ID Number: TQ.2014.048
Name of Interviewee: Caroline Goffe
Name of interviewer: Rita Gallinari
Name of transcriber: Rita Gallinari
Location: Caroline’s home
Date: 15 January 2015
Length of interview: 0:48.57
Caroline made a journal quilt about her garden, record the planting, harvesting, and changes over 12 months with a block to represent each month. She also used it to document the weather each month, and seeds, plants and fruits given to her by friends or those she gave away. Barbara recalls how she started quilting by making a sampler quilt, all the friends she has made and the life skills that quilting has taught her. Later she explains why she feels it is for children to learn basic sewing skills in school and the challenges quilters face particularly in achieving real value for their craft.
Rita Gallinari [RG]: Now it’s recording. OK. So hello this is Thursday 15th January and I’m Rita Gallinari and I’m with Caroline Goffe in her home in Streatham here. We’re here as part of an oral history project sponsored by The Quilters Guild and supported through Lottery funding. And oral history is a way of collecting, keeping and passing on memories, skills and knowledge of people and communities. And there’s really nothing right or wrong about what you’re going to say, just say what you want to, speak freely, openly. And it’s important both for us and for the generations to come, to listen to what you’ve got to say and record what you have to say and to pass it on. It’s all relevant and valid as part of our social and quilting heritage. And as these interviews are going to be read and listened to by people who are not necessarily quilters, don’t be surprised if I ask you to explain some technical terms as I go through. That’s when I remember. It’s… Sometimes I don’t realise they are technical terms but they are. I might take notes from time to time and every so often I might look at the equipment or my notes or something. It’s not that I’m not listening, it’s just have to keep an eye on things. So first of all, you, I’m particularly interested in speaking to you because of what I think is a really lovely project that you’re…you’re working on at the moment. So would you like to tell me about your quilt. What do you call it? Is it called…?
Caroline Goffe [CG]: It’s a diary or an album quilt and I got the idea from an exhibition of quilts that I saw about two or three years ago where somebody had made a diary or album quilt which was 12 blocks of 12 months of their life in one year describing their social engagements and it was very interesting and beautifully laid out and I thought about it and decided it would be nice to do my own version of it about gardening and our garden here because we grow a lot of our own fruit and vegetables and although we’ve got a very modest, small garden, gardening is of great interest to me and I’m interested in the climate, the changes that are going on, so I wanted to record the rainfall and the temperature and have a look at each month and it’s brought me enormous interest and pleasure comparing, for example, that some months, on the 12 blocks that I’ve done,
RG: Maybe explain what you’ve done with each of the blocks.
CG: Yes. Well I started in January 2014, that was the first block that I made. They are 12 inch blocks made on calico that I’ve written with a… an indelible pen an account of what’s happened in that month for us in our garden and with the weather. And I started with each month with a line from the poem by Sara Coleridge and in January 2014 I start with ‘January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow’ and then I went on to say no snow this month and hardly any frost in London. And the average temperature for that month was 5.8 degrees centigrade which is higher than last year and the average rainfall was 173 millimetres which was much higher than last year, in fact in lots of parts of the country there were floods particularly in Somerset. We had pools of water here collecting at the other end of the garden after heavy downfalls and the garden is waterlogged, I’ve written. But early in January 2014 I started to order seed potatoes and tomatoes online using a Christmas voucher from Daniel, who’s in fact our eldest son, and within a week 30 Charlotte potatoes and 55 Sarpo seed potatoes arrived which are chitting in empty egg boxes in the spare bedroom. My husband Martin pruned the flowering cherry tree and planted an apple tree called Sunset in a tub and all our bulbs were growing fast. So this is exactly a year ago because we are now January 2015, so it’s quite interesting to look back on the weather. And then I went on each month doing the line from the poem by Sara Coleridge. So February was ‘February brings the rain, thaws the frozen lake again’. And… each month there was something happened for example in February 2014 we had a lot of storms, and I recorded on Valentine’s day, there was a big storm and part of our fence blew down [clock chimes] and Martin cut down the overhanging branch of an elder tree at the end of the garden. And on Sunday the 16th of February we worked in the garden, filled five bags of garden waste for recycling [clock still chiming]. So I’m also recording the average temperature which has gone up slightly from January and the rainfall is less. But it was still the wettest February since 1990. [RG: hhmm] So… And then there’s more in March and the growing season, there’s more planting and I’ve recorded things like some foxes came and tried to build a den under the shed. And some of the birds that have made nests in the nesting box which is, in fact, quite early for birds. So that’s an interesting…
RG: That was in March?
