ID Number: TQ.2015.047
Name of interviewee: Jenny Morris
Name of interviewer: Jan Godding
Name of transcriber: Take1
Location: Jenny’s home
Address: Leatherhead, Surrey
Date: 21 September 2016
Length of interview: 0:50:02
Jenny describes her ‘Fantasia’ nine patch quilt; named after the Disney film that she fondly remembers watching with her son when he was a child. She describes the pattern and making of the quilt in details, along with her selection of the fabrics. Jenny began quilting in the 1980s at the height of the quilting revival and talks about how she learnt, how quilting has changed and what quilting equipment she uses. Jenny also talks about her long membership of Mole Valley Quilters and the importance of these friendships.
Jan Godding [JG]: Good morning. This is the 21st of September 2016, and I am interviewing Jenny Morris in her home in Leatherhead in Surrey, and the time is 9.45. Thank you very much Jenny for seeing me today. Um. You’ve g… you’ve chosen a quilt to talk about and it would be um really great for you just to describe it for the records of how, how it is, how it looks, um and … the sort of fabric and the pattern that you used, if there is one.
Jenny Morris [JM]: Oh! [Laughs] Um well I always use 10 percent cotton on um for the front, the back, and the wadding is 80/20. Uh I usually use um… Yeah, it’s 80/20 cotton and whatever the other 20 percent is. Um. I collect the fabrics up usually, I have a huge stash as many quilters do, um and I tend to put them into… uh I store them in colours, not just the same colour but the colours that I think will go well together. And I’m usually set off by a particular fabric so then I collect fabric that blends ’round it. And in this particular quilt I had a piece of fabric which has huge I th… blue I think they’re chrysanthemums but they might be roses. Um it’s quite stylised. There’s huge blooms or blossoms, and then lots of entwining stems but it’s not naturalistic. Um and it… There’s… The flowers are dark blue or bright dark blue, and the background is shades of blue, going down to um aqua e-eventually, just sort of all sh… different shades of blue between um mid-blue and, and aqua, um. And it’s just asking really to be cut up into smaller pieces but using uh the big flowers. The, the design I’ve used a lot in the last few years is based on, um, ideas from an American quilter called Judy Sisneros, if that’s how she says it [laughter]. Um and she’s produced a few books now but the original one I started with was Nine-Patch Pizzazz, which I bought, ooh some years some years ago now, um. But she works on the premise that you can use fabrics with large patterns, um instead of chopping up into small pieces ’cause there are wonderful fabrics about with large patterns and then you think, ‘If I chop this up I’ve lost the design.’
JG: [Laughs] Yeah.
JM: [Laughs] So, this is a wonderful way of using some large pieces and what sh… what she does, um, in every quilt, you have… you start with two large pieces that are 12 and a half inches square.
JG: Yeah, that’s quite a large square isn’t it to start with, yeah?
JM: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I say 12 and a half is the cutting size so you’re talking about 12 inches when it’s all sewn up, um for which it’s a good idea, and I did this because I, I wanted to do a few of these, is to buy a, a cutting template that is 12 and a half inches square; one of those plastic grid templates. And I have a six and a half inch ruler, because you need to cut six and a half inch squares, and six and a half by 12 and a half inch rectangles, plus lots of two and a half inch strips, which I’ll come to in a minute. Um you, you start with your two 12 and a half inch squares and they lay out on a… an area that you’re planning for your quilt, and they can be linked diagonally or they can be separated by smaller squares. This one, hmm what does this one do? Ah. Um. Yes. Yes, at the top, the top left-hand corner there’s a long rectangle six and a half by 12 and a half, and then there’s one of the big 12 inch squares coming diagonally across the quilt, and then there’s a six and a half inch square coming across, and then the other big 12 inch, and then a long rectangle in the opposite corner.
JG: Right, so a very strong diagonal line.
JM: Yes, the whole design is very strong in a diagonal way um, and then you, you arrange some other pieces; there’s another rectangle in there, and there’s a number of six and a half inch squares, which you scatter about the quilt. [JG laughs] Um the idea being that you do not put um any of the big pieces parallel with each other, or if you do they must um they must be up a step and not absolutely level with each other…
JM: …’cause that would upset your… apparently the…
JG: So she’s setting quite clear guidelines?
JM: Oh yes.
JM: Yeah and she has patterns, or she has plans in her book um. This one is not like… is not precisely like any of hers, which I’ll come back to, but um I ha… I have d… used her layouts more or less as they are on other quilts when I was getting used to the idea. This one is um based on what she does but I’ve um rearranged it, um. And then, having put in your focus fabric, which is the big pattern, um you can have a complementary one, she called it a complementary one, which is either similar in design or in the same theme. Um, now I saw these big blue flowers um and they’ve always reminded me of um … of Disney really because they’re very bright and bold, um very clean cu… clean colours, and I, I sort of had in the back of my mind that, that they were a bit like some of the things you see in Fantasia back, you know back in the Fifties, so whenever it came out; earlier than that wasn’t it? Um. And I also had, not very much unfortunately, this fabric with um hummingbirds on or… [JG: Mmm.] and they’re very Disney-esque as [laughs] well. Um. And I only had a small piece. I mean if I’d had more of them there would… they would have been scattered about a bit more prolifically ’round the quilt, but unfortunately I only ended up with, one, two, three, four, five, about six squares, so I had to be quite um sparing.
