ID Number: TQ.2015.050
Name of interviewee: Caryll Baldwin
Name of interviewer: Christine Burgess
Name of transcriber: Christine Burgess
Location: Caryll’s home
Address: Gillingham, Kent
Date: 21 September 2015
Length of interview: 0:52:37
Caryll finally found the time to make one of the ‘seven quilts I want to make’ when she retired from teaching. The first of these quilts is her touchstone object, a bright log cabin quilt with sunflowers and chickens. Caryll talks about being at Art College at the time of the quilting revival in the 70s and how the quilting world has changed since. She also talks about several charity quilt projects she has worked on, describes journal and postcard quilts, as well as exhibiting at the Hever Quilt Show.
Christine Burgess [ChB]: Thank you for agreeing to this interview [laughter] Caryll if for any reason you need to… [Laughter] wish to stop at any time please say and we continue when you are ready.
Caryll Baldwin [CaB]: Okay, yup.
ChB: … when you are ready. Can you tell me about this quilt, when you made it and who for and why…
CaB: I made it in on the third of February 2003. Very rarely do I make quilts for other people, I make them for other people if they ask me to and they want one. Otherwise I just make quilts and if somebody likes them they get them, but really it’s the making and the idea behind the quilt that’s important to me. Having worked for nearly forty years I found I got a book in which I’d written seven quilts I wish to make and the details on them and so I thought, I was nearly sixty so I thought actually I’ve had enough of teaching and giving all my creative energy and expertise I suppose over the years to students which I really enjoyed I wanted to get on and make quilts for me so this quilt, I went to Farnham in the Farnham Maltings to the sale there Dawn Cameron Dicks had a bundle of fabric that was sunflowers, chickens and sort of appropriate ones and she said there will be holes in the fabric but it was a big bundle for fiver and I took it ho.. I bought it home here and I thought that’s what I’m going to do. It also meant that because I’d retired I had my room to myself I had my time to myself I didn’t, I wasn’t making it for anybody else but for me and I could just go with it you know I started off with the small chicken in the middle that was like a was sort of a log cabin I wanted to go back to machine quilting ‘cause I’d done machine quilting as an art student back in the sixties on a very different sort of machine quilting then on an Irish machine with no protection over the needle and I did stitch right up my ne… finger here one day [points to her left fore-finger] anyway so I’d been to a workshop with June Barnes knew that this was a very effective way of working. So I just went ahead and I thought it might be one section big because it is actually made in the, what I call the envelope technique, it’s actually made with you know you fold it in half turn it inside and you quilt one section at a time so each one is twenty by ten [CaB shows the quilt sections] and you can tell whether by the different patterns on the back so I started off with a twenty by ten block and a massive great pile of fabrics and when I got a piece that was slightly bigger than twenty by ten I would then bind it and machine quilt it. And as I accumulated them I started putting them together adding bits more fabric you know and that’s how it evolved. And by the time I got to the border I was having a whale of a time with my machine quilting you know and but it was a sort of ‘Hey, hey, I’m free to do this now’ quilt. So that’s really the story behind this one but it’s one a lot of people comment on when I used to give talks on my quilts. This one always sort of people liked because its bright I think and it’s cheerful and there you know I obviously captured my freedom in it.
ChB: So it wasn’t actually made for somebody, it was sort of almost made for you to…
CaB: Yeah, yeah most of my quilts are made for me, yeah, not in a selfish way.
0:04:57 ChB: No.
CaB: But the planning but you know I love pattern, colour, texture and I love the idea of coming up with an idea then working out how I can put that idea together and also knowing that if it doesn’t work I can bin it or not say anything or change it. You know a lot of my, a lot of my quilts will start off as something small just get bigger and bigger or they would stay very small which I think is why I think I find it very difficult to say I’ll make a quilt for somebody ‘cause I don’t actually know how it’s going to end up when I start you know it evolves as I go along.
ChB: Does it have a label on it to identify who made it?
CaB: It does, well there’s that one [points to a label on the reverse]but always on every one of my quilts somewhere there is see it’s got embroidered there ‘Sunflower and Chickens’ and the date and my name. I put that on all my quilts.
CaB: Yup, except for challenges and I do it afterwards.
ChB: How do you feel about it now?