CG: That was in March, yes. And then, of course, the clocks change at the end of March which is a big change for all gardeners and everybody I think because we got lighter days and the garden has more light. The temperature starts to rise and we can use our greenhouse more. We… I put down in April that we transferred tomato plants to grow-bags in the greenhouse and we’ve given away more than 30 plants to friends. Our cucumber plants were savaged by snails and slugs I put down here. The trees are blossoming which is nice. And everything is growing apace in the garden. And in May the temperature has climbed to an average of 12 degrees and the average rainfall is 102 millimetres which if I turn back to January, when it was 173, it was much drier in May. We started feeding the tomato plants. And I’ve recorded here when friends have given me plants. So we were given four strawberry plants by David Russell. I wanted to include not just friends who’d given me plants but people connected with patchwork. So Mary Standfast had given me a magnolia plant and another friend Sue Evangelou had given me a rose, Gertrude Jekyll. They’d given it to me for my birthday a few years ago but I’ve always been very attached to that particular… It’s got a lovely scent. In June, we had lots of roses in June and we had a really, really good crop of tomatoes starting. Lots of butterflies but very few bees this year I’ve recorded which is a sign of a change from a few years ago when our garden had… We particularly planted plants that would be attractive to bees. So, that’s sad there weren’t more bees. And then July, the average rainfall was 53 millimetres and it was very hot and sunny. Several stormy days. And we’d finished eating the potatoes, most of the potatoes. And the bees did return that month. So, they returned when the lavender was in full bloom. And we had a frog, [low laughter] which was thanks to some frogspawn which Angela Brown had given me. And then August was a cool month and the average temperature…See I don’t remember that now. It just shows you with age, memory goes but it’s nice to have it written down, isn’t it? The average temperature was 21 degrees, eight centigrade in London but it was wet and the average rainfall was 178… [RG:Wow]. More than January.
RG: Amazing, that’s August.
CG: But it was still sun…lots of sunshine. It was near or a little above average the levels of sunshine. And of course the tomatoes ripened well in the sun and the cucumbers. We had to move the raspberries to the greenhouse to protect them from the birds. The russet apple tree was bearing lots of fruit. We stewed lots of apples. And we started to pick the lavender ready to make lavender bags for the winter. I think that’s something I did in patchwork actually, making lavender bags. Right, September, which is traditionally the harvest month, but because of global warming I think we start to harvest probably much earlier, July and August now. It was a very sunny month. In fact most of 2014 we had high level of sun which is great. We cleared most of the tomatoes. Martin netted the grapes. But there… and there were a few black grapes for the end of the month, which is great. We started planting bulbs in pots ready for the winter and then we were given some pears by our new neighbours Tom and Carrie. So I’ve recorded that and their names. In October, an autumn month, I’ve recorded… continuing to do some harvesting with fruit, raspberries and apples. We planted an apple tree which we bought from Wisley. And we picked chestnuts. I have recorded doing things away from the garden like going to garden centres and picking fruit out in the country. And at the end of the month, we washed all the garden pots and we cleared the greenhouse and mended the missing panes of glass. And November was a warm, wet month, the warmest since 2011 and we planted the Bramley apple tree from Wisley in the remembrance garden which is in the middle of the garden in memory of my late brother, Richard Spence Miller, who died in November 2001. And in that remembrance garden are other plants which I’ve referred to in the quilt. Most of the leaves are fallen and our lettuces and winter tomatoes are flourishing and we’re protecting our bulbs from the squirrels with netting and grit. And the last month, December, ‘Chill December brings the sleet, blazing fire and Christmas treat’. December was a bit warmer than average. The average temperature was 4.9 degrees centigrade and the average rainfall was 75 millimetres. It was a sunny month, the sunniest since 2008 but there were some very windy days. Now we got a new cat in December, Molly Bloom, who’s exploring the garden and she’s learnt to use the cat flap very quickly and is in and out all the time. And I recorded that I hope she would catch some mice who live near the compost bin but unfortunately, I haven’t recorded this, she’s managed to catch a beautiful bird which I’m not very pleased about. At the end of the month, this is full 12 months on from the beginning of this quilt, the last 12 inch block, we ordered new seeds and seed potatoes ready for the spring planting so I’ve come round the full year. So that’s roughly a précis of what I’ve recorded in the whole year but the blocks on their own are quite, I won’t say bland. I think they need a good contrast with a contrasting sashing and blocks. Is it?
RG: I think we can say sashing. Sashing is the sort of border around the block.
CG: And I’m looking at the kind of material that would have say leaves on and green because the, the blo…main blocks for the diary or the album for the year are cream, calico, so it has to be something that will contrast well but will reflect… growth and green and plants I think.
RG: So you’re on the lookout at the moment for that sort of…?
CG: Yeah, which is why I bought that one down [sound of fabric rustling and inaudible mumbles] but I’ve got various ones. Yes [RG: Yes, yes, that’s a green…] and I’m going to have a day out looking at different and take some of the blocks with me and look at and really take time and look at how I’m gonna to do it.
RG: So how will you do that? Will you go to local quilt shops or…?