JG: Just by chance they have the exact blue of the flowers to pick up.
JM: They do. Well that’s why you see they end up in the same bag. When I’m sorting my stash or when I’ve bought fabric, I always go through and I say, ‘Well this fabric belongs with that fabric because it has similar tones which I might lu… use in the quilt.’ Yes, they’ve got the same dark blue in their background, um uh but the, the birds are salmon pink and blue aren’t they really? Yellow. There’s quite a lot of yellow in them.
JG: Orangy and pink which… Yeah.
JM: And there’s, there’s lime green in the bird’s background as well. But…
JG: And it introduces a very beautiful complementary colour…
JG: …in the colour wheel sense to the blue flowers.
JM: And there’s lots of colours to choose from. Well having established your focus fabric and your complementary fabric, you then… and you’ve laid it out, you’ve then got to fill up all the spaces. And what you… what she does is makes up sets of nine patches.
JG: Nine. That’s where the nine patch comes in.
JM: The Nine-Patch Pizzazz. And the nine patches… Um, there’s of… In a small quilt there might only be two sets but in a big quilt like this there would be three, maybe four sets. What I have got? One. I can’t remember. I think it was about three sets. Um. And you make them by a quick method on the machine which I like; I’m very fond of quick methods. Um. You cut, you cut um three str… three strips of two colours, and then um you rearrange… you put two with one and um the other, the other two in a set of three with another one from the other set, and you sew them in strips and then you cut them across. But you can… This is quite a common method; I mean you can find it on the internet…
JM: … it’s not special to her; um it’s just a quick machine method for nine patches. Um. Now in this one… And then you, you choose lots… several blenders, um…
JG: Yes. Yep.
JM: … blending fabrics and I have a wonderful fabric, that’s this one, where it… it looks like clouds in the whole piece of fabric but it changes from yellow to orange to pink. A c… It’s a sort of tie-dye effect. So when you chop it into sli… into strips you get the colours pop up at random. I mean there’s not much planning in that, that’s just the way they, they come up.
JG: Yes, but it’s…
JM: But it, it picks out again, it picks… it ble… it picks out the colours behind the birds…
JM: … very well, so I thought well that’s, that’s my ma… that’s one um set of nine patches. And then the other set um is this rather softer one, which is um … well, aquamarine, turquoise, pale green, and yellow spots.
JG: Yes [laughter]. Another blotchy one.
JM: Another blotchy one. It is very good this design for lots of blotchy fabrics really…
JM: … and the more blotchy ones you have the more they blend in together. Um. So the idea is that you … you do see the edges of the big squares and so on but sometimes, not perhaps in this one because the focus fabric is so dominant, um you get, you get a blend or a, a between the little squares and the big squares and you can no longer see quite so clearly the, the layout. Um. And I suppose… Up there you get it don’t you? We…
JM: … we’ve got, you’ve got the big blue s… the big blue pattern and then the turquoisey, um limey sort of pieces and they all blend together. Um. So…
JG: Yeah, it’s much more difficult to see the edges there than where it’s picking up from the orange and pink. Yeah.
JM: Yeah. Yeah. Than that. That’s right. Now, uh because I didn’t have as many of the birds as I would have liked, um I had to do a little bit of wangling here and there and I’ve altered in places uh the way I would normally do it. The, the system is, and this works quite well, um is when you have a row of nine patches, there’s a nine there, you… this is an artistic thing and people who know about art will know this, you, your nine patches, if your nine patches start at a top edge, and they come zigzagging or diagonally down, and they must finish at an edge…
JM: … ’cause that carries your eye through the quilt and out.
JM: Um, if you stop in the middle, you’re sort of saying, ‘Where do I go next?’ [Laughs] Um. Uh down the, as you see, I’ve had to do slightly strange things in the middle but I think it’s worked all right ’cause all the colours are so… [JG: Yeah] are so blending. Um.
JG: The strong diagonal is still the blue…
JG: …but the others then pick it up as you go through the green blue green ones.
JM: Yes. In some of the quilts your nine patches form a very strong diagonal, um but this one sort of blends into itself. When I’m storing these fabrics, the blue of the roses, um I was also storing the border [laughs] because…
JG: Border fabric here is a stroke of genius [laughs].
