ID Number: TQ.2015.32
Name of interviewee: Jan Clifton
Name of interviewer: Christine Burgess
Name of transcriber: Jan Clifton
Location: Jan’s home
Address: Hextable, Kent
Date: 21 July 2015
Length of interview: 0:47:49
Jan’s first quilt was made from striped, plaid and checked shirts and blouses; they were originally her own, from family members or from the local charity shop. She also talks about a couple of other quilt projects including one made for her daughter, one for a terminally ill friend and her son’s quilt, which is still a work in progress. Jan has run a couple of quilt groups and talks about these, as well as her future ideas and plans for quilting.
Christine Burgess [CB]: [Interview introductions] Hello Jan thank you very much for inviting me today. First of all I would like to thank you for inviting me today. You have kindly completed a small questionnaire and I would like to use your answers as a starting point. Can you tell me something about your quilt, size, fabric and design?
Jan Clifton [JC]: The size is 64 by 51 inches. I made it in 2008. I made it from old blouses and shirts.
CB: And the colours?
JC: Various colours as you can see, because they do come from shirts and blouses, it’s sort of stripes and [CB: Checks] plaids and checks because that’s the main thing I started with, with shirts. I started as a couple of son’s shirts he was getting rid of, in 2008 he got his first proper job after uni secure job, well hopefully a secure job, and he was buying some nice shirts as opposed to cheap shirts that he got as a student. When he was established in a secure job after many years of study and I said to him ‘don’t throw that out, cos its 100% cotton I’ll have that.’ I got a book out of the library, as this is the first quilt I’d ever made, which was ‘Quilts in a Weekend’ ha-ha-ha, quilt to make in a weekend, and this was in there and it was made with plaids and things and I thought I could do that for my first quilt because its simple squares. So I got the shirts from him. I went round the charity shops and got some really nice shirts, nice material. There was a lady in the charity shop, in Swanley, she got to know me and when I first went in there I was looking at labels and she was said ‘that’s size, so and so, and that’s size so and so,’ and I said ‘I am not interested in size, I just want 100% cotton’, so when I went in she said ‘oh I’ve just got this in’. So I got some from there and some from Brighton, a nice charity shop in Brighton, which was where my son was living near Brighton at the time because he was working down there, good quality ones. And some of them are from shirts and blouses of mine and my daughter I collected and then other bits were… a class I went to, an adult education class for patchwork and a few bits people said ‘you are collecting plaids’ and would put them on my table when I came in and that’s how I kind of got them together, a hotchpotch of shirting, really, but I like shirting because some of it is really good quality cotton, especially the ones I got in the Brighton charity shop, because it obviously very upmarket. My son knows now that if he’s getting rid of anything, shirts and that, to let me have them. In fact I spoke to him at the weekend and he said ‘I have just bought some really nice shirts, reduced, really quality shirts, reduced’. So I said ‘great but don’t get rid of them, when you are getting rid of them, pass them on to me’ so he knows that now, that he does that now that I’m on the lookout. Cos I do like using used material.
CB: Lovely. Who was is made for?
JC: Well, it was really made just for me, really, because it’s my first quilt and I do use it… I put it on the… at the moment it’s in the drawer in the bed because its summer time, but in the winter if I need a bit of extra warmth over the end of the bed, you know, I use it or I bring it down here especially before I got the new front door and it was blowing a gale, in the bad snowy winters I would sort of wrap myself up in it. So it’s well-used, but it really is just for me I suppose.
CB: Describe how you felt when you had completed it?
JC: I felt pleased when I done it, because I always said that when I gave up work, although I haven’t given up work, I would learn to do patchwork and although it was a very, very simple quilt compared to what the other people were making in the classes, looking back, it enabled me to move on and I’ve made more complicated things since and I’ve made lots of sewing things that aren’t quilts, because I’m always sort of sewing. So I was very pleased that I had done it and l learned the techniques of making a quilt so I felt that I could move on knowing the basics.