CG: I will and I’ll get a little sample of everything and then take time to think about it and think how I’m going to do it.
RG: What are the sort of things that you would think about?
CG: Well…I’m really just at the stage of thinking about how the colour and the toning will look and part of me says I’m going to take all the blocks with me and just lay them out in a shop somewhere and embarrass myself [laughter] to get it right because I think that bit’s going to be quite important. I put so much into… It took more time than I thought because each month when I was trying to record the average rainfall and temperature, the account for that didn’t come out… wasn’t published until about the seventh of the following month and a couple of times I missed it and I had to look up online the information I needed and then I found it varied in different, on different news sites so it was quite difficult to get… I found that the BBC weather website varied from the Met Office website and the Guardian newspaper website so I kind of did a, you know, an amalgam of all three to get the details that I wanted. But it’s interesting reading back and looking at it and seeing what happened because I really didn’t remember, for example, that last January was so wet until I saw a programme recently about the floods in Somerset. So that’s probably the purpose of a diary quilt isn’t it? I looked up online about diary and album quilts and I saw that in America they had them during the American Civil War so there’s…
RG: What telling then the story?
CG: Telling the story of women’s lives I suppose and families’ lives and what went on. So…
RG: So how do you feel about the quilt now that it’s?
CG: I’m pleased. I’m pleased to have done the blocks. I’m pleased to have recorded it in that way because I’m not particularly good at keeping diaries and records and I think it’s quite nice to have been able to do it.
RG: And how are you going to use the quilt?
CG: Well, I suppose I will get it finished and then show it to friends and family and see what they say. Up ‘til now all the quilts I’ve done I’ve made for particular people, babies when they’re born in the family or when people, new people have come into the family, when it’s somebody’s birthday, if somebody’s got married, I’ve made quilts for occasions and most of the quilts I’ve made I’ve given away.
RG: So this is unusual because you’ve made for yourself?
CG: For myself. It is.
RG: And how does that feel?
CG: It’s unusual. Yes, it’s unusual to have done it in that way and done it as a reflection of things that I’ve done, creative things that I’ve done, a record of that. Which gardening is creative for me.
RG: And your husband’s been involved with the gardening, has he…
CG: He has.
RG: … been involved with the quilt? What’s he?…
CG: No. No he hasn’t. I mean. I’ve shown what I’ve written to him. No. And I’ve written most of it. I mean… All the ideas… I haven’t really discussed it with him but when we do gardening we do gardening together and… we do… we visit gardens together. We’re members of Wisley, the horticultural, The Royal Horticultural Society.
RG: Let’s go back and find out a little bit more about when and why you started quilting.
CG: OK. Well I started quilting nearly 20 years ago when my eldest son went on a gap year to New Zealand before he started at Liverpool University. And… I… went to an evening class. I was working full time.
RG: What do you do?
CG: Then I was working for an educational charity advising on special needs children and their needs and getting support for parents of those children. And so I was working in a mediation capacity where parents… the relationship between the children and the parents and the school had broken down. So I was working in schools advising. So to be able to go in the evening to an evening class and switch off and do something practical which was just for me was lovely because I was giving quite a lot. So the first thing I did was to make a sampler quilt.
RG: And what’s a sampler quilt?
CG: Well it was each week we made a different block. And we started with A Nine Man block, 12 inch block.
RG: Nine Man. Is that nine separate squares?
CG: Nine separate squares yes. And then when we had made 12 different, very different blocks, include…I’m trying to remember the names of them. Bear’s Paw, Grandmother’s… Dresden Plate was one. Oh I can’t remember any of the names now. I mean I’ve still got the quilt that I made. It was ostensibly for Daniel when he came back from [clock starts to chime] New Zealand ‘cos he was going for nine months so I was giving myself quite a good time to make it. And it was in red and blue. And my teacher was Caroline Wilkinson. And in the class I met two people who I’m still friendly with, Ann Kay and Liz Bracken. And in the case of Liz Bracken, we met up having not seen each other for nearly 20 years. And she had come into my class room when I had been teaching in a school in Peckham many… 20 years before that, to observe me teaching because she was training to be a…going from a secondary teacher to a primary teacher. And she was sent into the school where I was working so I met her then. But she remembered me and I remembered her face was familiar. And Ann Kay I knew because her daughter, Josephine, had gone to university with my youngest sister. So it was very nice to meet with two people who were students and Caroline, the teacher, was, I think, just finishing teaching in a school in Southwark and I had some connections with her although I didn’t know her personally at that point, through work that I’d done. So that was really nice and she was a very good teacher, very patient. It was a mixed ability class, so there were people at different levels which is always difficult to each. And I think at the end of that year when I’d made the quilt and had an enormous sense of satisfaction in making it, I went on to do…And the second quilt which was a ‘round the world’…
RG: Just tell me about the satisfaction, why were you? What was that…?
