’s a bit like a ship’s wheel yes.
KH: And this one here in this corner?
KH: Bottom right hand corner?
AS: It’s, it’s, it’s in the shape of a ship’s wheel but it’s, it’s, it’s curvy lines in the middle of it, I don’t what you’d call it really. It was a design that was in the book here that Janet Clare had done.
KH: And there’s one on the top right hand corner as well, isn’t there?
AS: I can’t remember what’s on the top corner.
KH: Okay. Let me bring it closer to you.
AS: Let me have a look. So, yes, there’s another circular one with some wavy circle lines in between on the top corner and I think I made that one up myself as I went along, and then there’s another wheel which matches the one on the opposite corner at the bottom. So two the same and two which are different. But it is nice and soft and, it’s, it’s, it’s very comfortable to… it’s on our, on our bed and it’s very comfortable to have on the bed because it’s so nice and soft.
KH: Now there’s a narrow border around the outside of the top of the quilt what colour is that?
AS: That’s a pale sort of, well, it sort of a duck egg blue I think with the seagulls on it and blues my favourite colour and it just tied in nicely with a sort of soft muted colours that were, that were on the British Isles appliqued fabrics, and also the, the names of the shipping forecast areas are also in blue which I’ve embroidered on in stranded cotton. And it’s, it’s actually, quite funny because after I’d embroidered one or two, my husband, I said to my husband. ‘What do you think of it, of the embroidery?’ And he said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘There’s one thing I’d say.’ He said, ‘It just looks like your own handwriting!’ And I said. ‘Well, that’s fine ‘cause it’s a very personal quilt so it wasn’t done from a stencil or done on the sewing machine. It actually is my handwriting I wrote on it in a pen specifically designed for, for marking on fabric and just embroidered over my own writing so. And the same with the, the citizen towns that I’ve already marked on the, on the appliqued map.
KH: What sort of wadding have you used on this?
AS: It’s an eighty twenty cotton and wool mix and um…
KH: Cotton and wool?
AS: No, no, cotton and polyester, isn’t it the eighty twenty? Sorry yes.
AS: Yes, cott….
KH: Some people do use wool.
AS: No, it’s eighty twenty which is I think eighty percent cotton, twenty percent polyester and it’s machine washable and it, it’s been made to use and so it goes in the washing machine as often as it needs to, so it’s not precious. It’s something that’s used every day.
KH: Is there… How have you bound it?
AS: I bought some plain fabric in a similar tone to the border in a sort of duck egg blue and that linked in both with the front and with the back as well which has got the, the blue fishes on the back are a very similar colour, perhaps a shade deeper, but, yeah so it’s a, it’s a, it’s, it’s a quilt made to fit a king size bed and it’s so our feet don’t get cold it’s quite long [laughs].
KH: When, when you, when you talk about the binding what’s, what’s the width of it? Is it, is it a double?
AS: Yeah. It’s a double one it starts off at two and a half inches and you sew it onto the one side onto the right side by machine and then fold it over and hand sow it underneath. So all round the edge is hand sowed underneath, and it eventually I think it comes out to about three quarters of an inch, half an inch to three quarters of a inch finished size, but it starts out at two and a half inches, and it has to be pieces because you can’t afford to buy a piece of fabric long enough to do all four edges without piecing so…
KH: Could you describe the method for piecing two strips of fabric together to make border, to make the length of the border?
AS: There are two ways there’s the correct way and my way [laughs], and my way’s just to cut the strips as long as I can and then join to the right length that I need them, so I’d have two and a half inch strips across the width or the length of the fabric that I was using and then I would sew them just narrow end to narrow end until I’d got a great big long strip and then I’d cut them into the four lengths that I needed for the two horizontal and the two vertical sides of the quilt and join the on the corners.
KH: Yeah. And similarly with the binding I can see that you’ve I’m sorry that’s. How have you had to do any joining on the, on the binding?
AS: Yes, I think there are, yes, on the longer sides there is some, some joining, on the shorter sides there isn’t.
KH: And what method have you used for the?
AS: I’m just, I’m just looking now I’ve assumed I’ve… No I haven’t, I have managed to get it all out of one piece….
KH: Oh, right and….
AS: … now having looked at it. It’s been on the bed now for a year and it’s amazing how you forget what you’ve done until you actually look at it, so I have managed to get them all out of one piece along the edge, that was lucky I don’t know how I managed that. Usually on the other quilts I’ve made I’ve had to join it at some point, but these are only joined on the corner on this quilt.
