ID Number: TQ.2015.037
Name of interviewee: Penny Talman
Name of interviewer: Ana Tims
Name of transcriber: Jacquie Barwell
Location: Ana’s home
Address: Haywards Heath, West Sussex
Date: 31 July 2015
Length of interview: 0:22:36
Penny made her quilt, wild flower rhapsody’ from a block of the month project by an American company. She pieced the quilt, it was machine quilted by a friend and will now be donated to charity. After time dressmaking and even running her own fabric shop, she came across a quilting class when she retired. Penny talks explains how she likes to follow patterns or classes to start new quilt projects, she also mentions setting up her own quilt group with a neighbour.
Ana Tims [AT]: [Interview introductions] Penny’s from Balcombe in West Sussex but we are here because she has a dog and we couldn’t guarantee he would be quiet. Good morning, Penny. Thank you for agreeing with this interview. My first question to you is, I would like you to tell me about the quilt that you made.
Penny Talman [PT]: What? The, er, the size of it? It’s pretty big. It’s… called ‘Wild’, ‘Wild flower rhapsody’ which was block of the month in America. I… I imported it from America each month. It’s done by A Wing and A Prayer, that’s the name of the company that produced it. It’s, different, the colours. Do you want to know the colours?
AT: Oh, yes.
PT: Colours. They’re most. I’d say the majority of it was green, shades of green with cream and pinks, and lilacs, and pale blues with a dark brown border going round which is taken within the quilt as well… It’s got 12 different blocks going round the middle, going round a centre point in the middle and four appliqued corners which is like… Grandmother’s Fan, am I right? Grandmother’s Fan? Um, what more can I say? It was very complicated to do, very complicated. An awful lot of work in it because they’re very tiny pieces throughout the quilt. So it, it took me, probably seven months to make. But that’s not continually, I didn’t do it continually because I’ve made other quilts in between. But it, it’s certainly the longest, taken the longest one I’ve ever taken in making a quilt. It’s… [Pause]
AT: We continue the interview with Penny Talman. The ID number is TQ.2015.037. Penny, what’s the size of the quilt?
PT: The size is 107 inches by 94 so it’s, it’s beyond a king size I would say. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever done.
AT: And could you explain to us what the block of the month, how it works.
PT: Well, every month they send you a pattern, the pattern, and then various little strips of fabric and there’s nothing left over, you literally got exactly the same. So there’s no room for error at all. And you have to work from that on each block.
AT: And how many blocks did you do a month?
PT: Only one. Only one block a month, yes.
AT: Now, how do you going. What plans have you got for this quilt? What are you going to do with it?
PT: This quilt is, my husband’s Masonic charity. I have been making one every year for this charity. Well, the money goes to local charities. They auction it at. We go to a barbeque once a year and they auction, this, a quilt that I make and the money is all collected and goes to local charities within, within, Sussex area.
AT: Now that you’ve finished it. It’s very beautiful. How do you feel about it?
PT: Yes, I do, I do like it I do I, you know. It’s not my colour scheme I’ve got to say. I wouldn’t have it in in my bedroom, but I do like it. It’s an achievement I’ve got to say, but I think the making of it is the machine quilting that you did for me which is outstanding. I mean, there’s no way I could have hand quilted that. It would have taken me a year to hand quilt it and, and the machine quilting is, well, it’s outstanding. I mean it’s beautiful. It just makes the quilt, I think.
AT: Okay, well, we talked about your quilt. Now let me ask you a bit about your involvement in quiltmaking. [PT: Uh, uh.] When did you first start making quilts?
PT: I, well, I’d been doing fabrics, I had my own shop years ago. I used to sell quilting fabric in it but I never got into it. I was more interested in dressmaking and so although I sold the fabric I, I didn’t actually make any quilts. And then I retired. I retired to Balcombe and I went down to The Dog and Basket at Cuckfield and I just went in there and they were having classes so I said ‘Oh, I’d like to join.’ And it was Mandy Shaw who was teaching at that time. And so I started, that’s how I started quilting. So I was thrown in the deep end really, because it wasn’t like a beginner’s course or anything like that. It was just straight through into her designs. So I had to learn fast how to do it. And, then I progressed from there really. Went… then of course the Dog and Basket moved down to Lewes, so I had to think of somewhere else that I could go to still carry on learning really, and learning really the basics because I was never actually taught the basics of how to do it. So, I started, I went to Janet, Janet was Janet Cooper who runs The Sleeping Bear. And I started off going to… Hassocks. At Astra Hall and I used to go any courses, she do day courses and that’s how I, so I progressed to there. And then, where did I go from there? Then I, I started at Dorita Smith who runs, now it’s called Dorita’s Academy, Quilting Academy, at Burgess Hill and I go every Tuesday. And I do all her what quilts that she does for various terms, you know. And that’s how, that’s how I started and carried on with it.