CaB: Ah I’m still just as happy with it as I was then, you know, I think it’s just a little bit of sunshine and of course it’s, it also represents a stepping stone into, you know, a change in direction in the way of my lifetime I suppose, sounds a bit sort of high-felluting but it’s not really
ChB: What colours are they? [CaB: Um?] What colours are in it?
CaB: Well it’s basically just the yellows and greens and reds and rusts that I love and I take great pleasure in, you know, not restricting myself with colour.
ChB: It’s a fun quilt
CaB: Yeah that is a word for a good word for it ‘fun’ I mean I forgot to put the chickens legs on so afterwards then but… there just you know fat chickens with short legs
ChB: [chuckle] I understand you’ve been quilting since the 1970’s. I’ve put why did you chose this quilt as your touchstone object, but I think you’ve have probably covered that one, so what did you start in the seventies with?
CaB: I suppose it was at college when I was working with applique and fabrics and doing machine embroidery which was applied and then I was…. and quilting was coming back then you know the lovely hexagons and it was the Laura Ashley time so there were always lovely fabrics and we were going, we used to have to go to formal do’s and I didn’t have a shawl so I pieced together a shawl in hexagons all in Laura Ashley fabrics all by, all by hand and then just sort of blanket stitched and bound it and I’ve still got it upstairs I always bring that out as a sort of example of where I started but I’d always known about it I suppose because of studying textiles and machine embroidery and the influences there were there.
ChB: You state on the pre-interview questionnaire that you were an art… that you were art trained, can you tell me about that part of your life and afterwards you pursued a career in that field, can you tell me about that?
CaB: My father wanted me to be an entomologist over at West Malling research cause I was always interested in biology and again its plants and patterns and colour that always interested me and he said he’d buy me a Lambretta so I could go over to West Malling cause I lived in Rainham [Kent] then and I didn’t wanna do that and although I was at a grammar school I knew that I was not an academic student I knew I wasn’t daft but, you know, I wasn’t you know cut out to be a scientist or you know as something more intellectually challenging and I said I want to go to art college and it was probably the worst weekend that my father and I had, but give him his due he’d always said he wanted both of us, my sister and I, to go into further education because he didn’t have that opportunity and he kept to it, he let me go to Rochester Art College which was a brilliant art college when I look back now you know there are a lot of names you can tie into it. I was there at the same time as Zandra Rhodes who I looked at with awe while she worked, but no, and it was just a very good grounding you know life drawing, composition, colour and so on and then we had to go various pottery you know we did them all through, through the two years of intermediate then we specialised and I did machine embroidery… And it was a great time we used to meet at the weekends we used to work from nine in the morning till nine at night, a register was taken occasionally we did slope off and go to London for the day but usually to go to the art galleries. But you know it was very strict and it was a very well controlled regime and it did teach we did learn an awful lot and then I reached the stage where I knew I would enjoy teaching I knew I wasn’t a big enough artist to go to the Royal College or you know pursue a career in high art. I think probably because I came from a fairly… we weren’t poor, but we didn’t, there was no spare money and I knew that if you wanted to live comfortably you had, had to earn a good, no, reasonable salary but I also liked teaching you know I just enjoyed what I was doing and thought, you know, I would enjoy doing this with other people. So I then went on to Brettan Hall teacher training college and did art and drama there for two years as a mature student by the age of twenty-two and then came back and have taught locally ever since, well since I’ve retired.[laughter]
ChB: What did you get out of teaching others?
CaB: Ah… A lot of pleasure, a lot of learning from my point of view whenever you started a new project it had to be researched it widened my horizons in terms of art history ‘cause I always had to be one step ahead of them. It kept me up with all my… you know with all my art knowledge because again you needed to. I used to go to a lot of exhibitions which we were encouraged to do at college, but I kept that up, on a Saturdays I’d go to the Royal Academy exhibitions in the morning and go to the theatre in the afternoon on a matinee, very often on my own, when the children came which was my day of freedom and it’s just and I often picked up children that had… over the years have had problems you know when you get a boy that’s been, that has something burning in every picture that he does over a few months you think something, somethings not quite right here and I mean I couldn’t do anything about it but I could refer it back to Head of Department and several times I picked up things you know you pick up children that were colour blind people, kids that had problems with mobility and I enjoy the fact that they got great pleasure out it you know I’ve got three pictures hanging on the wall there that are students work, you know, and the pleasure they got out of it, in many cases. I mean a lot of children didn’t like it found very demanding but no I think, yes, its and it broadens their horizons too you know it’s something that they can do on their own it’s something that you don’t need much to do pencil and a piece of paper is all you need to get you going you know there’s a whole world out there you can work in if you’re creative
ChB: I understand you make journal quilts can you describe a journal quilt and what form you take with your expression of these small pieces?