CB: How and when did you get involved in patchwork, or how and why?
JC: Well, I always wanted to do patchwork, as I said, and I said ‘when I retire I’m going to go and learn patchwork’, and I joined an adult education class but I wasn’t really retired, I’m still not retired, I work part time, but anyway I went to this class and I started to do this and so got this book from the library and I thought ‘yeah’ what with the shirts I had it came together and I thought ‘yeah, I could do that’, so I did it.
CB: So you’ve made more than this one quilt? Who have they been for, have they been for specific events, reasons?
JC: I made one for my daughter she chose it, its Jacob’s ladder, took me a long time. Most of it was by hand, because of matching up the diagonals and everything. She chose the colours because it was in a book, it was in the same colours as in the book she wanted which was black and white and red, and grey. Except for the grey I didn’t use a solid grey I found a grey with a very small, sort of, pattern on it, but you can hardly see it. Little sort of white pattern so I made that for her. I am still in the process of making one for my son I’m afraid. And that’s been interrupted by other things, because I made one for my sister who had a terminal illness. And that was something I wanted to get together quite quickly because she didn’t have a lot of time left. And I wanted to make it for her because she was going, she used to feel the cold anyway, but going for treatment she felt cold and I thought when she went to the hospital in the car she could take it and wrap it round her. That was just a crazy block quilt which I could get together quite quickly. I did most of that on the machine. Again that was just scraps started off with some reds that I had, so I decided to do it on a red theme collected and people collecting reds in the class would give me bits and I found bits so it was all sort of reds, so it was very, very bright, and I wanted something very bright and cheerful for her.
I also made a quilt for another friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, who has since died, but I made the quilt for her, I completed it before she died and gave it to her. And that one, I am hoping, well I am going to, I have spoken to her husband and I spoke to Rose when she was alive, when I gave it to her I said ‘could I borrow it back for the exhibition that I am organising’, from a voluntary group that I do. And she said ‘yes’ but then I asked her husband and said ‘could I borrow it back again for about a week to put in the exhibition’. Again that is very, very bright colours and I made that for her because I went to visit her in a hospice and I had this vision of a hospice being, sort of, quite bright colours, and nice furnishing, curtains and things, but the room she was in was so drab and dull and it was a lovely sunny day when I went there and it was so drab and dull and lacking of colour. Everything was beiges. And she had this hospital blanket over her legs and I thought ‘I’m going to make her a quilt, a nice bright quilt she can put over her when she is sitting in the chair’. So that, again was a very simple quilt that I got together quickly in bright shocking, sort of, pinks, lime greens… I managed to get, that was made originally from a fat quarter and then I managed to get some other material that went in with it; lime greens and shocking pinks.
CB: Can you describe what a fat quarter is please?
JC: A fat quarter is a quarter of a metre but instead of cut across the width, its cut down the length so you actually get a square of material. You can buy these in lots of places: Hobbycraft and all the craft fairs. I’ve never actually bought one before because I’ve always bought by the metre or got material that people has given me. In fact going back to the charity shop where I got some shirts, at Swanley, I was very lucky there once, when I went in, and the lady said to me, ‘Oh aren’t you the patchwork lady?’ and I said ‘yes’, and she said ‘oh we’ve just had these in, are you interested?’ And there were two big bundles of material, obviously from someone who used to do patchwork that had been brought in, perhaps someone had died and they were clearing out, I don’t know, two great big bundles £2 each. So they were about that high [gestures with hands] six to eight inches high. All sorts of material. So I said ‘Oh yes I’ll have them’ and that is why I have got such a lot of material upstairs in my sewing room. Because I was lucky. And if I want to make anything small like this, for example, this bag [shows interviewer a bag] because I wanted a bag to go to Wimbledon and just put over me, I didn’t buy any of that, that was all from scraps I had, that I could just get together. So I’m not usually stuck for small items, but as you know, us quilters we like… I’ve always liked fabric, even before I did patchwork so, you know, I do like looking at fabric.
