ID Number: TQ.2014.054
Name of Interviewee: Joyce Tunna
Name of Interviewer: Khurshid Bamboat
Name of Transcriber: Khurshid Bamboat
Location: Joyce’s home
Address: Dulwich, London
Date: 12 January 2015
Length of interview: 0:45:57
Joyce’s ‘Blue and White’ quilt was inspired by china found in her cottage garden. She talks about designing the quilt, sourcing the fabrics, and transferring design from paper to fabric. Joyce briefs describes her long term interest in sewing and what she thinks makes a good quilt. Halfway through the interview she talks in more detail about her background in sewing including learning dressmaking at Trade School and working in the London fashion industry. She also discusses her role in forming the Dulwich Quilters group, using humour in quilts and changes to how children are taught to sew.
Khurshid Bamboat [KB]: Today is Monday 12th of January and this is Khurshid Bamboat and I am interviewing Joyce Tunna in Dulwich. Her ID number is TQ.2014.054. Joyce tell me a little bit about this quilt that we’ve just had a look at.
Joyce Tunna [JT]: Well I wanted a blue and white quilt. I was inspired by digging up bits of china in a cottage garden and there were all different patterns all blue and white so I thought ooh that looks like a quilt [laugh] and so that’s how I started it.
KB: And did you design it totally on your own or with help from anybody else?
JB: No. It was my own design. I wanted a border to have, to use a little pieces of china looking and then the centre I saw flowers in a bowl on a quilt, on a tea… I’ve got it written down actually, a pillowcase bought in Boulogne on a day trip and that was blue and white as well. It had these flowers with a bowl and I’ve used the bowl, I’ve cut the bowl out used that on the quilt.
KB: It’s beautiful.
JT: And another bit of history is that the white fabric is, on another holiday, in Aswan, and it was bought at the factory, white cotton.
KB: So it’s Egyptian cotton?
JT: So that’s how it got going.
KB: And how long did it actually take you to do?
JT: Quite a few years.
JT: Years. I didn’t do it every day [laugh]. So that’s how I started it.
KB: So you had to sort of draft it out on squared paper?
JT: I think so I haven’t kept that but I think I had worked it out and that’s how I started it.
KB: Do you know roughly the size of your quilt?
JT: Well it’s a double bed size but I don’t know the measurements. I can do that.
KB: Well I’ve got a tape measure I can do that later. And it’s all blue and white?
KB: And it’s all blue and white. Do you know roughly how many blue fabrics you’ve used in it?
KB: I know you keep the quilt on your bed, presumably that’s the way it’s going to stay on your bed.
KB: Have you sort of gifted it to your daughter or one of your sons, eventually?
JT: Oh well somebody in the family will have it cos you know that’s why I make quilts.
KB: And what sort of, you know, there’s obviously something very special about this quilt because that’s why you’ve chosen it as your…
JT: Well it has memories, holiday memories and we had a cottage with its lovely garden and we, you know, used to make the garden up and that’s where I got the idea, it gives me memories [laugh].
KB: It’s beautiful. So when did you first start making quilts Joyce?
JT: Well I started in 1984 with Pat Salt and Dinah Travis, who ran a sampler quilt class and Adele persuaded me to go, to that, and I hadn’t done quilting before and I had just met Adele about that time, no earlier than that actually, and she said ‘ooh come to the class so I went, I was persuaded [laugh].
KB: So are you the first quiltmaker in your family Joyce?
KB: And are you the only quiltmaker at the moment?
KB: And do you think your daughter will eventually when she retires take it up?
JT: No [chuckle].
KB: Or your granddaughter?
KB: Ok. So do you have any preferred styles or techniques in quilt making?
JT: Well I think it’s okay to piece them by machine but I don’t like hand, machine quilting I prefer hand quilting.
KB: Does it not hurt your hands?
JT: No. Well it does now.
JT: It’s just got to that stage.
KB: Do you quilt every day or piece every day?
JT: No. Not now.
KB: But you used to?
JT: Yes quite a lot.
KB: So what do you enjoy about quiltmaking or is there anything that you don’t particularly enjoy?