CaB: A journal quilt I’ve been making them for eight years now, a journal quilt is um… it’s a little, a small quilt that you make once a month, its anything to do with that month you know it may be something that’s happened to you it may be a big celebration. It might be a social comment you know I made one when there was that terrible Tsunami in Japan, I make and very often I make when there is a worldwide crisis I would try and encompass that if it’s something that occupies me that month and this months is I’ve got a photograph of Hever [Hever Castle] because I spent and I love Hever you know and it’s just wonderful to be in and so I took a photograph in Hever of where steps go up to the Dahlia Garden there there’s some lovely rocks so I’ve got that upstairs with piles of bits of fabric and that will be my challenge or my journal quilt for this month along with the fact the Hever quilt show there. I started off making them A4 either one year portrait, one year landscape then after six years, no five years I suddenly realised one month I’d made it the wrong way round. So you know that went somewhere else, so I thought if I make it 10 inches square I can’t do it the wrong way round so and its quite an interesting shape to work in the square, you know, it’s, it’s so they’re now the last three years have been 10 inches, I am now thinking I must move on and either do something long and thin, I haven’t decided which way yet, but I shall keep going and I just enjoy the challenge because it’s something totally creative that I can do every month when I was working it used to be to the… I’d get it going listening to the play on a Sunday afternoon on the radio and then I could finish it off you know during the month so really that’s but it’s something small something I can do I can experiment in it I can you know use whatever I want whether its paints, pencils you know paper you know some of them have got stickers on when I’ve been to interesting places souvenirs from places sometimes worked their way in.
ChB: Words? [CaB: Em?] Words?
CaB: Words yes there’s some words yes I got a couple where I couldn’t think of anything to do that month so I wrote down all the things I hadn’t done that month just machine stitched them so it’s not easy to read but its making comment that I didn’t have much inspiration that month [chuckles].
ChB: How would you describe your work today? Is it Textile art or quiltmaking?
CaB: Ah… I’d like to say it’s all Textile art because that’s what I really love doing but textile art requires… a lot more sort of careful work maybe than, than traditional work so I have the two I mean I am always doing one which I hand sew I love hand sewing and I love hand quilting and if I don’t, if my fingers are not working then I tend to pick them and I’m a, you know, a right pain and I can sit in the evening with the television on more the television than the radio and I do hand stitching. So I will do traditional blocks then you know, where you’ve got it prescribed before you start not always traditional blocks, but I’ll work it out beforehand and sit and hand sew it. You know our bed upstairs has got a huge quilt made out of the Schwey, Schwey the African blue fabric and a very simple block and I made it big enough so it touches the ground either side and that’s a huge piece of work. All the blocks are five inches square so that took up a lot of my evenings just hand stitching it, then quilting it and its very effective I’m working on an apple core one at the moment that Nancy gave me the papers for and it caught me but you see that’ll take me, I don’t know probably the next six months of hand stitching to get it put together it started as a nine patch and it’s now going to be a full sized quilt [chuckles].
And beside that I’ve also got creative work you see this one I bring that one in although you only said one quilt [showing me a white piece] this was my wedding dress, what’s left of it, fifty years next year is our anniversary this is actually the shape of our eldest daughters Christening gown. I made her Christening gown out of it and this was all the original embroidery on the Christening gown these were on the headpiece, I had long hair sort of a Wimple affair. This was a lovely little thing that my… a feeding top, why people give them white I don’t know and these were various bits I had from my grandmother you know there’s a lovely old bit got stuck into it and it was lying there and you know, Kirsty wasn’t going to get her daughter our only granddaughter christened so I thought actually its rotting away, [background noise] and then there was challenge which was recycling and I thought I’ll make it into a quilt which is something else you know that you can do so I mean it’s got net over it like they do at when they preserve things to hold a lot of it together but it doesn’t matter now if it starts falling apart because its achieved its aim which is to be created it into something and I hope one day that she might like it but she lives out in South Africa and the climate isn’t that good it’s a lot of humidity so it wouldn’t survive long out there, so…
ChB: Do you work mainly… well, I think you have answered this as well… do you mainly work on small pieces or does your work vary in size? It sounds like it varies in size
CaB: Yep the quilt is the size of the idea really and how the idea evolves [laughter], yeah I mean I made one over there when the Twin Towers was blown up and I had been to the top of the Twin Towers and I intended it because the… I was working then and I said well I’ll produce it for the charity at the end of terms, we always had two weeks of charity at the end of the Christmas term and I was going to make it and this September and I thought not long to make one so I got going and its actually three times as big as I intended it to be, but it, you know, it hung in the hallway and it did get a lot of money for charity. But it you know so again what I intend isn’t always how it turns out, you know, quite often and it’ll turn or… if it’s not working that well it may not get any bigger, but by not setting myself too many boundaries you know it gives me a freedom to work as I want to do really.