CB: Thank you. So were there any other quiltmakers in your family, was your mum a sewer did she pass on her love of sewing to you?
JC: My mum wasn’t a sewer at all, she never sewed at all. Just about sewed a button on. She used to knit a bit. When I was very young, because we used to do sewing at school in our generation you always did sewing. In my teens I did two afternoons sewing a week and two afternoons cooking a week, so that’s probably why I am okay at sewing and cooking, but I am no good at science because I didn’t really get any science education, but there was an old lady, a friend of the family, she was like a gran to us because my grandparents died before I was born. She lived next door and then she moved not too far away, but she was included in our family; Christmas, Easter, school holidays, she took us out. She came from… she never had any children of her own. She came from a wealthy family. I am going back now to the 1800s because she used to tell me she came from a family of two girls and two boys, and the two girls were educated at home and they did things like sewing and art, that sort of generation. But she gave me this very old sewing machine, it was a Pfaff, it was a turn the handle one. She took time with me and she showed me how to use it, it had a shuttle bobbin. She showed me how to use it and I used to make my clothes when I was in my teens so I kind of always sewed but my Mum didn’t sew.
CB: Do you have a preferred technique, are you traditional or modern style quilter. What sort of things do you like?
JC: I don’t know what you mean by traditional or modern. But I have, I’ve got another quilt. I am quite interested in modern quilts, like unique designs I am interested in, whether that is just getting fabric from here and there or something unique… I did start a quilt that I didn’t wanna finish, which is a, sort of, an art quilt, if you like. It’s from a painting. It’s very complicated and I started to do it and draw it out in the class I was at. I spent ages and ages drawing it all out, the patterns, and a lady in that class who went to do… she did a City and Guilds, I think, and I’ve left that class now and so has she but I used to see her sometimes at another adult education class where we were both doing different classes on different subjects, and she said to me that she had learned a lot at with this City and Guilds, because I have always wanted to do a City and Guilds in textiles, and I might do a bit of one next year, a unit of one, and she said to me that I had chosen to do it in a very complicated way, which I probably did. She said she would help me do it in a less complicated way, which I probably did, and she said she would help me to do it in a less complicated way, but at the moment that is still upstairs, not done. But I have really got to get my son’s one done because it’s been hanging around.
And again that was one that he chose and it was supposed to be for his house in Brighton, but since then he has had to move on, he is not in Brighton anymore, so it was going to be for his first house. But that one is an Amish quilt but it’s got a bit of a twist on it. Because I’ve done, instead of just… mainly it is plain colours but colours he chose, but I had some material from the stash that I got from the charity shop that was black with… well it looks a bit like Japanese writing symbol design on it. So I used that as part of the stripes on the Amish quilt and then I decided that I would do the quilting design, which I chose which is a bit sort of Japanese looking, sort if squares and trellis, it a bit difficult to explain, but it sort of tied in with the black material with the Japanese design on it. So I’ve done that, I’ve finished that now, but this quilt, there’s a bit of a story to it because I didn’t get enough material, I went back to the same place to get more material and he said ‘I have got it but I haven’t got it with me, it’s at an exhibition I am doing’. A lady who I know who was going to the exhibition I gave her a swatch and said ‘get me some more’ but he didn’t have it. So I got some different material and because of that, because of the way it worked out I decided to make a reversible quilt. But I’ve never made a reversible quilt and I don’t even know now if it’s going to work, whether it is going to line up with the quilting because I haven’t got that far. But I have finished the design I have put on one side and now I have got to sandwich it together. I was hoping to get it finished for today’s interview, and see if the seams line up so I can quilt through in-the-ditch, on the seams. I don’t know whether that’s going to work or not, but it will be a reversible quilt but that is based on an Amish quilt. Again it was from that book I got this one from ‘Make quilts in a weekend’. I suppose if you are up all night and you’ve got someone cooking for you [CB chuckles], pegging out the washing for you and got to feed the cat or the dog, you perhaps can but I think it’s a bit unrealistic. But nevertheless it’s quite a basic design, apart from this quilting design that I did. Which was very, very, kind of difficult to do.