CG: Well, Caroline was a good teacher and I tend to rush things and therefore I think her teaching skill at reining me in from rushing at things and encouraging me when I found things difficult was a good thing. So it taught me to be more patient in practical things.
RG: Not just in quilting, in more general…?
CG: In everything. In everything. So she was a very good teacher in that way. And she was very good at meeting everybody’s individual needs in the class and everybody was at different levels. I mean, I should say that there was, were one or two people in that class who were winning prizes in quilting exhibitions and competitions who were very skilled, very experienced and it was nice to be in that class and not feel that it was over-competitive but there was an opportunity to admire the work there and one of the people was Sheila Lucas who’s in my patchwork group now but I think she was about to enter a quilt for… a national exhibition, I can’t remember the name of it, but it went on to do very well. And it was very…The class was very well run because the, Caroline, the teacher would, every now and then, would stop the class to encourage the students individually to show their work so you got not only did you admire other people’s work but you got good ideas. And that was good… and helpful. And my, if my memory’s right I did that class for a year and then during the second year Caroline Wilkinson became involved with Fine Cell Work and therefore was doing less teaching. But at the same time the teaching changed because the local authorities at that point wanted people to take exams and none of us really wanted to take an exam after a hard day’s teaching or working, whatever we were doing. So I started a quilt ‘A trip round the world’…
RG: What’s that?
CG: Which was… That was… a quilt for my youngest son. So I’d made the sampler quilt for my eldest son and I made the… started to make the ‘trip round the world’ quilt which was…I think they were four inch blocks and I think… from what I can remember I started the quilt… I had six different colours and six different fabrics about…may have been seven. And we built out from the centre and made a very… it was using browns and creams ‘cos those were the colours. I made it for my youngest son, getting ready for him to go to university so it was something for him to take. But also it was to encourage him to travel. So it was the idea of travelling as well. And in the middle of making that quilt, in that year, that was when Caroline I think stepped down from teaching and those of us who had met her in class decided that we would go on quilting but we would meet in each other’s houses. And then later, several years later, we started going to renting a venue, church halls, here, there and everywhere and, for the last two or three years we’ve been meeting in a church hall in Herne Hill. But as well as that I did go for I think about 18 months in the middle of all this, it must have been nine or ten years ago, to local authority quilting, patchwork and quilting class, which was effected by cuts in the end and shut but was quite useful for learning new skills which I think’s stimulating. And all along I’ve done class… workshops. So… and Sheila Lucas, who I mentioned at the beginning who was a very skilled and experienced quilter, she would very often do a workshop with different techniques on show so we did one on the work of Janice Gunner which Sheila led after she had done a Janice Gunner series of workshops.
RG: And Janice Gunner is?
CG: She’s a very experienced quilter who is, I think some people would say, she’s quite avant-garde because she’s very different to the formal training that I had. I don’t think I could have done the kind of quilting that’s quite free, with free cutting, unless I’d done the original training with Caroline Wilkinson. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that. I would have felt quite thrown by doing something as free as that. A bit like doing abstract painting. I couldn’t have done abstract painting unless… well I, I was, I was at one point formally trained to paint and I was trained in the traditional way. I think it’s true for that as it is for sewing, for patchwork.
RG: What quilting techniques do you like in particular then? Are you daunted by the more contemporary, freer approach?
CG: Not at all. No. No. I think that probably what is best for me is to… to keep my hand in with regular training and I’m mindful of the fact that I think I should do that once or twice a year. I do go to The Quilters’ Guild meetings that are held regularly and I’m always interested in the work that’s shown there. I go to exhibitions, when I can, when I know about them in different parts of the country and I’m interested in textiles, particularly I’m interested in textiles. One of my youngest son’s flatmates when he first left home was a textile…well she was doing…
RG: A major? [Inaudible]
CG: She was. She was doing a PhD, I think, at the Royal College of Art and went on to become a designer for John Lewis and she’s doing very, very well. And I’ve followed her work and seen what she’s done and seen how her work’s developed, and I’m interested in that.
RG: Are there any other quiltmakers or designers that you enjoy looking or aspire to?
CG: Yes I mean I like…I love going to the local biennial exhibition by Dulwich Quilters which has a great variety of work where my old teacher Caroline Wilkinson does display her work and she does quite a lot of small quilts which are beautiful. And I’m always interested in the Fine Cell Work that she teaches now in prisons and I’m interested in the prisoners’ work as well.
RG: Was there any tradition in your family of quilting? And quiltmakers?
CG: My mother was a quilter. My mother had gone to…what was called a domestic science college but had loved sewing when she was there. But her mother had been, my grandmother, had been very good at sewing. So I’ve got patchwork quilts that they made plus sewing, but on another side of my family there was a dressmaker and I’ve got some of the early nineteenth century clothes that they made including baby clothes and a beautiful silk, hand sewn, very early Victorian top which is beautiful to look at. So I think there are people on both sides of my family. So there’s a tradition in my family. So…
RG: Was that important for you to pick up quilting, do you think?