ChB: How involved are you with other quilters and do you teach and pass on your skills?
CaB: Ahh… When I first retired, yes I did some workshops and if people ask me now I still do workshops and I think I’ve done all of the WI’s in the area talking about my quilts so that’s dried up at the moment. Yes, I’ll help with workshops, at the… I belong to two quilting groups Bears Paw and Castle Wall, and when we do workshops I, you know I, I often take part there and often I run them. The most popular one I have done actually is making postcards ‘cause I you know I love doing postcards, any, any special event, and I’ll make a postcard for that person.
ChB: Can you describe making a postcard?
CaB: Ah… you start off with Pelham or its you know spongy like backing which is adhesive on one side and you can iron whatever your design is onto that and then you finish it off by just zig zagging round the edge with the machine, satin stitch normally. But… what’s the last one I made? Oh! We went to, we were in France for our friends eightieth birthday and he’d had a cake made with what looked like a scroll out of marzipan with ‘[indecipherable] Anniversaire Richard’ on it and his wife took… was lifting it, was carrying it carefully and I thought ‘that’s not going to survive very long’ so I took a photo of it and replicated it on a postcard which we sent a couple of weeks ago, you know, special birthdays you know when people have special events, thank you cards are great fun to do, you know, very often if you can get a photograph of somewhere you’ve been, what the event has been that’s nice to do and just birthday cards, when people have a birthday, you know. We were up to see a friend last week and there were two of my postcards, her birthday cards over a time and a get well card from when she wasn’t well, you know and they’re kept which is nice.
ChB: So can you tell me bits about the quilting groups you belong to how long you have been involved with them and what types of things that you and they do?
CaB: Bears Paws started over twenty years ago and in fact Castle Wall is sort of second group a lot of the Bears Paws members moved into Castle Wall quilters at Aylesford that’s the one I go to most because that’s every Thursday morning and we’re a big group of between about forty four in the group… and… we all make… we make quilts, we have workshops every year we have a day where we make quilts, charity quilts, one of our members, her son was in the teenage cancer ward in St Thomas in London we got very involved with that because it was very distressing to watch our friend go through, as a grandmother you know and it was terrible, it was terrible for the whole family but we made quilts for the group and we heard that when they come back from chemo or if they weren’t feeling too well they would put a personal quilt it was their quilt all the time they were there and to keep when they left hospital you know and they would put it over their heads and that was to signal, I don’t want to communicate with anybody. This last year we made quilts for women’s refuges in the area its usually a local, preferably a local one, local charity and as they said… families come in distressed you know women come in they’ve literally got what they are standing up in and so we make quilts for all the beds in Maidstone House and because we are a big group some went to Swale, some went to Dartford and they’ll stay on the beds and as they said it’s a welcome when they walk into a room that it can’t be homely furnished, it’s fairly Spartan, it’s a bed and the basics. So to have a quilt on the bed its bright and its colourful and they’ve got them in the rest areas where the televisions are, so they if they want to snuggle, then they can use the quilts, you know and that’s a great pleasure to do. It’s also good because of course we’ve ended up with huge stashes of fabric and you know we can make quilts out of the bits that we are not so fond of or you know don’t need anymore. So that’s one thing we do we
I suppose actually quilting which started before I retired, there’s four of us we go to Birmingham we are quite comfortable sharing a room together we’ve done it ever since Birmingham started. We’ll get together, we’ll share cars so again there’s a social side to the quilting side of it, we all help each other there’s eight of us that we all go off to quilt shows around. So it’s given me a social life as well as… the quilting side of it and I’m often asked ‘will you have, can you help with this, have you got a book on’ you know Gaugin or Chagall or whoever it is… so I say more than likely, more than likely, [laughter] so I am plumbed for the knowledge if they want to and they know they can ask me if they want help I am not the most technical one because I use whatever techniques I can but I have got quite a lot of imagination and that can be plumbed quite well.