It’s on three strips, by the time I got to the last strip I kind of cracked how to do it. Cos I tried having cardboard templates, I tried just copying it. It’s like a trellis, and some goes under and some goes over, and there are some mistakes on it, I have got to go through and just check the design and un-pull some where it doesn’t go under or over in the right place. So in the end I ended up measuring it out with a ruler. When I started I didn’t have any equipment; so with this quilt I didn’t have a rotary cutter or a board, I just cut it out by hand. I didn’t have any quilting pins so I tacked it all in intervals, like you do, but of course since then, for Christmas presents and things, I’ve got a board, rotary cutter and things and rulers. That’s what I did with the Amish quilt but when I have done that I really want to get back to this art quilt or I have thought of another quilt that I want to do, but I am in the process of drawing it out in between.
CB: So you plan meticulously?
JC: Well, not for this one particularly or the Amish one because they were very simple but the two I want to do now, the one that, sort of, I started, the one that’s the art quilt and the one I’ve got another idea for, is gonna be quite complicated so it needs to be drawn out, in proportion so that I can get it right otherwise… I can’t really draw so I couldn’t really make it up as I go along, so I need to draw it out with squared paper, copy things, because I can’t just do it freehand, so I can’t just really… Although I can cut, when my daughter was growing up I made dresses for her, but I particularly made a lot of costumes for her for her dancing. She did six nights a week dancing, all sorts of dancing right the way through from three up to she is still dancing now. But not only that, when she was in shows and things the other mums at the dance school they used to say like… she used to dance in a group of like two or four they used to say ‘oh, can you make Sarah’s costume for me?’ ‘Can you make Lara’s costume for me because I haven’t got the time?’ I don’t know how they thought I had the time because I was on my own with two children and I was working but I did used to do it, and I used to be glad to do it. So from that point of view if she needed a costume, I don’t know, they needed a one for say, national dancing was one of the dances she used to take, as well as ballet and tap and contemporary, they might be doing a dance from Bavaria so I would research the costume at the library because there wasn’t any internet really then when she was growing up, and see what they had. And then I often used to go down to… because they only might wear it once, say for a competition so it wasn’t worth spending a lot of money on it, so I used to go down to Dartford Market, as it was then, which was not in the same place as it is now and go through the remnants bins and get bits and pieces, and get bits of ribbons and things and copy them. So I could do that, I used to get the measurements of the girls and I could cut out for that, like a skirt and a blouse.
CB: What sewing machine do you have?
JC: I have a Necchi which I think went out of business but I think they are back in business now. But it was… I’ve had since… mmm how many years… for about 45 years and I traded in that old Pfaff, which I regret now, trading that in to get this, but I needed the trade in money whatever he gave me, it wasn’t much probably and I bought this, I think it was like a Christmas present from erm, Christmas and birthday present money and I bought this Necchi, which at the time, when I think of the price I paid for it you can still get a basic machine for that price now, although it wasn’t one of the expensive ranges, but it just does basic and overlock on it, but touch wood, I haven’t had any problems with it, never not done anything with it and I really, really like it. Because when you look at modern machines they are plastic casing and mines got a metal case, it’s a really nice solid machine, so I really love it and I’m really attached to it. I would hate it to go wrong and have to get another one
CB: So when you decide you are going to make a quilt how much planning goes into it and how do you track down material for those quilts, where do you get the fabric from?
