ID number: TQ.2016.030
Name of interviewee: Anne Cresswell
Name of interviewer: Maureen Sinicola
Name of transcriber: Take 1
Location: Anne’s home
Address: Solihull, West Midlands
Date: 20 May 2016
Length of interview: 0:17:14
Anne’s ‘Farmer’s wife’ sampler quilt was made during workshops and at home, from 83 blocks that were pieced ‘on point’. She talks about making the quilt and how all the workshop participants’ quilts looked very different because of their chosen colour schemes. Anne’s also talks about some of the other quilting projects she has completed including making quillows, and the satisfaction she gets from finishing a quilt.
Maureen Sinicola [MS]: ID number TQ. 2016.030 name of interviewee Anne Cresswell. Name of MS: Maureen Sinicola. Location Anne Cresswell’s home. Address Chiswick Green, Solihull, date 20th May, 2016. Hello Anne and thank you very much for doing this interview.
Anne Cresswell [AC]: Hello Maureen.
MS: Anne, can you tell me a little bit about your touchstone object please.
AC: Um, it’s a sampler quilt, um, which I did um, I learnt about at a workshop um, but it was, um, we did the sewing at home it’s um, it’s supposed to be a twin sized quilt but I think it’s an American twin size because it fits on our double bed. Um, I did about um, ten blocks at a time, each month and it was originally meant to use up all my scrap pieces of fabric, although I did find that I ended up buying other fabric to go with it.
MS: Is it a particular quilt?
AC: It’s, it’s called a farmer’s er wife quilt.
MS: And could you tell us a little bit about the story behind the farmer’s wife quilt?
AC: Um, I think it’s based on a book um, and it… the book includes letters that farmer’s wives sent um, I… I presume it was in America. Um, and um, it’s just a book of samples.
MS: Right. And had you planned to use this quilt?
AC: Um, when we finally finished decorating our bedroom it’s going on our bed.
MS: Right. And are you happy with it? I mean presumably if you’re going to use it in your bedroom you are but what do you feel about the quilt?
AC: I like it because um, each of the 82 or 83 blocks are completely different and um, I did use up um, different um, fabrics from previous um, things that I’d made so I enjoyed looking at all the variety of different blocks and thinking of what I used the material for previously.
MS: Can I ask you when you started to make quilts please?
AC: Um, in… about [noise from phone] about three, two or three years ago um, I made this one in 2014 and previously I’d um, made one or two, one of which I had no idea what I was doing but I just experimented. And um, I think about, about three years.
MS: And can you tell me how this quilt is made up? Is it made up in any particular way?
AC: It’s on point. Um, which was interesting because I’d never done that before, the box on point and um, it’s made up of 83 different blocks.
MS: Um, and what size are the blocks?
AC: I’m not sure um.
MS: And are they hand sewn or machine pieced?
AC: Um, they’re machine pieced, um, some of them are foundation um, piecing um, the majority are just pieced.
MS: Is quilt making something that is in your family?
AC: No, not at all.
MS: So you are the first to embark on quilt making?
MS: Have you been to many workshops?
AC: Um, I’ve been to a variety of workshops um, and I quite enjoy that because it’s, it’s um, good both for learning new skills and for meeting new people.
MS: Can you explain um, foundation quilting is this part of the quilt?
AC: The technique of foundation?
AC: Um, well you have a pattern and um, which is on um… [pause, microphone noise] the um, pattern is drawn onto stitch and tear which actually sew pieces of fabric on which aren’t cut to shape um, originally but their folded over and um, they make the shape.
MS: Right and is there any um, part of this quilt that is your own idea that wasn’t in the original pattern?
AC: Yes I added a heart in applique, um, at one of the corner pieces because I quite liked that idea.
MS: Right. Do you spend a lot of time quilt making?
AC: Um, it, it varies um, I, I do dress making as well so I have um, perhaps one or two weeks when I am concentrating on my dress making and then um, a couple of weeks when I’m quilting.
MS: Do you favour one or the other?
AC: No, it depends on the mood I’m in.
MS: Right. Um… can you explain how the process of making a quilt, what’s your process of it from, you know, start to finish?
AC: Um, I make up the individual blocks and then I um, piece them with the wadding and the backing and um, usually then quilt on the top but in fact one of the quilts that I’m finishing at the moment um, I’m doing quilt-as-you-go so I’m making each individual block, um, quilting it and then it will all go together, there won’t be three layers.
MS: Right, could you explain quilt-as-you-go-please.
AC: You make at the front of the block and then you add the wadding and the backing quilted and then those pieces will get sewn together with um, border in between.
MS: Right, do you or where and when do you quilt?
AC: Any odd moments I quilt in um, what was our spare room and um, really it’s between doing art and other things, I sometimes spend half a day on it or if I’m in a workshop might even be all day but usually it’s just a couple of hours on the evening.
MS: Are there any aspects of quilt making that you really enjoy. And that you don’t really enjoy?
AC: Um, I enjoy the um, the seeing how the different blocks develop and I also enjoy, especially with this quilt that we’re talking about um, the, the putting different colours together in different fabrics and seeing if they work or if they don’t work. You never quite know until a box is finished what it’s, what it’s going to look like and I like that part of it. I also like it because um, at school I was thrown out of sewing and out of art and told I was useless at both, so it gives me a sense of achievement to actually finish something like this and think wow, I’m not as hopeless as you thought.