ChB: Are you still learning about the craft using new innovations that come along?
CaB: Yes, yes, yeah I love more, [repeats]more to the textile artists you know, I like to go see their work and I like the books they bring out and all the different techniques and very often the way in which I like again almost their history in the way they work, you know, I mean Nancy Crow I went to a lecture there when I was at my first school that was probably the beginning of the seventies when she first came over and she was talking about quilts and I had made a couple, well, like that top, not art quilts as such then no it was… and she just knocked me for six the way she spoke about what we could do the potential there was and the way in which quilting could you know be utilised it could be used in so many ways so I started then finding out about tech, well I knew a little bit about it but text textile art you know the history of say Indian fabrics you know and the way quilting goes right through history you know the Chinese quilt their jackets the Indians make Kanthas and on it goes, the more you see the more you want to know.
ChB: Describe different processes you use now in quiltmaking that we not around when you began.
CaB: Ah… I suppose there was none of the equipment for making any of the particular shapes so you only had an ordinary ruler you used scissors if you were doing paper piecing it was newspapers or old magazines huge development in pauses paints and printing inks and dyes you can use on fabrics you know I did screen printing at school and I used wallpaper paste and put Dylon into it which gave me a nice water fast, but a good medium for printing on, but mainly because real inks were too expensive but of course we were only using cheap paper you know from the schools, that survived the printing quite well and sewing machines I mean I still use a Bernina 1001 which is a fairly basic machine but yes all the stitches you can get on them, things like a decent light, I mean that’s not necessarily technique but its invaluable isn’t it? Especially as you get older all the threads all the fabrics that you can now buy, the information there is on quilts you know most people have hear of the Amish but it wasn’t much beyond that was it in the sixties?
ChB: So do you use commercial fabric or print and dye your own?
CaB: I mainly use commercial fabrics but I am slowly growing away from highly patterned fabrics to printed fabrics the texture the have texture or pattern on them I am using those and still the odd print but I don’t like I’m not fussed about a lot of the prints I find they don’t work well in the things I want to do. I’m always trying to find the bit the plain a bit faded around the edges I did print because I did tie dye, dyeing at school so I did dye a lot of my fabric I do a workshop printing I go along to that Ingar Milburn use to do lots of printing in plastic bags but I think having done all my printing and that in school. I’m not clean at home… in terms of dyeing so in the case of dyeing, so the kitchen would suffer a bit and I haven’t got an outside workshop that I could do it in so… and of course it’s time, you know, I never thought that when I retired I’d be looking for time to sew, you know, or making time to sew, you know, you’ve think people say ‘tired? You’ve got nothing to do.’ Got more to do now than I had to do when I was working.
ChB: Do you use other types of materials other than fabrics in your work?
CaB: Not often, no. I’ll put leaves or things behind a fabric to preserve them but there is a fairly I don’t know what the word is, conventional idea that you know I’ll use fabrics…on my Journal quilts I’ll use bits of paper you know, posters, little bits of labels, old postcards that sort of thing I’ll fit those on because I know they’re not going to be handled they’re just going to be laid there but no I’m not one for adding all sorts of paper things I’m not that experimental I suppose, yeah…
ChB: Tell me how you begin planning a new quilt project
CaB: I’ll see a picture it might be a picture that I’m looking at, it might be a drawing I’ve done, it might be an advert I was going through some old catalogues this morning and there was one had a lovely little painting of Lilies with a pattern background and it was all the greens and yellows I like so I tore that out, it might never be used it may suddenly spark off an idea but then I will decide how big I want it to be whether it is going to be one big one or a small block within others or whether it is going with others and then I start drawing it up and then I’ll start searching out fabrics and if you have a look upstairs at the moment it’s a heap of fabrics I mean there’s a mountain of fabrics I’m making the journal quilts ten inches square with some of the pieces two inches square, but I pull out all the ones that I think might be useful because just having them laying there gives an idea of how it’s going to work and then I’ll start piecing them together and depending on the design dictates really how I’m going to make it, whether I’m going to do by hand whether I’m going to use bonda web whether I’m going to applique it and it evolves from there.