JC: Well this art quilt I was planning, I had a lot of that material, in the stash that I got from the charity shop, there was just so much. Then, again, in the class, which is the nice thing about class, people know you are collecting they say, ‘I’ve got this, I don’t want it, thought you might want it’ and I did buy some for that at one of the craft fairs I went to. So I have got all the material for that but I’m a bit stuck on that so I kind of need some help really on that one to get it off the ground if I go back to it, which I will go back to it once I’ve done this, but this other idea I’ve got recently, I am going to buy some fabric for that, maybe I’ll look for it when I go to Festival of Quilts because I haven’t got the basic colours for that. I’ve got scraps and that, that I can use for the things I want to do but the basic background I haven’t got the colours or the amount of material, so I’m going to buy some. Although I did see some in Hobbycraft really good quality, last week, reduced, but I hadn’t worked out what I needed so when I go to my class this week, my class, my group, I might pop over and see if they still have it because it is a good buy and good quality. Check the colours.
CB: Tell me about the group you run?
JC: Well the group I run. I did run a group for U3A [University of the Third Age], a patchwork group, cos round here the U3A’s only a couple of years old, they opened up a U3A and I volunteered to run a patchwork group which I rented a church hall and we did that. That ran for about 18 months, I was quite ill for a lot of that time although I kept it going, but then work times changed. I’d had to work fixed days whereas previously I was on a rota and I always managed to not work on the once a month meeting that I did this group for. But I had to work on set days, and one of the set days was the day that I had to do the… that my group ran. And for various reasons, hall availability and people couldn’t come on another day, that folded. But last October I was looking for some voluntary work to do for when I retire. I am hoping to actually finally give up work this year and I saw the library’s, they wanted someone to run a Stitch and Sew Group, Crayford library, so I applied and I’m running it, and it’s Stitch and Sew, so it’s not all patchwork. I have taught some of the ladies patchwork they wanted to know but we do all sorts of things, the ladies do various things, you know, crochet, knitting, embroidery, one makes dolls, one makes dolls furniture and she makes all these little dresses and little covers for the bed, and curtains and things. She does that as well. And we have had crochet sessions where three of us taught three ladies to crochet, so it’s very much a skills exchange. But we are doing an exhibition of our work for this September which will be patchwork, knitting, crochet, embroidery, a doll that one of them made, a rag doll, all different things on display. Although there will be quite a few quilts going to be on display and quilted items such as my quilted patchwork cushion over there [points to cushion]. I’m gonna put that in because that was the very first patchwork thing that I made in the class, just from scraps from the teacher’s scrap bag that she had in the cupboard that she used to stick anything in that we didn’t want. So that is going ahead at the end of September. And also in there, we have researched the history of knitting, crochet, patchwork and quilting, embroidery… I think the lady who has done the dolls is going to do the history of doll-making, ragdoll-making. So that’s all gonna be up on the boards as well. So I am hoping that we get a lot of people in, even if they don’t want to see our work, or will perhaps be interested in that if they are interested in craft. And I did the history of patchwork and quilting and then other ladies have done different things.
CB: Do you calculate the cost of your quilting? How much a quilt costs? [JC: What material?] All equipment you have bought?
JC: Not really. I haven’t really spent a lot on materials as I say I was lucky enough to get things second hand or the bundles I got, so I haven’t really spent on that. As far as equipment is concerned, the cutting board and rotary cutter and ruler I asked for that for Christmas, my son got me those. I say got them, I gave him the link and he ordered them online for me because he didn’t know what they were, so from that point of view I haven’t.
I did calculate how long it took me to make the Jacob’s ladder quilt. Because where I work there was a young woman in the library, a friend in the library that was interested and I just took in what I had made and took in some… I did take that one in to show her. There was a young girl working there said ‘do you take orders for quilts?’ and I said ‘no, you couldn’t afford one of my quilts because I put too much time in them.’ I pointed her to this book, ‘Make quilts in a…’ and I said ‘there’s lots of simple quilts in there’, which was the library where I got it from, and I said ‘if you wanted to you could get that out and have a go and I don’t mind helping you but…’ But I don’t think she did. But I did work out how many hours I spent doing the Jacob’s ladder quilt and that worked out roughly to about 240 hours that is a rough estimate. But most of that was done by hand at classes etc. That took me a long time because it was done by hand, and the sort of matching it up and the hand quilting on it, it did take me a long time but this one didn’t take me nearly as long as that cos it’s just squares and rectangles, so I could machine that together and I just did the hand quilting on that. So that didn’t take me as long at all, which is probably why it was quite satisfying for my first quilt as I didn’t get fed up.