KH: If you, if you had had to join it what method would you have used?
AS: Well, I, in the past I have done a, a diagonal join so that it’s… when you fold it over you’re not getting a thick piece all in one place, so you cut, cut the edges that you’re going to join together on the long strips diagonally and then piece them together so that the seam when you fold it over doesn’t lie in the same place underneath as it does on the top so that’s the correct way [laughs].
KH: I think people just do what they, what, what they know how to do, don’t they? What do you think of the quilt now?
AS: I’ve really enjoyed making it and I do love my quilt, however if I was starting with the same fabrics again I may do it slightly differently because like every quilter once we’ve finished a quilt we can see our own mistakes. However I won’t be making it again and most of the time I don’t notice my mistakes until I’m sitting here talking to you about it with the quilt in front of me [laughs].
KH: Have you made other quilts since?
AS: I’m in the process of making another one at the moment which is going to be another special one it’s, it’s going to be a quilt to remind me of a, a holiday we had to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary in 2014 when we visited the Southern States of America, and I’m making my civil war quilt, it’s not quite a typical American civil war quilt, but I bought all the fabrics in, in the colours that the ladies in the shops over the assured me were typical of civil war colours, although they’re, they’re modern fabrics. And I had a book with civil, of civil war sample pieces and I’ve made a sampler of different, different parts of my quilt, different squares are based on quilts they made in the areas that I visited in Georgia and Florida and, Carolina, the Carolina’s, and so I’ve done the Carolina Lily as one and all sorts of different… It, it’s in progress at the moment and so when it’s finished it will have all the different sampler pieces on it and they will all remind me of places we visited on that special holiday.
KH: Oh, that sounds lovely. Do you think you will be quilting for some time to come?
AS: I think I will it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s something that is part of me now I think and the, it’s something to create when I’m not an artist, I like to create and I love texture and shape and texture, shape and colour, but I can’t draw, I can’t paint, I’m hopeless with things like clay and wood [laughs], but I find with a piece of fabric that you can be creative quite simply. I’ve recently done a workshop with Jenny Rayment who does a lot of twisting and, and, and tweaking of materials to make interesting shapes and patterns from plain fabrics and, and that’s something I’ve enjoyed having a go at as well, taking a relatively simple fabric and adding to it to create interest so.
KH: Well, how did you first get started in quilting then? And how long ago was it?
AS: It was nine years ago when my first grandchild was expected and I’d visited an aunt and said that I would like to make a cot quilt, and she said, ‘Have you seen the quilts that I’ve made for my two grandchildren?’ And she lived with her daughter and her grandchildren. And I said, ‘I can’t remember if I have seen them.’ So she brought them down and showed me and I said, ‘Oh I’d like, I’d like to be able to do that.’ And they were hexagons in scrap fabrics from all different fabrics that the children had been wearing from their clothing et cetera and I thought that was a lovely idea, and the children were both adult children by them adult grandchildren but they still had them on their beds because they were so fond of them, and I thought well that would be a lovely idea. So she, she got some hexagon paper pieces and she gave me some fabric and that afternoon I sat there and I made about five hexagons, paper pieced hexagons and then she showed me how to join them together, and, and I was hooked, I went home that night and made a few more. And then I went and got some fabrics in a lemony, yellowy and creamy colours because I didn’t know what the grandchild was going to be, boy or girl, so I thought those colours would be suitable for either, and I started making it, and really enjoyed it and that was how I got started. And then later on I also made two single bed quilts for both of my grandchildren, I’d had two by that time the follow, follow, two years later I’d got two grandchildren and they were, they both needed a quilt for a bed, so I did hexagons again, different colour this time, colour to match their room, sort of blues and greens and, and those sort of colours in batik, and hexagons again. But by that time both my parents were ill and had long periods of time in hospital and then eventually care homes, and I would go and visit them each day and it was very often difficult to find conversation to keep going for a couple of hours each day, so I started taking my patchwork hexagons and sitting sewing those, and it was lovely because the other people in the hospitals and the care homes both patients and visitors would come over and say, ‘Oh, what are you doing?’ And so I’d explain that I was doing some patchwork and by them coming over they would then talk to my parents and, and it, it made things more light-hearted and friendly, and at times when my parents didn’t want to speak I could still carry on sewing, have something to do, be there as a presence for them, but not, not be forced to make conversation that they didn’t perhaps have the energy to keep up, so, so that was a lovely thing to do. And then I decided to go and visit a quilt show, it was a quit show a Malvern the Spring Quilt Show at Malvern in Worcestershire and I suddenly saw all these other quilts that people made that weren’t hexagons and they weren’t paper pieced and decided that I’d try to develop my skills into doing other kinds of patchwork and quilting. And I didn’t know where to go, where to start to learn, but I knew that my sister-in-law who lived in Cornwall went to a quilt group so I rang her up and I said, ‘I, where do I start? Where can I have lessons I, I don’t know?’ And she said, ‘Well.’ She said, ‘We came up from, from Cornwall on a trip and we visited somewhere called the Inkberrow Design Centre in Worcestershire.’ And she said, ‘It might be worth seeing if they run any courses?’ And as it was fairly close to my home I put that into the internet and it came up and it just so happened that this was I think in, in the May, June time that they were starting running a, a beginners quilt course, patchwork and quilting in the September linked up with Redditch College and so I, I got in touch signed up for that and, and that was the beginning of, of learning how to do other kinds of quilting. And I went to my first session there in the September and the lady running the course Jane said to me, ‘And what would you like to do?’ I explained what I’d done so far and that I wanted to make bed quilt and that I thought I’d like to make a sampler quilt because then I would be able to learn all the techniques. And she said, ‘What size is your bed?’ I said, ‘It’s a king size bed.’ ‘And you want to make your first quilt [laughs] for a king size bed as a sampler?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Okay’ [laughs]. So I hadn’t got a book with ideas in it, but my husband happened to be going the following Saturday into Birmingham and I said, ‘Oh.’ I said, ‘Go into the quilt shop in Hoare Green and see if they’ve got a book with sampler quilts in it?’ So he duly came back with one having been advised by the ladies in the shop that that one would be suitable. Went out and bought some fabric and the following week started my quilt and that quilt took me two years, doing that course I repeated the course two years running and the tutor helped me with each section of it, it’s twenty five blocks, five by five and everyone is different some applique some machined, some hand done and that took me two years to finish, but by then I was hooked and wanted to, to learn more and it’s carried on every since.
KH: So did you develop any sort of favourite styles from your studies?
AS: Oh, yes.
KH: What sort of, what do you like?
AS: I’ve decided that I am not very good at doing small piecing, so you, if you have a block where you have to cut out fifty pieces and stitch them back together in squares and triangles et cetera that is a nightmare and I liked the pieces that were, had larger bits to piece or the appliqué. Small piecing doesn’t suit me at all and when I got to the end and tried to join it was a quit as you go and I tried to join all twenty five pieces, by the time I’d quilted them they were different sizes and I ended up having to put a border round each one and then cutting them all to size to fit, so that I could put them together because there, there was, there was as much as one to two inches difference between the blocks by the time I came to put them together. But no, if anything says, ‘Cut a hundred pieces out one inch by one and a half inches and sixty pieces two inches by whatever,’ I’m afraid I turn the page and I don’t do that, it is not my thing at all.
KH: Well, back to applique there’s about three or four different methods for doing applique, do you have a favourite and can you describe some. Describe how you would do that now?
AS: Yes, I’m still trying to perfect my applique [laughs] on the British Isles map on my Shipping Lane quilt I’ve tried to do it on the machine and because I’m impatient I just did it straightaway onto the quilt and I didn’t do any practising so it’s not very good and I’ve used a satin stitch on there on my machine not completely happy with it I’ve tried some hand applique which I’m not particularly happy with either, and then somebody, after I’d finished doing this said, ‘Oh, I quite like using blanket stitch on the machine. Why don’t you try that?’ So I haven’t actually got it on this quilt but on some smaller items I’ve made I’ve been trying to perfect my blanket stitch on the machine and I think that’s the way I will go in future. But I’m very dissatisfied with my applique using satin stitch on this particular quilt because it, I know it’s not quite as good as it should be. However, anybody that’s not a patchwork or a quilter looks at it thinks it’s wonderful so that’s fine by me [laughs].
KH: Well, I think we’re all a little bit critical of our own skills aren’t we sometimes. Do you have any quilts planned now?