ChB: So it’s not an actual end result in your mind before you begin?
CaB: There’s a picture up there [she touches her temple] which I’m hoping to achieve, but it may be as I go along its actually achievable not achievable for me so I’ll change it a bit eliminate things which is often the case isn’t it? Something looks as though, you look at a Bears Paws block and you suddenly realise there’s over forty little pieces in it. So you think ‘hmm’ so you think carefully if you’re going to make lots of bears paw blocks or you are just going to make one I mean that’s an example, but that’s very often something that looks very simple until you actually draw it I do like the drawing bit because I was trained you know to work things out by drawing them. And when you draw them you realise quite quickly whether it’s going to work out or not. You know how it’s going to fit together you know whether it’s going to be practical to do that and then you can simplify it from there.
ChB: I see you use other creative mediums to get a quilt off the ground as in your photography and drawings, you have described how your drawings helped what about photography?
CaB: Yes photography is, I’m not, ‘I’m a snapper, I’m not a photographer as such I take a snap, and again, I knew as a I walked through Hever I mean I have been looking at it all the years I’ve been going to Hever there’s always that beautiful purple Heliotrope and then those lovely stones and of course I am also thinking September what’s the big event of this month you know and it is in fact you know Hever because you have to think about it quite well in advance if you’re going to enter quilts and so I’ve always, [repeats] I’ve always loved the colours in there and then there’s a Berberis that’s cut like cloud an its covered in little red berries you know I you think ‘I can get something out of that’ [laughs] so I take a photograph, I may end up I only do a tiny section of it, I’m still fiddling with it round there thinking am making, am I trying to get the whole thing? Or was, do you know do you know just want a little bit of it? So it may boil down to just a small area of it. It may just be the colour I take from it, but it’s certainly patterns, texture, texture, colour and pattern I love, so that’s what normally draws me. I’ve got hundreds of pictures of old doors and old farm buildings, you know, where the barn doors are rusting away the locks and bolts and corrugated iron… whether they will get made into quilts I don’t know, but you see it may well be that I take a tiny bit of the photograph but want to use all purples because I am feeling all purples at the moment so the actual design is not necessary relate to what the photograph was about I’ve got quilt that was an aerial photo of Oyster beds in Brittany and I just likes the patterns that they made, so I took the patterns the fabrics they weren’t related to it. So yes really anything, I’ll have a postage stamp might have something interesting on it I can use that and I’ll stick them in my sketch book add to them doodle with them… means you collect an awful lot of stuff but… [Laughs].
ChB: You have mentioned Hever a couple of times. Can you describe what Hever is for those of us that don’t know?
CaB: Do you mean the buildings or the whole experience? [ChB: Yeah] When I started making quilts and they started accumulating somebody said why don’t you show them? And I thought well the whole point of them wasn’t necessarily to show them but then having belonged to The Quilters’ Guild and Jenny Lewis was around at the time I thought yes Ill show them at Hever, you know, so I started going to Hever and now it’s the only one I go to… it’s the only one I show in and I just love it, it’s in the autumn it’s a splendid show it was lovely meeting other people that were also quilters it was equally lovely to meet somebody like we did this last week, the week before, whenever it was that didn’t know what a quilt was. And it was a man and he was asking all sorts of you know very constructive questions and he was totally amazed by the quilts, you knowm and that’s wonderful and another girl came in and said ‘Are these homemade?’ I said ‘What do you mean?’ and she said ‘Well you know do you people make them?’ And we said ‘Yeah, yeah’. You know that’s something else I enjoy is other people’s interest in them and the fact that, and the fascinating thing people say ‘is that all you do? You only make quilts and then what do you do when then you’ve made them?’ ‘Well I put them upstairs and I start on the next one’ and you know [laughter] I find that so, so amazing. People collected, I don’t know, cigarette cards what they do put them in an album whether they intended to make money out of them later or not I don’t know, but the idea of just doing something because you enjoy doing it, getting great pleasure out of it and that’s one of the reasons I like Hever, and I’ve done the challenge every year that I have shown which I go back years for that and my challenge to me is the challenge every year which used to be a challenge some years when I was working but yeah.
ChB: How much time would you say you spend on your quilting?