CG: I think it was probably. I think it was. And I was taught it at school. In those days, when you were young, you know, girls were taught sewing. It was… you know… it was there for everybody to do. It was universal.
RG: So can you, can you describe what it is you particularly enjoy about quilting?
CG: Well, it’s very satisfying and it’s varied. You know, I do machine quilting but I’ll do hand quilting and small hand sewing and I like to be able to take something away with me on holiday that I can sew. And I’ve found it particularly useful when I’ve had to go to challenging social situations with people, where I’ve sometimes taken sewing with me and I can quietly get it out and sew [laughter], sew in a corner and be quite happy. So, yes, it’s a useful tool, I think, quilting. But I often, when I’m thinking about making a new quilt, I like to think it through and I like to think how it might look. Of course it never does look how you think it’s going to look but it’s nice sometimes to have that vision of how you’re going to create it and then start on the journey of how you’re going to do it and then you’re carried along by how you’re doing it. That’s the creative process. You’re not ever sure how it’s going to be but it’s nice to have a picture of… I like to have a picture in my head of it… something.
RG: Is that… that’s an idea or a physical picture do you think?
CG: Both, both, I think. I particularly found when I was having treatment for quite a challenging illness, when I was being treated during this challenging illness, I found doing patchwork was useful then and it did keep me very focussed and it was a useful way of being able to look forward, stay in the present and look forward and not to dwell too much on things. So it gave me a structure which, I think, is quite important.
RG: How much time do you say you spend quilting?
CG: It varies. It varies. I would say probably at least two hours a week but sometimes much more than that. So recently when I was finishing a quilt for our youngest son’s girlfriend, although I’d been given a year to do it because I was incorporating some fabric from some sun dresses that Jack’s girlfriend had, the last bit I changed how I was going to do it and did machine quilting over the top, which turned out to be quite challenging and…
CG: It took much longer than I thought [laughter] and I kept running out of cotton and, yes, and it was coming up to Christmas, that’s what it was. It was November the 27th was Lara’s birthday and I had to get it done for then. And I think, I felt quite anxious about doing it for her. I… I think… I mean she’s got quite high standards. So it was doing a quilt for effectively my daughter-in-law so… it had added… [laughter] agendas with it.
RG: And do you spend a lot of money on quilts?
CG: I try not to. I try to use fabrics that I’ve been given or fabrics…that I’ve swopped with friends but every now and then I do go out and splurge [clocks chimes].
RG: We might just pause there… only it’s only the quarter [chuckling]. So, looking at other people’s quilts what is it you admire or like in other people’s quilts or what do you think make’s a good quilt?
CG: I think for me skill and accuracy I admire enormously and because those are things I don’t feel I have so much of and I… but I still admire other people who’ve got it and I get pleasure from seeing how people can do that, and I always have admiration for people who feel they’ve made a mistake on a block, if they’re sewing a block for a quilt and they’ve sewn something the wrong way round or upside down or inside out, whatever it may be, I really admire them unpicking it and doing it again patiently and…
RG: Is that not something you’d do?
CG: I would do it but I’ve learnt from other people’s patience I think, so I think that that’s something that being in a group helps as well as being on my own. I mean, I do like patchwork on my own ‘cos I, you know, I listen to the radio, I listen to music, plays that sort of thing but It’s nice to be with other people and learn from them I think.
RG: So sociability… [ CG: Yes. Yes.] the sociable aspects of quilt making is something that’s important too. I meant to ask you before when you were talking, do you have any particular favourite fabrics or threads or do you work with…
CG: I do like Liberty fabrics but I have used a lot of African fabrics because my eldest son Daniel has given me quite a few over the years for presents. And I did make him a quilt three years ago which was on the ‘Ohio Star’ blocks, pattern which had African fabrics which he liked.
RG: How would you describe the ‘Ohio Star’ for people who…
CG: It has a square, a small square about five inches by five, sorry I’m not very good at being metric here, and it has, I think, eight points of the star.
RG: I think it does, doesn’t it?
CG: Yeah, is it eight points?
RG: I think it’s eight points, two on each of the edge of the sides of the square.
CG: And then that’s… I think I used yellow, a plain for the mi… central square and then the points of the star were yellow and reddish and dark blue African fabrics, and then it was on a, I think they were on 12 inch blocks but I can’t quite remember but it was a double quilt. That was… It took quite a long time to do but once… It was very dramatic and it was good. With some of the quilts I try and take photographs of them all and I try, very often at Christmas or birthdays I will make a print of, pictures of the quilts and use them to make birthday cards or Christmas cards.
RG: So is that the picture just generally or to the person whose birthday it is?