AS: Well I, I’ve, I’ve got the top completed of my American Civil War quilt, so the next thing I’m going to do is put that together layer it, got to find a backing, I’m going to the, to the Malvern Quilt Show again at the end of May, end of this month, and I want to take my finished top with me and find something suitable for the backing of it, and the idea was that I should hand quilt that through the winter because it would be nice and warm on my lap to quilt, however I’ve taken so long to finish the top that we’re now coming to the summer months, so perhaps I’ll do some of it on the machine and then some of it by hand as well. I’m already quilting the name of each block I’ve got the name of each block from the, the sampler book I bought and so like with the Carolina Lily I’ve actually embroidered Carolina Lily underneath it so that I can, that I’ve got the name of the block embroidered underneath it, and then when that’s done I shall put it together and probably now machine quilt some of that and then after that I have a whole long list of unfinished smaller items that need finishing before I’m going to buy anymore material to do a quilt. However [laughs] I’ve already got a pattern that I bought while I was in America of a, a very beautiful quilt made up with pieces of fabric to look like roses and that’s appliqued and that would make a very good scrap quilt so. I’ve also got a, a paper pieced one I’m doing for my third granddaughter that’s on the go, I do that a bit at a time that will probably take me about twelve months to do because that’s a sort of sitting in the evening watching the television quilt using scraps because she said, ‘Mum’. My daughter said, ‘Mum, you’ve made the two other grandchildren a quilt by hand that’s a sort of heirloom for them.’ She said, ‘But Eve hasn’t got a quilt done by hand.’ I said, ‘Well, I made her a cot quilt.’ ‘Yes, Mum,’ She said, ‘But that wasn’t, that wasn’t pieced and quilted by hand.’ She said, ‘Would you be able to do Eve one the same as you did the other two one for their beds?’ So I’m not making… it’s not a hexagon, it’s diamonds and there’s a hexagon and there’s a diamond and then there’s another shape and you put all three together to make a design and, and so I’m doing little bits of that in the evening but that, that will take a while to just to do a bit at a time, I’m hoping to do it before she starts school, she’s two and a half now [laughs].
KH: How big are these paper pieced quilts that you’ve been making?
AS: The ones I did a number of years ago they, the hexagons were about three inch hexagons, but the, they are smaller I think the hexagons in the middle of the design I’m doing now are about one and a half inches, and the pieces around them are about one and a half, two, three inches, and so they are, they are smaller than, than I did previously with the hexagons by hand, but I thought it would help use up smaller scrap [laughs]. And I don’t mind hand stitching small pieces of fabric. It’s small piece, small small pieces on the machine that drive me mad [laughs].
KH: I did mean what size are the finished quilts?
AS: Oh, for single bed size so….
KH: So they’re quite large…
AS: Yes, yes.
KH: For a hand sewing?
AS: Both of them though have, I’ve got to the point where I’ve done perhaps two thirds of the quilt in hexagons and then decided that I can’t do anymore and I’ve put a nice border round on the machine in a plain fabric to edge it to make the quilts have a slightly different outside border than, than the inside hexagons, so that’s, that’s been quite nice to get so far and think no I can’t face anymore I’ve got to get this quilt finished. So the second one I did I got to the same stage with it and, and put a border round like I did with the first one, so the girls sleep in the same room and they’ve got the, a similar quilt, but I’ve actually embroidered their names on, on them so they’ve each got their name on their own quilt and they’re very slightly different, basically same fabrics but different arrangement of fabrics on there so.
KH: Is it safe to assume that you don’t continue with Inkberrow?
AS: No, it closed down where I was going. It used to be based at Inkberrow and it closed down and it’s now in Redditch but it didn’t carry on running the courses at that time with linked up with Redditch College, I’m not sure whether they do again now, but when they were out at Inkberrow they certainly had this link with Redditch College and the same tutor ran the course there for about four years and I did, I did all four years there and then when the Inkberrow Design Centre closed on that site and moved to Redditch they stopped doing the evening courses for the patchwork and quilting so that’s when I took off on my own really and then looked for inspiration in other ways by looking to join a patchwork and quilting group and I happened to read our local paper on day and there was a, a little section in it there where local groups can put information and there were, the, there was a piece in there from the Crow, Crowley Quilt Group at Ullenhall in Warwickshire and said that they met on a Monday afternoon and each, twice a month and I had just stopped working on Monday and I had my Monday’s free so I went along with trepidation not knowing what to expect but they were very welcoming and there was a very wide range of abilities from what I still considered myself as a, as a novice through to people that were actually had been patchwork quilting tutors and so I’ve been doing that now for about six years and have also then met somebody there, the ladies there that belong to Kingfisher which was a bigger group and had more regular outside people came into, to talk and demonstrate and so went on a waiting list for there and managed to get a place there about three years ago and have been a member there ever since, and the two groups are very different in size and content but it’s very enjoyable to, to do and it’s also lead me on to some of the, the ladies at Crowley had been on a sewing retreat which they were telling us about so both last and the year before I did a sewing retreat with them and I’m very much looking forward to another week away in August this year.