JM: Well it’s just an ordinary cotton. I think… Well I don’t know if it was a quilting fabric or a dress fabric and I didn’t buy it as a whole piece, somebody gave it to me in pieces; looked as if a dress had been cut from it or something. And um but it just has… it was in s… it’s a stripy fabric, but the piece that I wanted was I suppose vine leaves in the right pale blue against the same dark blue as the roses.
JM: So… And I could just cut it out. It’s, it’s a strip of vine leaves with s… a spotty section either side, and, and there was ano… there were other strips in the design which I just discarded, well I’ve still got them but I mean I didn’t use them in this quilt, um because it just tied it together so well. And it…
JG: But you could search for 20 years and not find a border like that [laughs].
JM: [Laughs] I know. That was, that was just an accident that’s why … I, I collect fabric and put it in, in, in bags a-and wait to see what turns up you know? If you go out and look for it you often can’t find it.
JM: Um and then the border is a … a sort of batik but it’s almost tie-dye. It’s, it’s shades of blue anyway similar to the, to the main colour.
JG: The, the blue is absolutely right again.
JM: Yeah. That one I probably did go out and buy specifically to match. Um so and then, when you’ve pieced it all together, and it does go together very, very well, because, because there’s so many big pieces and then the smaller squares and then the rectangles, you don’t end up with too many nine patch seams coming together. So you, you join some nine patches, and then they ca… often join along a plain edge so you don’t get the crossover of the seams to cope with. You do in places, you have to do um butting them, but um it does help to have the big pieces; it smooths it all out. Um, and you join it obviously so that… Th-There’s no particular method for joining it, it’s what the layout is and how… I’ve got to make um blocks, bigger blocks, rectangles or big squares or strips across, in order to join it and then because of the big pieces you have to work ’round them and I’ve got about two, two nine patches and then a big block.
JM: It, it… You do have to stop and think at that point which way, how am I going to join it together. Um. And then when you’ve stretched it ou… well when you’ve laid it out on wadding and you’ve found a backing and all the rest of it, um. She usually quilts diagonally and I do too because I’m, I, I haven’t mastered um… quilting with the dog’s… the feet dropped and, and going ’round in pebbles and so on. Um, [laughs] so I, I usually stick two in the centre just coming from… Uh I choose… Uh I place it in uh small blocks, uh w… w… to take a thread across diagonally and I… [JG: Yeah.] you can see here I’ve avoided the very brightly coloured squares.
JM: So there’s no stitching going across the bright yellow, bright pink and, and so on. The, the quilting is all in the um… what she calls quite rightly the mushy [laughs], the mushy blendy fabrics, and then whatever colour you’ve used…
JG: Yes. Yeah.
JM: And actually they usually work out to be the same kind of squares so, this is a, a pale uh aquamarine or something.
JG: Right. But it’s a strong diagonal quilt again. You’ve…
JG: … not done a crosshatch anywhere.
JM: No, I…
JM: No, I I’ve been… I mean this one, um, it’s through the, the cent… it’s alternate squares. Sometimes I [laughs] if I don’t want to do too much I leave two squares but this one is quite a large quilt and I thought it, it merited having them.
JM: And what I do, to make life easier, is I put masking tape um across here…
JM: …across the squares, just slightly shy of where obviously I’m gonna sew ’cause otherwise you end up sewing the masking tape and that’s not easy to get off again, um, but it’s a line to follow…
JM: … and then it, it peels off easily. So it takes a lot of… This, this quilt took a lot of masking tape [laughter] um, but um it it’s a very good way of getting, getting a straight line betwe… You think you can do it by eye, but you can’t…
JG: But you can’t. No.
JM: … so it’s… And also you meet the big squares…
JM: … and so you’ve got to have a line across here to the next one over there.
JG: Have you ever been tempted to leave the big squares and do something different in them?
JM: No, ’cause I, I prefer to get my quilting all done in one line. I don’t like, I don’t like tying it off in the middle, you end up with an awful lot of ends if you’re not careful…
JG: You do, yeah.
JM: … so I try to get as much as quilting done. And in fact very often, yes I’ve done it on this one, I’ve come down the… across the diagonal, and then in the ditch, down the bo… acr… along the border, to go up the other way again so that I haven’t broken thread.
JG: Yeah, you need that to keep it square. Yes.
JM: Yes and also you don’t have to break thread. So if you look very closely you can see that thread li… running along the edge, but to the… just looking at it from a distance or in general use you don’t notice. So um … so I called this quilt Fantasia, because it, it, it’s kind of based on ideas, or it reminded me of Disney’s Fantasia which my son… I used to watch with my son when he was little many, many, many years ago, um but it’s the colours. I didn’t go and look at the film before I made the quilt up so it was just what was in my head still. Um but it is those colours, the very… those bright … slightly softened. They’re not really primary colours but they’re bright, um and I like bright colours [laughs] so.
JG: Right. You obviously feel quite warmly towards this quilt so…
JM: Oh yes. Yeah.