CB: What do you think makes a good quilt?
JC: Well I like originality. I am not keen on, well I mean I know everyone’s different but I know you can get kits and put them together, to me, that’s fine if you wanna do that, but to me part of a quilt is having something unique so if you get it from a kit there are hundreds of other that have got the same. Even if you follow a traditional pattern’s, like that one, the cushion’s Monkey Wrench, if you chose different material, if you make one and I make one they are going to look completely different depending on the material. I do like the uniqueness of it because I think that is… I quite like having things that nobody else has got, if you see what I mean, it’s kind of unique and you’ve made it for somebody and it’s unique. The one I made for my friend, who unfortunately died, there is not going to be another one like it. And I put her name on it and everything, I put who it was from. So I like unique quilts, rather than kit quilts, even if you follow the design but you chose your own materials. So someone’s log cabin is gonna be different from someone else’s log cabin. Cos they all look completely different. And the crazy quilt I did for my sister, a lady in the class, she’d done two of them and she showed them to me, and the three quilts were completely different because she did them in different colours, so completely different.
CB: So where do you get your inspiration from, you obviously have a lot of ides in your head?
JC: I have got loads of ideas for quilts. And if I lived to be 200 I would never do them all but I really want to make, I really want to make a baby’s quilt but I don’t have any grandchildren coming along. So I’ve got loads of ideas for them, really unique ideas and would love to do that. I’m frightened that if my daughter does have a baby I think I will panic then cos I’d only have about six months to make it. So should I start making it now, just in case, you know. But I’ve got the art one I got from a painting and I am quite keen on doing, I would like to do more from paintings, I would like to do cushions from paintings. Cushion covers with influence of paintings.
CB: The colours or the designs?
JC: Both really. I have got, although, it’s not a quilt, another thing that I got the stuff for but I haven’t even started it, was to do a picture from a Picasso painting. I got the material from a craft fair. There was this woman, she was selling these kits, and it wasn’t patchwork as such, it was felt but it wasn’t like traditional felt, it was more quality wool, and she did all these pictures and I bought a scrap bag because I liked the colours and I thought ‘oh I can do something with that’, I had no idea what I was going to do with it. And then I got the scrap bag and then I suddenly thought ‘oh I could do a picture’, like she’d done pictures, not art pictures, because I like art and I go to the art galleries and I’d got a picture of a Picasso painting and I worked it all out and I said ‘yeah that’ll work’ and I got material and everything but that’s as far as I’ve got with that it’s all… [CB: In your head?] in my head, and in my sewing room, which is a bit of a mess at the moment with all the stuff I’ve got… So I am determined though, to try and get back to… The good thing about going to a class every week is because at least when I got there, although we chatted you did sort of sew each week and I did a bit at home. But because I run this group, this voluntary group, in theory I’m supposed to be getting some sewing done there but in practise I don’t because I’m showing things. Lady came along who was new and she wanted to make a quilt for her grandson that was due any day, well the baby’s born now, and she said ‘oh do you think it’s too ambitious?’ and in my head I’m thinking, ‘yes, it is ambitious for someone whose not even sewn’ but I didn’t tell her that and I spent time drawing out the pattern, for her, the blocks because I’m not very good at… I’m more of a visual learner, I’m not very good at reading things, I didn’t think the instructions were very good and I wanted her to see it, and explain to her how she could get it together, it was quite simple. And so I did all that, and she came back and said to me ‘oh I think it’s a bit ambitious what I’m doing, I think I’ll just do something plain.’ She’d already bought the material so then, I showed her what I had cut out of the templates and how it went together and so she said… And I said ‘Look what if you don’t want do every other square in the blocks, you could just do a few isolated blocks with the pattern…’ which was a sailing boat in blue with sails and that, it was just basically triangles sewn together really. So she went away and she came back the next week and said ‘I think I will do it’.