KH: Can you talk about that a little bit more what happens?
AS: Right. The first one I went to I only went for two nights because I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it or not. The ladies were there for a week but I just booked in two nights in the middle of it which was great actually it gave me a taste for it. So it was, it was a beautiful venue out on the Cotswold Hills and we had beautiful accommodation….
KH: Was that farm, Farn, Farncombe?
AS: Farncombe. Yes. Absolutely wonderful looked after us very well but our room, we had a room made available to us, a large room set up with tables and ironing boards and we could go in there from eight in the morning till ten at night and anytime in between and some people were in there from eight in the morning till ten at night and just took the half hour break to go off and have breakfast, lunch and their evening meal and didn’t move out of the room apart from that others were a little more relaxed they would take a couple of ladies took a day off and went sketching at a village on the Cotswold and had lunch out one day. The evenings were delightful because we tended to hand sew in the evening. One of the ladies had brought a, a, a novel a Dick Francis novel and each night would read to us a chapter or two [laughs] whilst we were sewing and unfortunately because I was only there for part of the week I didn’t get to hear the end of that. But I, it made me brave enough to decide the following year that I would go for the full amount of time. However we weren’t able to book again at Farncombe so last year we went to a, it’s actually a, a, a Christian conference centre in Swanwick in Derbyshire and we were there for five days and again they looked after us very well. The room was open from about again eight in the morning till ten at night so you’re able to choose how much or how little you wanted to do, but again I think most of us were there for most of the time the workshop was open and if we weren’t sewing we were chatting or drinking coffee so, it, it was lovely, and we’ve, all of us booked up to go again this summer. And we’ve… I’d like to take my, I’d like to get finished my American civil war quilt because they saw me start to piece it last August when I was there and in fact I was short of a fabric and one of the ladies there said, ‘Oh, I think I’ve got something that would, would suit that.’ And she brought it across and it suited the colours of my quilt exactly and when we looked at it was a, a, an American civil war based fabric that, along the edge on the selvage it had got details to say that’s what it was, so it couldn’t have been more perfect so that, that’s got memories as well of my retreat, sewing retreat with the fabric on some of my squares being donated by a lady. She always I’ve, she said, ‘I, I’ve had this and I’ve never used it, I’ve never found anything it fitted with.’ And it just fitted mine perfectly. So they’ll be interested to see the finished quilt if I can get it quilted before August.
KH: Do you think you could summarise why quilting’s important to you? I, I can, I can, I have a feel for what you would say but…
AS: Yes. Well, I, I, I find it relaxing. Not always [laughs] but most of the time it, it’s… I’m, I, I’m quite, I have this artistic feel but I, I’m not very good artist but I find this helps my creative side put in textures and colours and shapes together. I do enjoy hand sewing more than machine sewing but, so I try and combine a bit of each with it. And, I also like doing something that’s portable so that when I go away on holidays or when I’m visiting friends I can take a little bit of hand quilting to do because I think there’s nothing nicer than chatting with friends and, and doing a bit of hand stitching as well… which is lovely. And I found it a bit of a therapy in the past as when my, my parents were ill it was something to, to do and other people around were interested in. The funniest thing though was when my father he got dementia and he sat in the armchair one day at his home. ‘What are you doing there, love?’ ‘Doing patchwork, Dad.’ ‘What’s patchwork?’ ‘Well, you take big pieces of material and you cut them into small pieces and then you sew them back together again.’ ‘Oh, righteo, love.’ He said and he looked at me puzzled and I thought, ‘Yes [laughs] it must seem a bit, little bit strange to other people especially if you’ve got dementia [laughs] what we do as patch-workers. But I think if you’re a patchworker for the patchworker you get it, you get it other people don’t always get it but they love to see the finished results.
KH: And there’s quite a good social side to it?
AS: Oh, there’s a lovely social side yes and that, that is a big part of it as well. But it’s also something when I’m on my own I can sit and do quietly listening to the radio and, and, and, and that’s, that, that’s good as well, so something I can do on my own or as part of a small group or a large group, and I love to see what other people have done in the show and tell part of the, the quilting groups to and that, that gives me inspiration to, to try new techniques, new, new ways of doing things and we’re often swapping ideas then so that is lovely that inspires me to keep trying new things so.
KH: Well I think this, this has been very interesting and I’d like to say thank you giving me your time too and describing your lovely quilts and where you’re going in the future, thank you Andrea.
AS: Okay, you are most welcome.