JT: Well I’ve always been, I went to a Trade School and learned dressmaking and dress design so I’ve always been interested in sewing and I’ve had different times. I did the drama group quilt, drama group costumes for 40 years actually and then you know I gave that up and I thought well I’ll do something else and I did the quilting. I’ve always done some sewing you know that’s always been an interest of mine.
KB: And is there anything in the quilt area that you don’t particularly enjoy or is it everything that you enjoy?
JT: Well the only thing I don’t enjoy is putting the layers together [laughter].
KB: Yeah, I can imagine.
JT: Especially when they are big ones [laugh].
KB: What technology do you use when quilt making or is purely done by you know pencil and paper. I presume you don’t really use the computer or any programmes.
JT: No, no.
KB: You like working on your own.
KB: And do you normally design it totally on your own or you take the normal American blocks or English blocks, patterns?
JT: Well I take from books, you know, ideas and things that catch my eye and I think ooh that’s lovely, do that, so you know, it’s inspired by seeing pictures of quilts, things.
KB: I know that you draw and paint beautifully, do you ever use any of your drawings for quilts for example?
JT: No I don’t really think so. This is the class I went to and that was all provided, the drawings you know so you didn’t have to. You see there’s one of hers.
KB: Did you make a sampler quilt Joyce?
JT: Yes, I’m sure that’s under there. I’ll get it out. I think that was the first quilt I made, that sampler quilt in that class, and Adele was there and also Caroline was there I think.
KB: And Jill.
JT: And I think…
JT: I’m not quite sure about Lola but I think Barbara might have.
JT Come along.
KB: So where and when do you quilt, do you prefer doing it in the mornings or afternoons or does it not matter whenever you have the chance?
JT: It doesn’t matter but I mostly in the evening you know sit and got the television on and sewing at the same time [laughter] but I don’t do so much now you see, not recently. Last one was the Wedding Quilt, I found it a bit much though.
KB: Has that gone to America now?
JT: No, it’s under there actually [laughing].
KB: And how do you go about making a quilt? [Pause] Do you sort of find a design and then look for fabric or you have the fabric which inspires you?
JT: I think it’s probably colour and what I’m going to use the quilt for, a practical reason and then I look through books for designs and things you know and then take it from there.
KB: Is the preparation quite a tedious part or an enjoyable part?
JT: No, enjoyable.
KB: And does it take a fair bit of time before you are ready to?
JT: Everything takes time with me, I don’t rush [laughing].
KB: No need to. It’s supposed to be an enjoyable task.
JT: That’s why you’re doing it.
KB: Yes, absolutely.
KB: How much time do you spend on quilt making Joyce?
JT: Well I don’t. I haven’t done anything since I finished the Wedding Quilt and I don’t suppose previously to that, don’t know. I don’t add the time I spend, I just do little bits here and there. How would you answer that question?
KB: I’d probably say I spend, well if I am doing something, I’d spend a couple of hours, at least.
JT: A day?
KB: Well, yes, if I could.
JT: Well yes that’s what I’d like…
KB: It’s also…
JT: An afternoon.
KB: Well yes, it is hard to find time.
KB: Without interruption.
JT: Yes that’s right.
KB: They’ve asked what you spend money on for your quilting. I presume they mean fabric?
JT: Oh yes.
KB: Do you have a fair amount of fabric or have you been trying to get rid of it?
JT: Well I don’t have large pieces, I’ve got a lot of small pieces.
KB: Do you prefer getting small pieces like fat quarters as opposed to half metres and metres of fabric?
JT: Yes if I go to a quilt show or anything, I tend to buy small pieces and things, but I don’t think I need to anymore [laugh].
KB: What do you look for or notice in other quilts for example when we had Dulwich Quilters’ exhibition, what do you sort of notice in other people’s quilts that are hanging in the exhibition?
JT: Have I got that written down, oh dear. I think I look for the colour and the design you know traditional designs that have names you know come from… You know knowing Adele and also going to America you know the different states and it’s interesting to know which state the patterns come from.