AT: And do you design any of your work? Have you ever considered it?
PT: I have, I have designed a few with Dorita, Dorita’s class, but I’m not very confident. I’ve got to say I’m not very confident on designing my own. I, I really like to do it to a pattern. I might adapt it a little bit, but, I, I do usually do it from a pattern.
AT: And are there any other quiltmakers in your family?
AT: None whatsoever?
PT: None whatsoever. No, sadly my daughter’s not interested in it. No, nobody else. No.
AT: And what are your preferred styles or techniques? What you really like doing?
PT: I really, my, my real love is applique. Hand sewing. On appliqueing… blocks. That’s my real love.
AT: The hand applique.
PT: Hand applique, yeah.
AT: And what about apart from applique. What about the process itself that you really enjoy? Apart from applique. When you’re making quilt? [PT: Yeah.] Put it together, what do you really enjoy about it?
PT: I think, I think it’s the achievement of seeing little bits of fabric, tiny little pieces come to a pattern. To, to I think that’s what’s amazing me how I can cut all these tiny little pieces and all of a sudden they go into a block and they look very good, you know. That, that’s what I think, really.
AT: And is there anything you do not like?
PT: I’m not very good at machine quilting. No, I haven’t mastered that yet. I love hand quilting, love it, but of course, it, it takes a long, long time because you can only do about an hour and a half each day because of the, you know, the hands, because it makes your hands ache. So that does limit me, of course. So I, I’ve just started to do, do quilt-as-you-go which I find is quite good but not intricate, just purely straight lines, but it’s the curves and all that I can’t do, but then I haven’t, haven’t persevered or I’ve never really been taught correctly so that’s why.
AT: Could you explain what quilt-as-you-go is?
PT: Quilt-as-you-go is, I’m just making some at the moment… You… I think they call stitch and flip. Stitch it on, turn it over and just using a walking foot just keep going up and down that piece of fabric and so it’s all quilt, quilted and then you go to the next piece. This is on a backing, you have to have a backing fabric and your wadding in between and then your, your top fabric. And you just do a piece at a time and make it a pattern. I can cope with that, but I can’t actually cope very well with doing machine quilting as such. Straight machine quilting, yes, but not all the curves and the…
AT: So when you finish the quilt as you go I mean, it’s already…
PT: It’s already done. That’s it finished, just put the edges on, the edging binding on and it’s finished. Yes.
AT: Thank you, thanks for that. And what kind of technology do you use with quiltmaking? Like, do you use scissors? Do you use rotary cutting?
PT: I rotary cut everything. Don’t very often use scissors. I, I’d say rotary cutting 99% of the time.
AT: And are your pieces hand pieced or do you machine piece?
PT: Machine pieced. I do like, I do enjoy hand piecing actually. That’s another thing I like to do is hand piecing with like hexagons and that sort of thing.
AT: And where and when do you quilt? Because you mention you go to classes. But apart from the classes, where do you quilt and when?
PT: At home. At home I’ve got a workroom at home and I quilt and I do my assembly and everything there.
AT: And how long do you do it?
PT: Oh, all the time. All the time. It’s, it’s taken over my life really. I do it. There’s not a day really that goes by that I don’t do some sort of quilting, whether it be hand, hand appliqueing or hand quilting or actually on the machine doing a block or a quilt. I’ve got a lot lined up. An awful lot lined up that I want to do.
AT: And what makes you… how do you go about choosing a project? What makes you start a quilt?
PT: What makes me start a quilt? A lot of them of course are done through Dorita’s Quilting Academy. I go, have to do all the blocks for that and to keep up with all the other people ‘cos it’s once a week so I have that as well. But I also like to do my own, my own things for my own personal… It’s usually, it’s usually colours, if I see something in the colours I like. That usually, probably … make me get on and make it. It give me a bit of enthusiasm to get on and make it.
AT: So what do you think makes a good quilt? So when you look at a quilts and everywhere in exhibition? What makes you think ‘This is a good quilt’?
PT: I think getting the blocks or joining up correctly, put on the points and I think quilting has got a lot to do with it. I think quilting can make or break a quilt. To be honest. So that’s what I look for when I go to quilt shows and sometimes I’m quite impressed cos I think, well, I could do as good as that. That’s and so I feel good about it when I look and some of them are way beyond me being ever able to do it. Some of them I think ‘ooh, yeah, I can do as good as that.’