JG: …um you you’ve made others in the same pattern you said but why this one then?
JM: Well, I suppose it’s one of the largest I did and I spent… and, and as I say it’s got this Fantasia connection, um…
JM: … back to when my son was about three-years-old. He was… We used to watch it over [laughs] and over again. I’m not quite sure what, what um, what attracted him. I mean, it has lots of other bits in it; it has the horses, doesn’t it um…
JM: … and, and um and then of course at the end there’s um Mickey Mouse and uh the Sorcerer’s Apprentice story.
JG: How do you use this quilt at the moment?
JM: I don’t use it myself, uh it, it, it hangs on my quilt rack, um ’cause I don’t really have anywhere to use it. It’s a bit large. I use a lot of my quilts as knee quilts or, um, some on, on spare beds and so on, but this one is quite a large quilt um. I’m not sure how… Can’t remember how large it is now but it’s o-one of the largest I’ve done in this technique.
JG: Hopefully it’s had some outings at an exhibition?
JM: Um it went to, it went to the Mole Valley Quilters exhibition at Bookham Church two years ago.
JG: But not at Hever?
JM: No, I haven’t taken it to Hever. I did um… Di… I can’t even remember now. I gave a talk to Mole Valley Quilters about this technique and I’m not s… I I’m not sure if I’d made it by the… No, I hadn’t made it by then. In fact the talk at Mole Valley Quilters was the kind of… um it gave me the impetus to get going because I had this fabric, this blue fabric, in a bag and I was showing people the kind of fabric you ought to look for if you want to make this kind of quilt, and you have to keep your eyes open for a large focus print. [JG: Mmm.] Um and I had this one and I’d not done anything with it and I said, I remember saying at the end of the talk, ‘I really must try and make an effort and do something.’ So I went home and um I had the border obviously um and I sort of had… sat there and thought about it and you wander about with the ideas in your head, um and then it came to me that that’s what it reminded me of so I…
JM: And I already had the birds, and that’s why I don’t have enough of them ’cause I couldn’t go out and buy anymore, I had the birds in the stash, um and I had this fabric that changes colour, which I’ve still got a little bit and I still use [laughs]. What I should… I keep looking out for some more and I haven’t seen it, um… or something similar anyway.
JM: Um, and I me… I ca… I don’t know that I even went out and bought the blenders. I have quite a stash of batiks so they may have been there.
JG: Mmm. It’s very satisfying when you can make something all in-house isn’t it?
JM: Yes off of what you’ve collected.
JM: I did go and buy the backing, because it’s a big quilt, and I do prefer the backing to be not joined, I like it all in one piece, and this is unfor… I found that one which is lovely for the colours.
JM: I got that at Sandown uh one year from somebody who does very wide fabrics.
JM: Um. So that was, you know that, yeah and I do, I’m, I’m very keen on having good backs. I’ve got a quilt at the moment that… in the same technique and I’m desperately looking for a back. This is the same technique but I can’t find the, the back that I want. I could, I could uh make do but, having made all that effort, I don’t want to make do.
JG: Yes. This one’s very much darker…
JM: But bright.
JG: [Laughs] No. Not, not…
JM: It’s still bri… Not as bright as that one but it’s still bright.
JG: No, not as bright as that one, but it’s got some lovely fabric like the batik fish and so on in it.
JM: Yes, it’s got batik fish.
And this was a fab… There there’s, there’s trees, uh leaves like palm trees, and that was a dress fabric somebody gave me and I only had a limited amount but it…I just about squeezed it out. Um. And then…
JM: …the flower fabrics are t-two colourways of the same design on it.
JM: So, yes, it’s turquoise you see, you see a light turquoise. [laughs] I like tur… I like turquoise.
JG: It’s very lovely. A perfect purple and blue. Yeah.
JM: Um, so I’ve, I’m desperately searching for a back that will complement it, um so… [JG: Mmm.] and I don’t like plain backs. I do like them to have a pattern in ’cause it… as I don’t do dense, dense quilting you don’t want the quilting to show awfully so um. I mean years ago I used to do hand quilting, but I’m no longer able to do that.
JM: But it’s only in very small amounts. I did a quilt recently for a child, and I, I was just able to hand quilt the centre of the blocks but normally I can’t anymore.
JG: Well, I, I do a mixture now…
JG: …because, for the same reason, my thumbs have gone.
JM: Your thumbs don’t let you do they, [laughs] so I can’t do that anymore, so.
JG: No. When did you start quilting Jenny? What, what sparked it off in the beginning?
JM: Um, I can tell you exactly. When the said son was a baby, um ch… I stopped work, sorry, I stopped work uh in 1980, and um that was the height of, of the quilt revival in England, um and there were classes at um like the Dorking Institute.
JG: Yes. Yeah.
JM: And I, I enrolled on a, a term of, a term of classes, um for basic patchwork and it was. It was patchwork done as it would have been done in the past with brown paper and string and scissors. No, no gadgets.
