ID number: TQ.2016.016
Name of interviewee: Sheila Nunnerley
Name of interviewer: Kathy Hunt
Name of transcriber: Take 1
Location: Sheila’s home
Address: Barnt Green, Worcestershire
Date: 20 April 2016
Length of interview: 0:51:17
Sheila’s ‘Alaska’ memory quilt was made following a trip to Alaska to celebrate her 30th Wedding Anniversary. She describes the quilt in detail (explaining the references to her trip), how she made it and how she feels about it. Later Sheila talks about her quilting journey including reference to City and Guilds, people who have influenced her work and a seeing traditional natural dyeing in Bhutan. She also talks about trips to Festival of Quilts and Malvern, along with her views on participation in quilt exhibitions.
KH: This is an interview with Sheila Nunnerley for Talking Quilts. The ID number is TQ.2016.016. We’re speaking at the home… Sheila’s home in Barnt Green, Worcestershire. it’s the 20th of April, 2016, and I’m Kathy Hunt. Sheila, there’s a very lovely quilt in front of me. Would you like to describe it for us, please?
SN: This quilt in front of us, it’s a memory quilt which I started making in 2004, and it was in me… it’s in memory of a cruise that we took to Alaska to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. It’s not in Alaskan colours as one would expect because I, I made it to go in a particular bedroom. And there is a striped fabric which was the original inspiration because these were the colours of the bedroom which are greens, oranges and yellows, and the rest of the quilt took the colours from those. And it’s all different memories of where we, where we went. And at the top of the quilt I’ve … done a strip of squares, which have forget-me-knots on and the forget-me-knot is the national flower of Alaska. And the flower, how I made the flowers, is I drew… very painstakingly put some fabric onto Bondaweb in yellows and oranges and a sort of a aubergine red, and I carefully drew these tiny, little shapes of a forget-me-knot flower and cut them up. I actually quite enjoy cutting up little shapes, as people in the past have told me, and then I c-cut up some tiny leaves and I bonded them on. And then to attach them, because I didn’t want them to be stuck on, I wanted them more sort of 3D, I actually just attached them with a, a French knot in the middle, and then I put the leaves on and and then I just did some free machining of some stems and some other sort of little flower shapes. And then below that [clears throat] is a big squ… rectangle, which represents Ketchikan and it represents Creek Street. And I’ve got roofs and windows [clears throat] and houses, and I’ve created the picket fence that was in front of these houses and then… Un-unfortunately I couldn’t create the big drop that… down to the creek. But reading afterwards, one of those houses could well have been a brothel because that’s what I read in the literature afterwards but I didn’t put a red light. Somebody suggested I should put a red bulb in one of the windows but I didn’t. And behind the houses I’ve got a green fabric with outlines of, of the trees, the the, the pine trees, which were obviously everywhere. Um… And then also on the quilt I’ve got I’ve created a patch, the… a block, the Bear’s Paw, obviously representing the bears. In, in the quilt I have used fabric which I actually bought in Alaska. We visited many quilting shops, and I got so overwhelmed by all this fabric that I wasn’t used to seeing and so that I didn’t actually buy very much. But little bits I have bought I have included in the quilt, and on the Bear’s Paw I have actually got a fabric which has got little bears on, as the in some of the panels. Next to that is a bright yellow star. The only reason that’s there is because every time we walked from our cabin to the dining room we walked over these s… stars and so I decided that I could put one of those on the quilt. And that, that is a three-layered star, which I’ve appliquéd, each layer I’ve appliquéd on top of one another, and then I’ve sort of just zigzagged ’round and on each corner, to hide my very poor corners, I’ve put a little, little bead which just sparkles. Below that, we, we went whale watching on one occasion and we did actually see some whales, and so I’ve created two tails with and two whales in the middle facing one another. But they’re not in whale colours, they’re in this aubergine fabric which I found, which just sort of fitted well with all the oranges and the, the yellows and the greens. And also, the other block I’ve made is a block called Alaska, which is made up of f… four outer squares, small squares, a centre square, and then some in, in the, in the middle there’s… half-square triangles but on point, and then in the corners of those there’s, there’s half-square triangles, and then there’s squares, I think they’re probably about two inches, that are on point, and, and that I was quite happy to have found that. I think that was one of my first blocks that I probably ever made. And I’ve also included an eagle which again was appliquéd using Bondaweb, and then I’ve, in the background of the eagle, I’ve done little, zigzag stitches, which… Satin type little stitches I think rather than zigzag, which just gave some texture to the background. And then the owl is… the… Sorry not the owl, the … eagle itself I’ve free machined the markings of the wings and the head and the tail