CG: Both. [RG: Both.] So what did I do this Christmas? I think I used a red and… part of a picture of a quilt using a flying geese pattern which is lots of triangles side by side and because I happened to sew it in quite bright red and, I think, green colours, it had a Christmas feel so I printed off part of the picture of that and turned that into Christmas cards. [Inaudible].
RG: And what about… thinking a bit more generally about quilting, do you have any views of what the biggest challenging might be to quilters today?
CG: Well I suppose with… being able to… I think the price of fabric has gone up. Because I think there’s a… the price of cotton has gone up and I think that might be an issue for people in the future. What else do I think?
RG: Somebody else I was speaking to, we got talking about the fact that one of the challenges might be that it’s quilting seems to be done by older people, so how can we attract younger people?
CG: Well, I think that you would have to make a pitch for changing the national curriculum.
RG: So tell us about that because that is something you do know about, I think.
CG: Well, I think, you would have to make an argument for the value of children, both boys and girls, learning to sew and it would have to be justified in terms of education, meeting educational needs. So, for example, if a child was poorly coordinated, I think an argument could be made that hand-eye coordination could be improved through sewing, both machine and hand sewing and that could be done from quite an early age. I think that… I’ve learnt that when I was doing quilting, it required quite a lot of mathematical skill, counting, piecing, matching, multiplying, dividing. All those things come into making a quilt and I think that it could be incorporated in some way in learning for children, not just for children who’ve got particular special needs but for all children. And I think that it’s good for children to work collaboratively so making a joint quilt would be a good thing not just a one-off but it should be there in the curriculum and that it’s particularly important for boys and girls to do it.
RG: From any age?
CG: I would say from any age, yes. I would say that very young children when they are playing with matching counters and bricks are using the kinds of shapes and patterning that we would use in quilting, so…
RG: Is there any ideas about how that can happen?
CG: Well, it would as I say have to be the people who write it in the curriculum who I presume would be design and technology teachers and art teachers would have to make a pitch to prove the educational need for teaching patchwork and quilting in that way and it shouldn’t be felt to be the… that it was any less in value than any other subject.
RG: You mentioned domestic science in the context of your mother and I am right in thinking that world doesn’t exist quite as much…
CG: No, I don’t think it does ‘cos it was a world when girls did domestic science and boys went and did woodwork and things and I think there’s a case to be made for girls and boys learning both those things together in the curriculum. I think that, that there’s equal value in doing woodwork as there… and the technologies around that. I think what happened with a lot of the technology, the technology around sewing and woodwork, it became… I noticed, for instance, in cooking, there was a greater emphasis on packaging and marketing rather than the core skills of cooking, that seemed to disappear out of the curriculum and I think it comes back to the curriculum and teaching skills. So if you go back to… threading a needle, learning, for example, to use a sewing machine with a template on a piece of paper. I remember seeing… thinking that was a very good way ‘cos it’s teaching a child to, or a young person, to sew along a line. So…
RG: We’ve got a couple more questions. If you had, I don’t think you have grandchildren yet,
CG: No, I don’t.
RG: When, if you imagine the day when you have grandchildren, and they were to listen to this tape, is there anything that you’d want to be telling them about quilting? Or indeed about anything, if you like, but..
CG: Certainly about quilting. Yes, to have a go at it. Don’t give up, you know.
CG: It’s… You might find that you like it. You might find that you’ve got a real skill with it. It would give you satisfaction… It’s… And it’s, you know, it’s… it’s a great thing to do.
RG: And quilting is obviously really quite an important part of your life from everything you say.
CG: It is.
RG: And why do think that is? What does it give you?
CG: … I think it’s… I think that… I think you ha… currently, I think that if it gives you pleasure to do something in that creative way, I mean I also like cooking and other things like that but I am aware that, for example, with young women in my family who are in their twenties and thirties who are working, they haven’t been taught those skills in school, and they are going to have to learn it from scratch, if they do it, whereas I’m grateful that all along I was doing bits of sewing here and there and I would like, you know, that… I would like everybody to have had the experience of having done it. I’ve not answered your question.
RG: No, no. But you have actually, I mean, you’ve talked…
CG: It’s the business of going, getting the chance to do it all along and not feel, for example, as my nieces do, that there… it was associated in some way with women’s work and staying at home and not going out to work and not being a dynamic and equal member of the community. I would like to think that it was part… that quilting and patchwork was of value and didn’t have to have a label hung round its neck of belonging to a bygone age, to go back to your point about older people doing it.
RG: And is there anything else you’d like to say about quilting? About how important it is? Or?
CG: Just… I mean you asking about how it can be taught… you know, how it could be changed in schools made me think that The Quilters’ Guild could or the lottery could think about ways of funding, promoting that in schools or through the national curriculum or in some way making it of value.
RG: A big challenge perhaps isn’t it?
CG: Yes. It is.