MS: Is there anything that you don’t enjoy?
AC: Well it can be frustrating if it doesn’t work and um, I do a fair amount of unpicking [laughs], which is um, annoying.
MS: That’s great, do you have any preferred techniques?
AC: No, um, I, I only um, enjoy all of it. It depends on one the mood I’m in and where I am and when, when I go on holiday and on the boat, I like to take paper piecing um, because I haven’t got a machine. But at other times I like foundation or, or ordinary, it depends on the end result.
MS: Could you explain paper piecing please?
AC: Um, you, you have um, a shape I’m using hexagons at the moment and um, then you have, you put a piece of fabric on it, which is larger than the template, fold it over the template and tack it on and then when you’ve got several of those then you hand sew them together to form the back.
MS: Thank you. What do you notice in other quilts? Or what do you look for?
AC: Um, well when we go around exhibitions like yesterday at Malvern. Um, I noticed the different techniques that people have used but also the different colour combinations and often people put um, colour combinations together that I wouldn’t have thought off and yet they look so effective so I try and remember them so that I can use them.
MS: You just mentioned Malvern um, could you explain what Malvern is?
AC: It’s um, an exhibition of quilts and I think they have competitions in different categories um, and people submit their quilts and then other people go around and look at the quilts and also there are lots of um, exhibitors who um, are selling fabric and um, notions for quilting, so you go and look at the quilts and spend a lot of money.
MS: Do you go to many of these exhibitions?
AC: Um, no um, I go to Malvern and I also go to the um, festival of quilts at the NEC.
MS: Right and which is your favourite? Do you have a…?
AC: Um, different things, it’s a bit like quilts, different things for different purposes um, I think Malvern is cosier and you get a lot more um, smaller exhibitors who can’t afford to go to the NEC um, but then at the NEC there is more quilts and there’s um, a lot more exhibitors. It’s more exhausting.
MS: Where do you get your inspiration from?
AC: Um, often from workshops or magazines of um, our quilters group, where people come and show us different things, I enjoy.
MS: Right you said that you do your paper piecing, paper piecing. Do you have a preference to hand sewing or machine?
AC: No. No um, hand sewing is, is useful because you can take it anywhere whereas I’ve got quite a heavy machine so I really don’t like taking that, if I go to a friend’s house I always um, where we quilt I take um, my paper piecing.
MS: Right, when you’ve made your quilts what do you do with them?
AC: Um, we’ve got one on the boat. Um, er, one in the spare room, one in the bedroom and I’ve made one for my daughter-in-law and my um, grandchildren I’ve made quillows for [noise in background].
MS: What’s the biggest challenge you think that a quilter faces today?
AC: Um, finding the time is mine.
MS: Right do you think that is, that is so for most quilters?
AC: Um, I’m not sure, yeah I think what else you’re doing, some people seem to spend a lot of time quilting but um, I find it difficult to fit in sometimes.
MS: Right, um, you were just talking about a quillow. Um, would you like to explain what you mean by a quillow please?
AC: Um, yes it’s um, it looks like a cushion when you first look at it but when you unfold it it’s actually a quilt so it’s quite a useful thing to have um, in, um, you know, we’ve got one in the car and my, I made my daughter one for her car um, just in case we get… we break down and we need a quilt [laughs].
MS: Um, can I ask why is quilting important in your life?
AC: I think it’s because of the satisfaction it gives me because as I said previously I, you know, I’ve always considered that as a sort of thing I wouldn’t be able to do and so I get a big satisfaction out of finishing things and being proud of them.
MS: And going back to your touchstone can I ask you if you had any problems?
AC: Yes, some of, some of the blocks were very complicated um, and took a long time, um, but the main problem was I was ahead of myself and I um, trimmed down about 22 of the blocks thinking I was doing the right thing, when I went back to the work shop I found that I could no longer use them so I had to redo 22 of them and that’s one of the things that I’m quite proud of that I actually did go back and do them again and persevered. Um, so that I could get it right.
MS: Do you have any favourite blocks?
AC: That changes every time I look at it, and, and their my favourites for different reasons, they might be favourite because I had a lot of problems and actually got it right in the end or because of the colours of the, that particular block. Um, or because um, that block reminds me of something else that was made of the fabric that I used.
MS: You talk about colours. Was there a colour scheme you had to follow?
AC: No, initially we were given um, um, one of two fat quarters but the idea of it was to use up a stash of fabrics um, which I was very keen on because I’d got a lot of um, spare fabrics um, but I did find that I did have to buy some fabric because some of my stash wasn’t suitable. Um, there was about eight of us that did it and everybody’s turned out completely different. Partly because of their colour schemes um, one lady did it in very bright colours [noise in background], another lady did it in very co-ordinated colours, um, another lady did it in um very small prints, and I did a bit of well, you can see a bit of everything.
MS: Could you explain the colours in, in the quilt, just to give a visual what colours are in the quilt?
AC: Um, well my favourite colours are mauves and purples and blues. So there’s quite a lot of those, um, but um, but there are also some browns and um, beiges um, pinks.
MS: Okay um, just you spoke about fat quarter, could you explain what a fat quarter is please?
AC: Um, a fat quarter is um, cut so that it, it’s a square shape so it’s half of the width of the fabric and 18 inches um, 18 inches by 22.
MS: Thank you. Well thank you Ann thank you for your time um, and this concludes the interview, thank you.