JM: Uh [laughs] so we made six blocks uh of the very traditional patterns like Dresden Plate and Sunbonnet Sue and uh all… six blocks anyway and people did what they liked with them. But obviously in my circumstances I made a cot quilt, ’cause that was the obvious thing to make, um and then we hand quilted it. Um and when you look back I’ve still got it in my chest of drawers somewhere. The stitches are huge, but you know she said…
JG: Do you remember who the tutor was?
JM: I can’t remember.
JG: Was it, it wasn’t Margaret Jordan was it?
JM: No. No, no, it isn’t… wasn’t Margaret Jordan it was someone else.
JG: ‘Cause she’s been mentioned by about three people to me this…
JM: Oh, right. No, no, I’m…
JM: … I’m pretty sure it wasn’t but she ran a series of…
JM: She ran this class for beginners but in fact like lots of teachers of various things, inlcuding patchwork, some of her old pupils kept coming back even though they were more than beginners, because they wanted advice or they just wanted to bring their work and do it. Um. So yeah I learnt the basics um and I… It really appealed to me ’cause I like geometry. I’ve always like geometrical…
JM: … figures and things and I expect that’s why this appeals to me…
JM: … because it, it is geometrical; not symmetrical but it has lots of geometrical elements in it.
JG: Yes. Yes.
JM: Um. And I went on from there. I, I was very keen on hand quilting at that time and I, I have done um almost a wholecloth quilt. It, it isn’t quite ’cause it was um … it was Dresden Plate but made into a snake instead of making circles.
JM: Um and then all the background um was hand quilted with a design that I made a following um… using compasses and making lots of arcs and circles and things. Um. And we had all these problems in those days about how you met your… let your quilt design, quilting design stay on the fabric without disappearing [JG: Yes.] ’cause I, I traced it on or pencilled it on with a sharp pencil, which is what we were recommended, um but then I left it too long and then [laughs] part of it disappeared so you had to keep… But I never did use any of these fabric marker pens ’cause then there were stories about that they… [JG: Yeah.] they rotted away, they rotted the fabric, so yes I did a lot of hand quilting um. And… really um I haven’t… I’m not artistic in the sense that I can’t… I, I don’t draw [laughs]. Um I find drawing and painting difficult. Um. I did a City and Guilds design course module which was a term or something, um, and the teacher was always telling us to paint and draw and she thought I was very odd ’cause [laughs] I didn’t want to draw that. You know I did… I don’t mind fiddling about with paints in a… if its clouds or sea or something like that, but I’ve, I’ve absolutely no aptitude for sh… for shapes.
JG: Ah, so fabric fills a gap? Mmm.
JM: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I like really to choose the fabrics and the fabrics… kind of do… I can see if you, if you do paint and draw it helps a great deal but, um and you can get to more advanced levels than I have, but I’ve enjoyed it and that’s the main thing isn’t it if you, if you enjoy what you do? Um.
JM: I’ve taught other beginners occas… well uh at one time for the WEA [Worker’s Education Association] um, and I think if you’ve introduced other people to the enjoyment um, perhaps without being too s… clever about it because some people are put off. If they see somebody who produces absolutely stunning artistic quilts you just close down, you think, ‘I can’t do that.’
JG: I think they tend not to teach nowadays because…
JG: … um going back to the basics is actually the only way to start.
JM: Mmm. Mmm.
JG: Um. It uh um…
JM: U-Unless you’ve got a particular technique um that you advocate. I mean a bit like this I suppose if, if somebody came and gave you a workshop, because Judy Sisneros says on the front, well yes, ‘Fast, fun and finished in a day.’ I don’t quite… [JG laughs] It’s not quite that fast, not for a big quilt like this but for the smaller ones. But it’s the time that I spend a lo… the thing I spend a lot of time in is getting the colours right; because I don’t have an artistic training, I have to um think and move things about and you know and obviously an artistic very often knows exactly which colours go with what and, and so on, which is why I like to start from a focus fabric or a, because I know that I’m in this, in this body of colour, um and so um that’s why it appeals to me.
JG: Right. Is there anything you don’t enjoy about mak-making a quilt?
JM: Um. I never, never took to hexagons, ever. [JG laughs] Um, so, so piecing over papers doesn’t appeal to me. I have tried um… the other paper.
JG: Foundation? Foundation.
JM: Foundation piecing. And I’ve used it for very simple things and its fine for Christmas trees or [laughs] you know something ever so simple. Um and I did a whole s… I did a quilt, it’s over behind me, um with autumn leaves in the centre. And it’s very lovely when it’s done, but when I’d done a 36 inches square piece I thought, ‘Well that’s enough, [laughs] I don’t really want to do anymore,’ so then it had lots of borders around it.
JM: Um, so no I don’t care for foundation piecing but some people love it, you know that’s, that’s, that’s fine.