RG: Well, thank you very much. Are you sure there’s nothing you want to add about anything to do with quilting or anything?
CG: No, I don’t really except I think that it’s… when I… when I see quilts in auctions, there’s a local auction house near us where quilts occasionally come, they seem to be… They’re such low prices, you know, they don’t go for a lot, I think it’s partly because… I suppose it’s to do with work done by women which isn’t valued, you know, so highly, so… Women’s art, painting, it’s the same so… that’s a shame. But I don’t think it’ll always be like that, I think that with dress-making, I think that’s beginning to the corner. So maybe that will happen with patchwork. When you think of the hours that go into something. You know it seems an awful shame.
RG: It would be nice perhaps to see the equivalent of British Bake Off for quilting.
CG: It would, wouldn’t it?
RG: We’ve had the British Sewing Bee to a certain extent that has vitali…and knitting seems to be popular but no one seems really to have addressed…
RG: … quilting as such.
RG: Well, thank you very much.
CG: You’re very welcome. I’ll put the kettle on now.
RG: That’s nice. Let’s turn this off. You’re sure there’s nothing else you want to…
CG: Unless there’s anything you want to…
Appendix – Words from the blocks of Caroline’s album or diary quilt
‘January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow’.
No snow this month and hardly any frost in London. The average temperature for this month is 5.8°c which is higher than last year. The average rainfall was 173mm also much higher than last year. We have had pools of water collecting at the end of the garden after heavy downpours. The garden is waterlogged. Early in January I ordered seed potatoes and tomato seeds online using a Christmas voucher from Daniel. Within a week 39 Charlotte and 5 Sarpo seed potatoes arrived which are chitting in empty egg boxes in a spare bedroom. Martin pruned the flowering cherry tree and planted an apple tree, ‘sunset’ in a tub. All our bulbs are growing fast.
‘February brings the rain, Thaws the frozen lake again’.
On February 1st we planted 5 Sarpo seed potatoes in a tub using some of our own compost. Snowdrops are out sheltering under a Choisia shrub. At the end of the month most of the daffodils came out and were in full bloom. On Valentine’s day there was a big storm. Part of our fence blew down. Martin cut down the overhanging branch of our Elder tree at the end of the garden. On Sunday 16th we worked in the garden and filled 5 bags of garden waste for recycling. The tomato seeds and sunflowers have germinated. I have potted them up ready to go out into the greenhouse next month. I planted a small pear tree bought from Lidl for £3.99 at the end of the garden where it will get morning sun. The potatoes are showing green sprouts in the greenhouse. The average temperature for this month is 6.3°c and the average rainfall was 135mm. The wettest February since 1990.
‘March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil’.
March has been a dry, sunny month. The average temperature was 76°c and the average rainfall was 46mm.
We have had a visit from some foxes who tried to build a den under the shed. We have painted both sides of the fences. We had to cut back the Wisteria, Virginia Creeper and Honeysuckle to do this.
Our tomato plants are now in the greenhouse. We have about 50 sound looking plants. Our Courgette, cucumber and sunflower seeds are growing well. We are growing sweet peas from seed. The potatoes are growing well. Martin has earthed them up. They are outside on the path.
We have planted two lavender plants in the borders to replace the one that died.
There are two blue tits flying in and out of one of the nesting boxes. A visiting cat has caught two mice and presented them to us.
‘April brings the primrose sweet, Scatters daisies at our feet’.
Now that the clocks have changes the days are longer and our garden has more light. The average temperature was 10.3°c and the average rainfall 61mm.
We transferred tomato plants to grow-bags in the greenhouse. We gave away more than 30 plants to friends. Our cucumber plants were savaged by snails and slugs – very disappointing! We are now using organic deterrents and hope our courgette plants will survive.
The Egremont Russet apple tree has blossomed and our two new fruit trees are in leaf.
We have planted dwarf bean seeds in the greenhouse which have germinated and are flourishing.
The Wisteria, Virginia Creeper and Honeysuckle are growing again after major pruning last month.
The sunflowers are outdoors in pots with sweet peas which we grew from seed.
‘May brings flocks of pretty lambs skipping by their fleecy damns’.
The average temperature for May was 12°c. The average rainfall was 102mm. Sunshine was below average, 89% of normal.
We started feeding the tomato plants regularly. Fruits began to form in mid-May. By the end of the month there were over 30 tomatoes in the greenhouse. The outdoor tomatoes are growing more slowly, still with flowers.
The apples on the Egremont Russett tree have formed and are growing large. We picked several lettuces and rocket for salads. We mended the herb box and cleared the marjoram back. We were given 4 strawberry plants by David Russell.
The magnolia plant that Mary Standfast gave me is growing well. The roses have started flowering including Gertrude Jeckyll which Sue and Kyriacos gave me for my birthday a few years ago.