KB: Do you like American blocks best of all?
KB: Is that mainly because of your friendship with Adele?
JT: Yes, I suppose so.
KB: And also because of going there?
JT: Yes, yes. I like… you know, obviously they’ve spent time working them out you know and interesting.
KB: Do you not like the abstract?
KB: The new sort of abstract art type of quilts?
JT: No. No. I don’t see it as a medium for that sort of work. To my mind, it’s a practical… a quilt is something that you can use and enjoy for that reason you know. I mean, I’d like to go back to painting but I don’t see quiltmaking as an alternative [laugh].
KB: And what do you think makes a good quilt? For you, not necessarily you know, as a judge or anything, just basically your ideas and feelings that makes a good quilt.
JT: Well the practicality of it I think you know for the reason that you’re using it and the colour, you know, and I think that’s all. And the design. It’s something to enjoy you know, seeing in a domestic place. It’s my idea of quilts.
KB: So essentially you prefer bed quilts?
KB: … rather than
JT: I don’t mind wall hangings. I’ve done one for my daughter she’s got it on her staircase and it fills up an empty wall you know so that’s a good alternative, but there again it’s a practical reason it’s not art, well I suppose it is arty, it’s hanging on the wall [laugh].
KB: Do you not consider quilts to be a type of art then? It’s more craft, it’s more serviceable.
JT: Yes, yes… I do.
KB: And where do you get your ideas and inspiration from? I know holidays is one of your, something that you’ve mentioned before but I know you love flowers and the outdoors.
KB: Does that give you inspiration?
JT: Well, you know when we’ve had our group challenge and you get a title that I find is an inspiration. You’ve really got to think about it haven’t you and see what it means to you and work it from there.
KB: You enjoy the challenges, the Chairman’s.
KB: They’re good fun aren’t they? They’re all very different.
JT: Yes. That’s right. It’s how you see things and I like to think what I’ve done makes other people happy [laugh].
KB: How do you feel about hand and machine quilting? I know you mentioned it but can you elaborate on your feelings about it?
JT: I prefer hand quilting, much better
KB: For any particular reason?
JT: I think machine quilting is okay but it looks more manufactured somehow. With hand quilting, you can have different stitching, you can have tiny stitches or make them a bit longer, and it looks more right to do with quilts, to my mind.
KB: So what do you do with the quilts you have made? I mean I know your blue and white, you’ve said that
JT: Well I’ve done some for the family members and the ones I’ve done through the group and I’ve got, will go to the family, later on, and, you know, I hope they will enjoy them.
KB: Do you know roughly how many quilts you’ve made since 1984?
JT: No I don’t, about a dozen I suppose. Not many [laugh]
KB: I’m sure you’ve made quite a lot. And what is the biggest challenge you face as a quilter today?
KB: Your hands?
JT: If I do much hand quilting, I get a pain in my wrist so that’s going to limit it a bit, you know. I won’t be doing very elaborately hand quilting like the blue and white one with all that quilting and when you get older, you have days go without time to do things apart from looking after the family, cooking, cleaning…
KB: But quilt making must give you some kind of therapy you know therapeutic and enjoyable.
KB: And to see something finished
KB: It must give you a great amount of satisfaction.
JT: And also you think well perhaps when the family have them, it will be something to remember you by [laugh].
KB: Will you tell me a little about when you were young and went into Trade School or whatever it was called?
JT: It was Barrett Street Trade School and you learned dress making and dress design. This was in the 40s and they taught you even how to tack properly. We did buttonholes and all the hand sewing samples you know and many years later they had a celebration at the school. I took them all along and they’ve now got them in the archives. It’s because they don’t do that now you see, its more how you feel, just do it [laugh]. You learned all the details then. See that was the school [JT shows the leaflet]
KB: So it was for two years that you were there?
JT: Yup, yup. [Pause] And it was during the War when I was there so there weren’t many of us. A lot of them were Jewish because they had come over from Europe with their parents and we did a lot of fashion drawing and that was my job when I did get some work. These were that you sent out to customers. In those days you didn’t have computers you know emails, things, you had to do actual drawings, you know, to send to customers that was the latest ideas and designs and so that was part of my job.