JG: They do! I can never remember w-which, which way I’m going on it somehow.
JM: Well that was one of the few quilts, the leaf one, where you actually had to draw it all out first…
JG: Oh, right.
JM: …because… you had to colour it in, ’cause otherwise you didn’t know which piece was going next to which but…
JG: Is going, yeah.
JM: …that, so yes that, I mean obviously if I have to do that I will. And, and it worked.
JG: Are, are you the only quilt maker in your family or did your mother sew or your aunt?
JM: No, my grandmother was a dressmaker.
JM: My grandmother was a fashion dressmaker but I didn’t see her very often. Um. She, she went and apprenticed herself to a dressmaker in Banbury, in the 190s, um and um… then she worked from home when she was married and made dresses and um and so on but um… she didn’t do dec… uh she didn’t do fancy work I don’t think, it was, it was…
JG: Yeah. Make, making for the purpose. Yeah.
JM: Yes. I mean she made, I know she made um ball dresses, well not ball dresses yeah but dance dresses for my mother during the war.
JM: Um and she would make things out of things. Um you know if somebody gave her um a cloak or something she would cut it up and make it into a dress or whatever, um. And she, she st… she started from scratch anyway, um, and she s… and she could hem very fast. I do remember watching her hem something and [laughter] she just whizzed along. I mean obviously she used a sewing machine, I mean they… [JG: Yeah.] they… about at that time they had treadle sewing machines and she would have done that um. My mother s… only sewed uh for utilitarian purposes, this is in the Sixties like we all did because you had to make dresses… [JG: Mmm, yeah.] and I made my own dresses ’cause they were so easy then ’cause they were so short [laughs].
JG: And usually straight down the sides.
JM: [Laughs] And straight down the sides, yes. Um. I can do sleeves but um you know I don’t do, I didn’t do, I don’t like zips very much, um. But yes it was very simple. Everybody was, was dressmaking in the Sixties, um. But yeah I suppose I just always liked looking at the fabric um…
JM: … and um and patchwork is, is… As everybody says, you can get your fabric out and stroke it if…
JG: What about nowadays when technology is um… I mean there’s a new movement of modern quilters for whom technology is the primary moving force so…
JM: No, I use… Well obviously I, I, I lear… I moved onto a rotary cutter, because if you want to do these… this uh machine cut nine patch method you’ve got to have very accurate squares, you can’t…
JG: Yes. Were they accurate?
JM: I mean when I started in, in 1980, we cut squares out individually and sewed them together, and so it was cut them with scissors. That was really… Um, well it’s like old quilts, you can see they wobble a bit very often. Um. But with this method you sew them first and cut them afterwards, and you get, on the whole, very accurate um…
JM: … piecing. And that’s why when you have three, three two and a half inch squares, three two inch squares, they then match the big pieces um or the s… they match the six inch squares and they go together very, very well. Um you… There’s usually not any adjustments, unless you find you’ve made an error in cutting out your big pieces; you some… I sometimes find I’ve over-cut them. Um. But it, it… They, they… It does together extremely well.
JM: So um, yeah so I use a rotary cutter obviously and a mat, and I use the rulers. Um the six and a half inch ruler is essential. When I started out using rulers they were six inch and that’s not good ’cause you haven’t got the seam allowance in it. Um. But I don’t use uh any of these new gadgets now. I’ve seen, I’ve seen the, I’ve seen the, I don’t know what they’re called but the machines like a mangle that cuts out all the shapes.
JG: Oh yes. Um.
JM: There’s two makes now which are very popular.
JG: Yes, but they’re…
JM: But anyway I’ve seen… I’ve had it demonstrated. Uh friends of mine in quilting have got them. I think they’re perfect if you do um appliqué.
JM: But I’m not… That’s a thing that I have done but I’m not enamoured of appliqué.
JG: Right. Interestingly enough, virtually all the quilt magazines which have a for sale, suddenly there’s a huge rush of those machines which people have obviously not used as much as they thought they were going to.
JM: Oh right. Accu something is one of them. Accu…
JG: Accuquilt and Big Sizzix is another one, yeah.
JM: Yeah, that’s right. I think, in my case, the only thing I would find it useful for, if I had the big version, ’cause there’s a baby one and a bigger version, the big version would cut you three two and a half inch strips; there are templates to do that. Now that actually would be quicker possibly than my cutting them out, um but the small version wouldn’t cut enough strips ’cause I need three strips of the same fabric. Um. So… And, and once you get the hang of cutting it um it’s…
JG: I thi… I think it came out of card-making and card-makers make a lot of use of it.
JG: But I think pe… it’s had its time and the num… the fact that so many of them are coming up as a second-hand purchase now is really interesting.
JM: Oh right! Mmm, it is isn’t it?
JM: ‘Cause everybody, yeah, not everybody but people did rush out and buy one at the time.