AT: Do you enter shows?
PT: No. Never.
AT: Never, ever had quilts exhibited?
PT: No. Never.
AT: And there’s a question which I not sure if you’re going to want to answer but I will ask. What kind of money do you spend on, for your quilting?
PT: A lot of money. A lot of money. That’s, I’d hate to show… [laughs] my stash of fabric. Uh, I could open a shop with the fabric because if I see a fabric, usually at the shows, I think, oh, yes, I like that and buy it. But I do realise now that I’ve got to start buying for a whole quilt .It’s no good buying little bits. You’ve got to buy for the whole quilt you’ve got in mind because you go into your stash of fabrics and you think… oh… that doesn’t go with that, that doesn’t go with that. So I, I’ve come to the conclusion that you’ve got to actually buy for a particular quilt. It’s nice to have a stash of fabric but not to just buy on a whim.
AT: And what so far in the quilting, what do you think is the biggest challenge that you face today as a quilter?
PT: Well, I, I think it is the machine quilting. I’ve got to, that is my biggest worry, that um, like, this particular one it would have probably taken me at least nine months to quilt that by hand and I think it would probably be impossible to quilt it by hand with the size of it. It was huge. And so that is my biggest challenge. I’d like to overcome. I’d like to learn how to machine quilt properly but I can’t and I haven’t. I think you need a big machine. You know, I’ve only got an ordinary machine and I think you need a big machine to get a big quilt in.
AT: Now, we’ve talked about you going to courses and how you quilt. You also run a group from home. How did that start?
PT: Um, how did that start? My neighbour, Elizabeth, we were talking and she, I said, ‘oh I’d joined a quilting group’. She said ‘Ooh, I used to er, go to a quilt with another lady in the village.’ She said ‘I’ll have a word with her and see if we can’t get together’ and she did and so we started, actually round at Mo’s house and there was about four of us. But then I’d made a good friend, Mary, who lives in Cuckfield, I’d made a good friend with Mary, when I was at the Dog and Basket and I’d always kept in touch with her. So I said to Mary would she like to come with me, I’d ask Mo this and it started and then it came to me one week and so we decided to meet every week and so at the time I had six people which is the maximum I can have with the chairs and table. So we used to, well we still do, meet once a week and that’s how I started and it’s just, yes, we have a good chat and we do a bit of hand sewing and we’ve got no facilities to machine quilt but we do hand, all our hand piecing and so it’s, it’s, oh I’ve been doing it for years now and that’s how it started.
AT: And how does that impact on the village? On Balcombe? Do they know about the quilt group?
PT: I think they do. We did start to, we thought, well maybe we could get a bigger group together and hire a hall, so we put an advert in the village magazine and we had one person that said that they would do it. Would be interested. So we couldn’t hire a hall so we, we stopped that idea and just carried on with me doing it at home.
AT: And why is quiltmaking important for you? I mean, you chose quiltmaking over
PT: Against dressmaking and all. Well, er, I suppose its a sense of achievement that you can finish it and I’ve got to be honest I don’t keep them at all for myself, members of the family have got them but just make for charity now. I don’t make for myself. It’s so, whatever I have I give away. Whatever I’ve completed I give away. And I enjoy doing it. You know, I enjoy doing that, you know, with my time. Really.
AT: And apart from the local courses that you do, do you travel anywhere?
PT: Yes, yes I’ve been, been to Milton Keynes, two years running, uh, with… oh… I can’t think of the lady’s name. Well, anyway I did two courses at Milton Keynes, weekend courses and then I’ve been to Chichester last year, I went to Chichester and did another weekend course away. And I’ve done day courses down at… oh… down at Emsworth with… do you know her name? [AT: Philippa?] No, Philippa Naylor, no I did Philippa Naylor at Milton Keynes… er Jennie Rayment, I’ve done a course with Jennie Rayment. So I have, I have had quite a few different weekends away. Yes.
AT: TQ.2015.037 Continue the interview with Penny Talman. Now, Penny, you talk a lot about where you go and how you go about learning. And how do you feel about online courses. Do you use them at all?
PT: I… I have looked at them. I have seen them but I haven’t actually paid for any online courses. On the free ones I look at them sometimes. I think, oh how’s that done or YouTube sometimes YouTube have it. But I haven’t actually paid for a course on online quilting. No.
AT: I think that’s all the questions I’ve got for you. Thank you very much for taking part
PT: My pleasure. Just hope that it will be useful.
AT: Thank you.