KB: Where did you work after you left Trade School?
JT: It was off Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road. North of Oxford Street there was a whole area of the fashion trade which went just after the war when they got them done cheaper in countries abroad you know, India and places, and it’s not like that now, but in those days all that area was the fashion area. And, there was an article in The Telegraph recently about fashion drawing you see, so I took my, it was in town, at a gallery I thought I’ll take my drawings along and I did and I showed them to the lady there and she said ooh I’d like one of those, can I have one of those, like this you know, I mean they’ve got scrappy because they are old and she said, here you are and she gave me £50 for one of these, ha! [Laughter].
KB: Good for you, why not
JT: That was interesting and she’s got famous people drawings, Dior. Have you heard of Dior? I’m glad I went along.
KB: Was the class you did with Pat and Dinah the only one you did at Adult Ed [Education] or did you do further courses?
JT: No I didn’t do any more because it was very thorough as you can see.
JT: You know, it’s all the drawings.
KB: But you had to make your own patterns.
JT: No these were the patterns we did.
KB: Rather no sorry I meant make your own squares and draft out the bits that went into the block.
JT: Yes oh yes you had to do that, obey instructions. They really got me into it.
KB: So, I know but Talking Quilts don’t know tell me a little bit about your involvement with the beginning of Dulwich Quilters in 1986.
JT: We all enjoyed the class so much we thought oh we’ll carry on with the group you know and so where did we decide to do it? I think we did it in our homes, got together and I can’t remember doing the big quilt there I think we each did our own but that’s how it started you know. Did you ever know any of the Lynn, Pat Salt or…
JT: You did know them
KB: Both Pat and Dinah.
JT: Dinah Travis yes
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KB: Yes. We’re all getting on [laugh].
JT: Yes we are, don’t tell me.
KB: So why is quiltmaking important in your life or is it not that important anymore?
JT: I’d like to get back to painting and art because I’ve sort out left that behind you see. And also because it troubles me a bit. I don’t use the sewing machine much now. I think it’s just time consuming that I haven’t got you know. It takes too much time.
KB: But you still enjoy being part of Dulwich Quilters?
JT: Oh yes.
KB: And having them. I know how nice it is to come every month, on one Monday every month and be with you and…
JT: Oh yes it’s really nice. I think it is such a good idea for women, you know, to get away and do something they really like doing and joining with friends. And it’s got a purpose you’ve got something that you can actually use, it’s useful… and keeping it alive, you know the craft. Whether it appeals to young women now I don’t know if they have any…
KB: I think it’s making a comeback, slowly
JT: Yes. A long time ago we did a quilt for the school. Oh god I can’t remember which school it was. It was one summer and you know we got the children interested in seeing the quilts and also they all tell a story don’t they, quilts? I’m so glad that Adele persuaded me [laugh] to go along and do it. I hadn’t done it before. I’d done dressmaking you know and then at that time during the War and just after when clothes were still rationed, you had to use fabrics very carefully and even scraps afterwards you know were useful to make things. Had to make the children’s clothes from my old things that I had worn out [laugh]
KB: Besides your blue and white quilt is there any other quilt that’s very dear to your heart?
JB: Well the one Janine has got on her wall when I go over to her house I think ‘Oh yes I remember doing that’.
KB: Tell me a little bit about that one
JB I don’t know whether I have any pictures of that one. Lots of colours and different designs all over done in different squares
KB: Using American blocks
JT: No it wasn’t actually well some of it was but a lot of it was just lines of diamonds and things like that really…. Well it’s worn very well you know.
KB: How long ago did you make that? You know roughly?
JT: Oh it must be 25 years ago because her daughter is just about that age now so I think it was when she was born [laugh]
KB: Is there anything else you would like to tell me or reminisce or expand on?
JT: Let me see what it says here. Well anything I do now I would want to give to the family you know so it would have to be something that I think they would like.
KB: Your blue and white quilt was not made for any specific occasion was it?