JG: Um I’m always amazed by the number of people who shell out for a long-arm quilting machine for themselves!
JG: It’s… You’re talking a major outlay now for a big machine.
JM: It is and they take up a big lot of space too don’t they I mean and people have to have them… set a whole room devoted to it or a garage or something?
JM: Yes, I’m… No, I, I would stick to my… I have a, a Pfaff sewing machine, just do some advertising, um which I, like all of us, we don’t… most of us don’t use our machines [NOISE] to their full potential. I don’t do embroidery on it and of course they come with lots of embroidery stitches on, largely because the embroidery stitches are quite tiny and on a quilt they’re just lost… [JG: Yes.] i-in the design, so, so I don’t. I, I have a, I have the, the quilting foot. I have a walking foot, which indispensable; can’t manage without a walking foot. Um.
JG: Uh no [laughter].
JM: Hold everything flat.
JG: It’s a revelation when you first get one.
JM: Yes. So um and I belong to um, I, I belong to Mole Valley Quilters, have done since the beginning in 1980 or whenever it was, um and I belong now to, or I go to, um the group that… for Project Linus that makes the quilts for children in hospital.
JM: Um and so I churn out sort of simple quilts, um. I’ve just done one based on this kind of technique um for that, but on the whole I use simpler patterns, but again bright colours ’cause they want bright colours, so that suits me. Um. So, yeah, so I, I go to three quilting meetings I suppose, um not every week but you know.
JG: Yeah. What about exhibitions? Do you go to anywhere you see some of the newer fabrics?
JM: I go to, I go to Sandown most years… [JG: Yeah.] um though I don’t think they have a hu… they, they don’t have the full range of perhaps the most exciting fabrics. I went once to Birmingham, went several years ago, and the, the difference was quite marked; the fabrics were really exciting at Birmingham. Um. But I, and I, I don’t go to any other quilt shows now um, ’cause I don’t drive a great deal so [laughs]. Um I w… I d… I have been to Ardingly in the past um…
JG: Yes. I… I…
JM: … and that kind of thing and obviously the local quilt shows. I go to um some…
JG: Pilgrim? Pilgrim? Yes. Yes.
JM: Pilgrim Quilters have, have a quilt show don’t they sometimes, and we have our own. I don’t think I’ve been to a Guildford Quilters one which I perhaps should have done but um… I can’t remember anyway, um.
JM: Yeah and you see, see things that people do. The … the, the quilts at Hever, you know, were very enjoyable. We had our own quilts there um, which was good, and um and of course Pat Salmon’s quilts, which was interesting ’cause I had seen them all in the past at various intervals, and um it was quite nice to see them all again, um; although sh-she had, you know, very specific… ways of doing things and, and, and I suppose like artists in general are exploring a particular technique or design.
JM: And I can see why they do it. At one time I couldn’t understand. When you went to an exhibition you’d see quilts by um Pauline Burbidge or who it… is it Pauline? Uh and you know there’d be variations on a, a theme because she was exploring a technique and I used to think, ‘Why do you do that over and over?’ But actually I know now why you do that ’cause at one time, when I’d made a quilt in a certain way, I didn’t want to do any more of it. But I mean I keep using this method and there are a couple of other meth… easy methods that I use um on there, um a-and you’re, you’re exploring the colours and…
JG: When I was talking to Dorothy she spent three years making La… um, uh Log Cabin quilts at one stage…
JM: Yes. Yes.
JG: …and she never repeated herself in either the placement or the colourway. And sometimes we forget that the theme of a quilt sometimes actually allows you to explore colourways and things like that and you, once you’ve got the technique, then you can just zip away with it.
0:41:59 JM: And then there were a lot of people… Was it Deirdre Amsden? Did like all those colour-wash quilts?
0:42:03 JG: Yes.
JM: And you might say, ‘Well you’re doing the same thing over again,’ but I’m sure you learn from the blending of the…
JG: Yes, the placement of the colour…
JG: … was just, you just get hooked on it I think sometimes.
JM: Mmm. Mmm. And actually I think it’s quite nice to come back to something that you’ve already done because then you can stop thinking about learning how to do it and concentrate on some aspect.
JM: I mean it’s like here now I know roughly what I’m going to do, um so I can concentrate on the colour or, or the variation. I mean that’s the other thing you do don’t you? If you’ve learned to do something, you then think, ‘Oh, well then this time I could do a slight variation,’ um…
JM: … and that’s true of all sorts of things really.
JG: Are there any particular quilters at the moment that you do admire their work or?
JM: I like when Penny Armitage comes [laughs] to see us, um the things that she does. I know in the past she did um wonderful sort of uh scenes and faces and you know all sort of amazing things, but then she does, um … I forget what you call it but where you have layers of fabric…
JG: Reverse appliqué?
JM: Reverse, reverse appliqué, ’cause she did trees didn’t she with a group?