CaB: [Pause] I don’t know probably… this time of, if I’m, if I’m at home I will quilt for say, three or four hours a day. Sunday was always my day off right from when I was working when first had the children. My husband is a cyclist so he’d go off on cycling most of the day and when the children were little they’d be doing things. Sunday was my day that I didn’t have anything to do with work and that’s when I would do creative work. It used to be knitting when they were tiny because there was no way could you sit at a sewing machine have little bits anywhere with pins in them and so on and I used to knit. I went to a couple of knitting workshops when he first came over and they absolutely opened my eyes with creative knitting with Kaffe Fassett he was a really young and handsome young man and they really opened my eyes again to creative knitting because he didn’t follow patterns he didn’t work with prescribed amount of wool its organic and it’s, it’s the same technique that is here but if I’m busy I’ll spend all day here if it’s a beautiful day outside I’ll go upstairs and most afternoons if I’m were not doing anything else I’ll clear upstairs from probably about two o’clock till about half past four, five and I’ll work up there.
ChB: Do you have a memory in your family of an old quilt at all when you were growing up?
CaB: I had two grandmothers that were they were one crocheted and knitted for us clothes when we were tiny the other used to get 100 per cent for her leather gloves in the Norfolk County Show and used to make a lot of other things but not quilts no.
ChB: Who got you into sewing in the first place?
CaB: Do you know I can’t remember. I should think my grandmother showed me how to crochet. She was always disappointed in me because I never held it the right way. I can crochet but I can’t hold it with two fingers I used to make villages and you know the models and things when I was a kid and I used to sew then, my mother always sewed… I don’t remember her making clothes but she could alter, darn, mend and do the basics. I don’t remember her having a sewing machine so it would have been made by hand so her hands were never idle, she could turn collars and that sort of thing. So I can remember my grandmother, these gloves but I never saw her making them I only ever saw the finished result so the other grandmother crocheted so I don’t think she sewed at all very much other than doing a hem if she had to.
ChB: What do you notice of other people’s work in design and workmanship? Do you take attention to it that sort of thing?
CaB: I do take attention to it, I get as much pleasure seeing a child’s quilt that’s actually the techniques are not perfection as I do looking at somebody like Phillipa Naylor’s Quilt who I am totally in awe of and I because she has seems to have a grand plan she does competition quilt and she it is perfect and I admire that in people the concentration it must take you know to do a small bit each day I’ll get that little bit perfect. And I have a friend who whose quilts must be perfect and she has a very narrow range of rich colours that she works in and does the most exquisite quilts but they cause her a lot of grief sometimes she said to me once It took spent two hours on this quilt trying to get that point right undoing it and doing it and I thought I wouldn’t do that you know that’s not in my nature I would, I would make it a curve and move on [laughs]. So I’m not precious about you know in many ways about what I do so when I see people that do work in a really perfect way it does leave me you know full admiration. But then I love the freedom of creative quilts and people who just, just it explodes on you and I do like social comment quilts. You know the quilts that have a social comment I do find those fascinating too because they will go down in social history.
ChB: Final Question – why is quilting important in your life?
CaB: It gives me the opportunity to be as creative as I want to be It gives me the freedom to work how I want to work it’s given me… a much wider social life than I had before we still know because I’ve known Frances since I was sixteen, I still have a lot of my old school friends and friends that we’ve grown up and changed but since I have retired and able to work during the day time, I have a whole new social life of the most unexpected people who I would never befriended in any other way and they are and they give you back as much as you give them and a chance to see all these wonderful quilts. They weren’t around when I was younger there weren’t the quilt shows were there weren’t the quilting groups and as I get older it does mean I’ve got a huge store up there of resources to keep me active and working for quite a while and then if I can pass heirlooms on I will it’s my son-in-law’s birthday today and there was a quilt hanging up there and he said when he first knew Kirsty he said to her I wouldn’t mind that quilt of your mums and it was African fabrics so I left it there in the summer and its going that can be there birthday present because it will be her birthday in a couple of weeks’ time so I’m hoping when I go at Christmas If he doesn’t like it anymore he’s not that bothered but that’s the sort of thing, gives you
ChB: Well thank you ever so much it’s been very interesting [laughter] thank you. [CaB laughs] We finish the interview at three o’clock
CaB: Good Lord, have I talked that long? Mind you I can talk….