‘June brings tulips, lilies, roses, fills the children’s hand with posies’.
We have had lots of roses blooming in June. The average temperature for June was 22 degrees c. The average rainfall was 49.8mm. This was the warmest sunniest June since 2010.
It has been hot and sunny with several rainy days which filled the water butts by the end of the month.
We have had a bumper crop of Charlotte potatoes as well as strawberries, lettuce, and towards the end of the month courgettes. The tomatoes have started to redden and we have picked a few. Blackberries are forming well so we are hoping for a good crop in the autumn.
Slugs and snails have been very busy unfortunately. The mallow bloomed in mid June and the buddlea is nearly out. Some of the new lavender is in bloom but there are not many bees in the garden yet but plenty of butterflies. The purple clematis at the end of the garden has bloomed all months. The passion flowers are in bloom.
‘July brings cooling showers, Apricots and Gilly flowers’.
We had some delicious Apricots which we made into jam. We picked them in Kent at Clutton Manor Farm in Kent.
It has been hot and sunny with several stormy rainy days. The average temperature for July was 25.8° degrees in London. The average rainfall was 53mm. The water butts were full by the end of the month.
We have finished eating Charlotte potatoes but still have Sarpo potatoes. We have had kilos of ripe tomatoes, blackberries and a few courgettes. Our salad leaves are doing very well. It is lovely to be able to pick fresh lettuce every day.
The bees have returned in full force now that the lavender is in bloom.
We found a big frog in our little pond. Thanks to Angela Brown for frogspawn earlier in the year.
‘August brings the sheaves of corn, Then the harvest home is borne’.
August was a cool month. The average temperature was 21.8°c in London. It was a wet month. The average rainfall in the south-east was 178mm. Despite the rain, sunshine was near or a little above average.
Our tomatoes ripened well. By the end of the month we had almost finished our outdoor tomatoes and cucumbers. We moved the Raspberries to the greenhouse to protect them from birds. They ripened well and we had a good crop.
The russet apple tree bore lots of fruit. We stewed many of these apples and froze them.
We dug and ate the last of the potatoes – Sarpo. They were large and tasty.
The Passion flowers are out and abundant. Towards the end of the month we started to pick lavender ready to make lavender bags for the winter.
Some plants are in bud again – the mallow is continually in bloom.
‘Warm September brings the fruit. Sportsmen then begin to shoot’.
September was the warmest month since 2006. It was the driest since 1959. The average temperature for the month was 15.3°c. Rainfall averaged 15mm. It was a very sunny month.
By the end of September we had cleared most of the tomatoes in the greenhouse but we planted two new tomato plants in pots to overwinter in the greenhouse as an experiment.
We moved the raspberries and some strawberries into the greenhouse to protect them from birds. Martin netted the grapes. There were a few black grapes by the end of the month.
We picked the last of the lavender to make lavender bags.
We planted all the bulbs in pots and put grit and netting over pots to deter squirrels.
Our neighbours Carrie and Tom gave us some pears from their garden.
‘Brown October brings the pheasant Then to gather nuts is pleasant’.
October was unsettled but warm. The average temperature was 12.3°c but in London on October 31st the temperature was 23.6°c. Rainfall averaged 94mm.
Our raspberries continue to fruit in the greenhouse. We bought a Bramley apple tree from Wisley to plant in the centre of the lawn. We pruned all the shrubs ready for winter.
We picked chestnuts in Sussex which we roasted. At Wisley we collected windfall apples which we stewed and froze.
We planted winter lettuce seeds in the greenhouse as well as ‘living salad leaves’.
We washed garden pots. Martin cleared the greenhouse and mended panes of glass.
‘Dull November brings the blast, Then the leaves are whirling fast’.
What a warm wet month! The warmest since 2011. The average temperature was 8.5°c. The average rainfall was 126mm. Although it was less sunny than previous Novembers, We had a few very warm sunny days.
Our Bramley Apple Tree from Wisley was planted in the Remembrance Garden in memory of my late brother Richard Spence Miller who died in November 2001.
Most of the leaves have fallen. Our lettuces and winter tomatoes are flourishing in the greenhouse.
Our bulbs have started to grow shoots. They are protected from squirrels with netting and grit.
‘Chill December brings the sleet, Blazing fire and Christmas treat’.
December was a bit warmer than average. The average temperature was 4.9°c. The average rainfall for our area was 75mm. December was a sunny month, the sunniest since 2008. There were some very windy days. Our bulbs are growing well. We potted some up and brought them indoors. We had a few frosty mornings but no snow or sleet.
We got a new cat, Molly Bloom in December. She is exploring the garden. She has learned to use the cat flap very quickly. We are hoping she will catch some of the mice who live near the compost bin.
At the end of the month we ordered new tomato seeds and seed potatoes ready for spring planting. We still have lettuces growing in the greenhouse which we can cut for salads.