JM: And I love trees um and leaves and um … and those kind of things. Um. So … yes I, I like anything that… apart from the geometrical things. I like things that blend together like water and leaves and clouds and, and flames and, and, and those kind of um…
JG: Yeah. Right.
JM: … combinations of colours where they sort of blend in together.
JG: Okay. And can you put your finger on why quilting is important still after… Well 1980 to now is a heck of a [laughs] long time, so…
JM: [Laughs] It is isn’t it? Well I suppose basically because um it’s a social um connection in this area because Mole Valley Quilters started in 1980, or thereabouts, and has been going ever since through its ups and downs and, like all groups, sometimes there’s lots of members and sometimes there’s less members but it, it, it always seems to pick itself up and carry on. Um and we’ve had lots of exhibitions and we have social events, we have Christmas parties and summer lunches, and we have good speakers, um and we have activities and um… and that’s always very, very good and the, the house group that I belong to has stuck together for a long, long time.
JM: I mean, when we look back sometimes… I was at a group the oth… yesterday actually, which is a afternoon group that I’ve joined um in Mole Valley Quilters, and we were talking about… well I was telling them how Mole Valley Quilters started ’cause they didn’t actually know some of them. Um. But we were talking about group quilts that the group has made, um ’cause they were mentioning the, the quilts that we’ve made with Pat. There was a sunflower quilt that we put into an exhibition, at Sandown I think. And then there was a quilt with a cat on it looking through a window, which I think was raffled um at Bookham church. But…
JG: Uh, no it was, it was um sold to the boy in the wheelchair. Yeah.
JM: That’s right. I knew, I knew there was a disabled child in it somewhere. Um. And um, and ’cause she designed these and then um they were sort of farmed out to the group to make pieces of. Um, and then we talked about a [laughs] quilt that, a small quilt that our house group made for an exhibition we had in Fetcham Church. We tried to think back to when that was and it was a very long time ago, [laughs] because um the person who made a whole border of little bow tie blocks…
JM: …um moved down to Sussex years ago so it must be ever such a long time ago. Um. And then one of our house members lived for a number of years in Brussels, and so y… if you’re talking about things that we did as a group she’ll say, ‘Oh, that was before I went to Brussels or [laughs] since uh while I was away,’ so it kind of gives you a, it gives you a date in the scheme of things. But, yes, we have been together for a you know a very long time, the core of us, um, which is nice I mean ’cause you don’t really feel any older But you are but, and all your children have grown up and, [laughs] and so on, um ’cause when we all started people had children at school, um or at college, and that’s why the main group be… was… and we were working, um that’s why we had evening meetings because so many people were, were working and we were quite young then [laughs]. Um and we had, we had evening house group because we had to wait for husbands to come home in order to come out, um. But of course now we’re all [laughs] retired, most of ’em, yeah nearly all of us are retired, and we could, you know, we can come at any time and we don’t… all the children have left home and [laughs] so on.
JM: You know, but it, you know it’s a, it’s an interest. I, I, like everybody else, you’ve got sort of fabric dotted all over the house; there’s a drawer over there and there’s a… there’s…
JG: But it’s a social function as well.
JM: Well it’s a social function, yes, and um…
JG: Yeah. Yeah. And we do all stick together for such a very long time! Yeah.
JM: Yeah! Yeah. Um, we spend a lot of money.
JG: Is that a big challenge at the moment then?
JM: Um. No, I, I, I just think that people don’t… never realise how much good fabric costs, um because…
JG: Mmm. And of course with the fall in the um pound now from Brexit it’s going…
JM: Oh, it’s supposed to be getting worse.
JG: … going up about 11 percent every time anyone says they’re having a new fabric.
JM: Uh! But I um I bought a lot of fabric off the internet many ma… um quite a number of years ago now before I retired from work ’cause I thought I need you know a good basis. Um. And it… I was lucky then. There was some people selling fabric at very reasonable rates and sort of bulk buys and things, and that’s where I got all my batiks from because they was selling those off per pack.
JM: But um now you know everything’s kind of single and expensive. Um. So, yeah… But I still… I’m not very… I don’t do the sort of thrifty make do and mend quilts, um not least because I suppose even when I was learning in the Eighties, which was the time when people might have used bits of old dresses and so on, they said, ‘Your quilt is only as good as your oldest fabric,’ because they ro… you know qui… fabric will rot, eventually, and if you’ve got old fabric in it already it… the life of the quilt is uh challenged uh if you like.
JM: I mean new dress fabric is fine; you can have pieces that you cut up, that’s just fine if it’s never been used, um. So, you know I, I still stick to all new fabric [laughs].
JG: Right, thank you very much Jenny for that. Um we’re finishing at 10.40. Thank you very much Jenny. That was great.
JM: Good. So I’ll have to go back to my next quilt, [laughs] if I can find, if I can find a back!