KB: You just made it because you wanted to make it
KB: I know from having seen your many Chairman’s Challenges for Dulwich Quilters Exhibitions that you have a very good sense of humour and your Liquorice Allsorts how did you think of that one? [JT laughs] You know there are plenty that always seem to have a wry sense of humour but that one comes to my mind.
JT: You know when you buy packets of Liquorice Allsorts in fact there’s a tin over there with them on [laughs] and I thought ooh I could do those you know in fabric and so that’s where it came from. I’d like to think people are going to be amused [laughs again].
KB: Well I think you have achieved that and the one that you did with the cricket and the tennis balls.
JT: Yes. Well that was so that the children could put them on the right one. Put the right ball on the right bat. But I didn’t like the last challenge ‘Traveller’s Tales’. I thought that was a bit difficult.
KB: Oh well we’ll have to see what the next Chairman gives us.
JT: Do we know who the next Chairman is?
KB: No. Do you have any ideas or can you foresee where quilting is going, you know, as a future, in the future. Do you think it will get better or die down again or…?
JT: Well I think it all depends on young schoolchildren or young women you know. I don’t see why they can’t teach them to sew now and say, you know, let’s have a bit of fun, let’s do a cushion, one for your mother sort of thing and you know do some nice patches, different colours, you know that would keep it going.
JT: But they’ve really got to make people notice it I think otherwise you know I think nowadays it’s not hands on things is it?
KB: Would you like to make another quilt for your next granddaughter who’s getting married?
JT: I would like to but I can’t contemplate it. It’s too much now.
KB: Would you not consider making it in blocks like Jill did for her quilt, that Silver Wedding quilt?
JT: No, I thought of all that and you know… no, I am not going to, no I’m not. I’ve got an old quilt that I can give her, you know, but I think somebody… we’ve got to inspire young people to do it because it would die out you know like making your own clothes. Not many people do that nowadays. I went to John Lewis last week and they’ve got a few fabrics but at one time it was the whole ground floor, of fabrics.
KB: I know you’re very keen on Linus quilts. Can you tell me a little more about them and why it makes you…?
JT: Well I think if you are doing something to cheer somebody up, you know, in hospital, it gives you an inspiration to do it, it makes you feel it was worthwhile and you know it’s not a great big quilt, not years of work on one quilt and I’ve lots of bits of fabric, all those things combine to think well it would be a good idea to do some Linus quilts. They appreciate it, I should think they would be don’t you?
JT: It also makes you think, you know, what shall I do? If it’s for a boy shall I make it aeroplanes, engines, things you know, it’s an inspiration, isn’t it. I think it’s something to do not have to worry about and you can enjoy.
KB: And worthwhile.
JT: Yes I think so.
KB: Is that something that you want to continue doing?
KB: Because it doesn’t take so much effort. Well it does take effort but not as much as a large quilt. And where do you think our group is going? You know in 2015? You’ve been part of Dulwich Quilters since it started. As you know, I always say ‘You are Dulwich Quilters’ [JT laughs] but can you see where the group will go? Upward or downward?
JT: Oh I don’t think it will go downward, do you? Oh no I don’t think it will go downward. I’d be very sad if it did and I think if people don’t want to make great big quilts, join me in doing some Linus quilts, you know, I wouldn’t mind saying let’s get together and have a Linus day like we did once before, didn’t we.
KB: Yes we did, we had great fun.
JT: Yes it was.
KB: That was the beginning of our association with Linus quilts.
JT: Yes and it’s good that it is for a local hospital because it’s more intimate then when it is something local. I’d like to know a bit more about the patients you know how they’re given to them. Are they just put on the bed or do they say, ‘there’s something for you’?
KB: I don’t think we will ever know. It depends from one hospital to another.
JT: No, no.
KB: Is there anything else you would like to add Joyce? About quilting about your association with quilting?
JT: Well, I think you know I wish they would have it at school a bit more you know. I don’t know what Art covers nowadays but I think you know if they learned about it as an Art thing that you could do, it’s not that I want to do it myself but about shapes and colour and design, that all comes into it doesn’t it? It would be interesting I think for young women not that I know how they feel now, I don’t know. And I think it’s good that it gets groups of women together, you know social.