So, you know, I spend time with people there, showing them… I showed them how to do a demonstration of rotary cutting, and I did the crazy block, showed them how to do the crazy block. So people who had never quilted before they just did that which was easy and then they can make it into something, a small item or a cushion cover which one lady did. She went on to make another one, she got some more material and made them for her daughter. So I don’t really get much sewing time there. And also planning this exhibition, every week I have to do the feedback, because everything I do for the exhibition has to go through the library manager. So I have to email them and I get feedback, questions come up, I have to ask the library manager so there’s this sort of three way conversation. So every week, especially it getting sort of now we have got deadlines to meet to get exhibition up and running on time, I don’t find I get much sewing time. But I am going to try to get more sewing done at home. Especially now the, once the autumn comes, because you are not out as much in the winter as you are in the summer.
CB: Do you prefer hand or machine piecing? I can see that you have hand quilted and you are probably going to do in-the-ditch with your son’s reversible quilt. Which do you prefer?
JC: I have never machine quilted, ever. I like hand quilting. I like hand sewing anyway. I haven’t machine quilted because I don’t really think unless you have a proper quilting machine it’s not like proper quilting, it’s just stitching that’s close together. When I went to a shop to look at material, went with a friend and they sell sewing machines and I’ve seen sewing machines at exhibitions, in fact I’ve always been cheeky and asked if I can have a little go cos ive always wanted a Bernina. I’m not gonna buy it, you know, they are thousands of pounds and this guy there I said to him, I saw this machine that did quilting. I said, ‘Look I’m not going to buy it but could you show me? Cos I don’t want you to think you are wasting your time’ and he showed me and it was a Japanese machine and it did do proper quilting, and it was lovely. It was about three and a half thousand pounds then, a few years ago. But I like hand stitching anyway and I think with hand quilting it is something unique, because my stitching, it isn’t the same as anyone else’s. My quilting stitches are not very small, I would love to be able to get them smaller, I am still practising… [Pauses] Yeah I’d love to be able to quilt smaller I’m still practising but nevertheless, I just think that hand stitching is kind of unique because if you stitched that it would be different to my stitching, so its something I put into the quilt, [CB: Yes] something original. And I think that is one of the things with quilts, they are original. Otherwise you could just go to the shop and they do sell so called patchwork quilts now, I’ve seen them in the chain stores, nothing like, you know, they are nothing like the ones that you see at the quilt shows, that people have done some fantastic quilts, loads of work in them and very complicated.
CB: What do you do with the quilts you’ve made, are they always for someone?
JC: Well, l, the more complicated ones I have made for other people. The only ones I have made for me is this one here. The first one and that one over there [points] which is just a lap quilt which is literally all scraps that I had. And I made it one Bank Holiday weekend, Easter it was, because it’s got the label on it, where I planned to go out and it tipped down the whole three days and I was stuck in. I was quite disappointed because I wanted to go to London. I was going to meet a friend and we were going to do things and it didn’t work out so it was just a horrible weekend. I thought ‘what can I do, I’ll go stir crazy.’ So I, again, they are literally all from that bundle that I got from the charity shop, you can see it’s a hotchpotch of material and I just cut it all out with the rotary cutter and I did get it together at the weekend, I didn’t get all the quilting done at the weekend, but I did get it all together in the weekend. I spent a lot of time, laid it all on the floor rearranging it, cos although it’s completely random, as you know probably, some things look better together. They are the two that I have made for me.