KB: It fulfils a teaching as well as a social aspect.
KB It fulfils not only a social aspect but it also fulfils, you are learning something.
JT: Yes, yes, I think so. You know if you learn something like that you can look at things and enjoy them more.
KB: What are your favourite colours when you make a quilt? Is it always blue or a variety of colours?
JT: No it’s just a mixture of colours you know
KB: Bright, bright colours?
JT: Yes, yes. And the combination. I did learn a bit you know in Art in school. You know about the quantities of not much yellow, you can have a lot of blue, things like that what they do to each other. It’s all very interesting and I think it gives you a way of looking at things and enjoy you know. To have one on your bed is also nice.
JT: Do you have one?
KB: Yes I do, I have my sampler quilt on my bed.
JT: Oh good.
KB: It’s getting a bit raggy now.
JT: Oh dear.
KB: I think maybe it’s time for me to make another quilt for the bed
JT: Yes, yes that’ll be good.
KB: Before my hands pack up [JT laughs]. Do you like using cotton best of all in your quilts?
JT: Yes oh yes. I think it’s still a practical thing to my mind. I mean, I know some people like them as an art medium and put them on the wall and then it doesn’t matter the wear of the fabric, but to my mind it’s still a practical thing and a lovely combination. Practicality and Art. Colour and everything [laughs]. I’m jolly glad that Adele said come and join this quilt class.
KB: Well I think you’ve been a great ambassador for quilting in this area. Thank you very much for talking to me.
JT: It’s a pleasure.
KB: Nothing else you want to add before…
JT: I don’t think so.
KB: If you could and your hands were strong still, is there any kind of quilt you would say this is something that I would really like to do?
JT: I don’t know really. Can’t think of any special reason.
KB: And is piecing more a favourite than say appliqué?
JT: Yes, yes.
KB: You prefer piecing a quilt?
JT: Yes, depending on the shapes you know.
KB: Because I know when I did my sampler quilt, I far preferred appliqué at that time.
JT: Oh right.
KB: I really enjoyed it but not now so much.
JT: Oh really.
KB: It’s amazing how your tastes change over the years.
JT: Oh yes
KB: Over the years. What you liked 30 years ago, not necessarily do you like now.
JT: That’s right. Well you can go to a quilt exhibition and really like some of them, others you think ooh dear [laughs].
KB: And the piece on the wall, is that yours as well?
JT: Yes, yes. I forget what that one was… can’t remember. That was at a class at Penge, you know? I don’t know whether we were asked to do something or it was a way of doing it you know all those strips, don’t know. But some of that’s faded from the dark centres to the one next to the dark centre is faded so much. They are supposed to grade down you know the colours. This is something I can show you. I expect you remember this.
KB: Your Union Jack?
JT: Yes and there’s my son and his wife. [laughs] They live in America you see this is the couple who live in America and they’ve got it up on their… I forget whereabouts they’ve got it but I thought it would be lovely for them to have a Union Jack.
KB: I remember it quite well.
JT: And I enjoyed doing it for that reason. I think what I enjoy about quilting nowadays is things made for the family so when I’ve gone they’ll think ‘Oh that’s Grandma’s quilt’ [laughs].
KB: Well hopefully it won’t be for many, many years and you continue to give us pleasure with all your lovely work.
JT: I think that’s all. I think it is a good social way of getting together with people too, isn’t it?
KB: How does sewing and quilting affect your life?
JT: Made it better. I mean I’ve met all you friends haven’t I?
JT: I think you meet people. I think it is a shame that people are not more aware of it, you know, but I think people always enjoy our exhibitions don’t they?
KB: Yes they do.
JT: You know you hear afterwards and do they comment in the book?
KB: Well some do yes. Have you been a member of The Quilters’ Guild for many years?
JT: Oh yes, yes, yes. It’s a shame them closing the place in York.
KB: Well thank you Joyce for giving me the time.
JT: Oh that’s no problem it’s been lovely to talk to you.