Then I made one for my daughter, one for my sister, one for my friend and the one for my son that’s in the making and after that I’m going to make for me. And the reason, you did ask me about why I wanted to learn patchwork and the very reason, going back to that question, I have three big boxes, like that [gestures], of silks and satins that I had given to me from someone that I used to work with, who was retired and I mentioned to him one time that when I retired, I was talking to him about his retirement, I said I wanted to do patchwork. And he said ‘I’ve got some material’ because he used to work as a cutter for a very Haute Couture organisation that made dresses, evening dresses, wedding dresses and evening dresses for all the… Lady this and Lady that, Lady Di even as she was then, going back some years now, and I said ‘okay’ and he gave me all these scraps of silks and satins. And he said ‘right, this one was…’ I’m going back some years now, ‘£50 a metre, £75 a meter’, and ‘this was made for Baroness so and so or Lady so’ and the names didn’t mean anything to me. Nearly all whites and creams and I thought ‘when I retire I want to learn patchwork and I want to make a patchwork quilt for my bed with this’. But of course I haven’t done it because I had to start with cotton and I’ve been told, and it will be very difficult to work with and I’ve got to sort out a design. When I went to, oh I can’t remember, one of the craft exhibitions, oh Excel, I think it was Excel. They had an exhibition there of all different costumes, sort of 18th century costumes, and there was one there that was all done in silks and the designer just happened to be there talking to people, so I had a chat with him and it was absolutely out of this world, you know, all done with silks and satins, absolutely spectacular, such fine detail. And he was saying he made it like as a work of art. Cos I said ‘Has anyone worn this on stage’ and he said ‘No, I just made it as a work of art.’ And I did pick his brains a bit about this silk and satins and how I’m gonna do it. So that’s another project that I would really like to do, for me for my bed. And I know that people say ‘you know, you won’t be able to get the sun on it’ etc. and I’ve got a sunny bedroom in the morning. But I thought ‘well I’m going to do it anyway’. But I think with that I’m going to have to do the designs going to have to be in the shapes because it’s got no colours as such, because it’s all whites and creams, although there’s different whites and different creams. But there’s different weights I’ve got heavy satins right down to very, very lightweight silks, like the silk that was used for Princess Diana had for her wedding, which was a very, very creasy up silk, shot silk, loads of it, that’s why she looked creasy when she got out of the carriage. So it was right from that sort of silk to, right up to heavier silk, satins and I’ve three big boxes of that. I am not short of projects, I’m just short of time.
CB: Doesn’t sound like it. So, final question, why is quilting important in your life?
JC: Because I enjoy sewing, its creative, I like to being creative and the things I make that aren’t quilts I think are quite creative, they are different, you know like my bag and my little sewing bag and that. And also I have met a lot of people through quilting, made a lot of friends, wherever you go, if you go to craft fairs and things, even people you have never met before, sit down and have a cup of tea and they bought something and they show you and you talk to them, and they say where they quilt and what they are going to do. And I’ve just met a lot of nice people through it really and it’s just something that I enjoy doing. And I think it’s more worthwhile, all the time I was working and I didn’t have time to do creative stuff, I realised, once I started getting back to doing creative stuff, and I don’t mind what I do, I go to any craft workshop and learn a new craft, I realised there was a big bit of my life missing, I needed to do something… you know I was no good in a job where it’s not creative, it’s alright if you are meeting people, it’s just sort of soul destroying really. I need to do something creative, I can’t paint or draw but I can sew, well I do sew, whether I can sew I don’t know [laughs] but I do sew. And my son always jokes with me, jokingly because if I need anything he says ‘well make it out of patchwork, mum’ because he jokes with me because I made a phone, out of patchwork material. If I need something then he like ‘make it’ and if I need something, a bag or something, I have made quite a few bags for my daughter and myself. I like making bags. Bit of a thing about making bags. If I see a new bag pattern I want it.
CB: So it’s filling a creative need in you?
JC: I suppose so, I think we all have a creative side, but some people don’t follow it. I do woodcarving that’s quite a newish hobby, not very skilled at that, I’ve only been doing it for a few years but I do enjoy that. I’ll always go to a craft workshop, whether it is sewing or something else. To learn something.
CB: Well thank you. That has really been interesting, thank you very much, it’s now almost half past 12 and we are ending the interview there.