quite simply. I haven’t gone into a lot of detail, but it just, just gives that little bit of che… texture to see. Next to that is Mount McKinley, a representation of Mount McKinley, which ’cause before we went on the cruise we actually took two days travelling through Denali Park, from Fairbanks through Denali Park and, and ev… every day we got this fantastic view of Mount McKinley in the distance. And I think I cheated with that because I think while I was on… while we were away in Alaska, I actually bought a, a quilt pack, which I’ve never made up, but I think I used the pattern, which… for the mountain, and, and that’s m again it’s been bonded on, and in layers, and the fabric I’ve used is a sort of a… It is a commer… All the p… All the fabrics in the quilt are commercial fabrics, but looking at it now, when I’m looking at it sort of in quite a lot of detail, realising that a lot of the fabrics look as if they have been hand dyed, because that is what I am now very much into is hand dyeing. So obviously even back then, I was obviously still attracted to fabrics which, which looked as if they’d been hand dyed. In the foreground of the mountain, I’ve just done very simple little stitches which create sort of to look like grass, tufts of grass, which… Then I’ve, I’ve done some clouds, just, just with free machining, in the background and I’ve got a nice yellow sun. Can’t remember whether the sun was shining but it probably did on one day, so. Down the one side, the one length of the quilt, I’ve got pine trees, which I remember took me a long time to cut out. Again, I used the pattern from this pack that I bought, but there’s lots of squiggly l… lines. And I pains… obviously painstakingly drew these onto Bondaweb, attached the Bondaweb to the fabric, and then cut them out and I’ve got one, two, three, four, five … six, seven, about eight or nine trees going up the side of the quilt, starting off with quite big, and then the ones at the top obviously are smaller. And in the background I’ve zigzagged ’round the, each tree in a, in a fairly closed zigzag, not quite satin stitch, and which I think I did free machine zigzag. Looking at it now it doesn’t look very neat but never mind. Then in the background I’ve created some other tree shapes, just to look as if it’s, it’s a forest of trees. And they are green. I have, I have done those in green so they do represent trees. Along the bottom of the quilt is what represents salmon. Not that we saw any salmon other than in a, in a salmon farm. But… And they’re quite… They… I’ve t… I’ve made those all different shapes using… using… Stitch ‘n’ Tear, and I’ve forgotten what the…
KH: Foundation piecing.
SN: Foundation piecing. Sorry. Thank you Kathy, I’d forgotten what it was called. Foundation Piecing. And they’re basically triangles or squares just different shapes; I’ve got some small ones and I’ve got some big ones. And I’ve actually made them into rectangular blocks, and then I’ve stitched details of the scales, quite simply, just sort of doing half-moon shapes for scales on the fish and then I’ve sort of done straight lines on their tails. I’ve used a variegated thread by the look of it and, and I’ve used a, another thread as well which are, some are small, some are big, but they’re different shapes and sizes.
KH: Have you done that on the machine with free, free motion or did you have a pattern you were working to get the… ‘cause they look very consistent?
SN: I think, I think I drew them on before I stitched them. Yes, I can see a pencil line. So yeah I, I drew them on and then I stitched them and I think I might have actually not done free machining ’cause at that stage I wasn’t very good at it. I hadn’t done very much so I didn’t feel competent enough to do it so I think they were done with, as, as, as one would normally stitch with the feed dogs up, yes, so. Down the other side, this Courthouse Log Cabin, which I’ve…
KH: Excuse me, did you say Courthouse?
SN: Courthouse, yes. And the bottom steps are in oranges and yellows to represent the roofs of the cabins in… that you would find in Denali Park. The chimneys, the, the centre square which represents the chimney, I’ve used the fabric that I bought which has got animals on, so there’s just tiny, little bears and I’m not sure what that is actually.
KH: I, I think it’s a moose.
SN: A moose, yes. And that looks like an… could be an eagle or something or a bird. And then the, the top… the sides and the top of the block I’ve used green to represent the forest. And I’ve actually stitched the green with trees in the background to represent the shapes of the trees in the forest. And the… E-Each block, which obviously not… some are rectangular, some are square, some are long, some are wide, narrow, I’ve… my striped fabric which started me off with this quilt, I’ve used that as sashing between each block, and I actually stitched it together using the Quilt-As-You-Go method. Mm.
KH: Would you be able to describe the Quilt-As-You-Go method of it in some detail?
SN: Quilt… I think so [laughs]. Quilt-As-You… Well, the way I did this, I would join blocks together and… Actually it’s easier on the back probably. I joined the blocks together and then sandwich, sandwich it with I’ve used 80, 80/20 polyes… cotton polyester wadding, and … with the backing, and the backing a lot of it was fabrics that I had left over from the f… the, the front so it’s a, it’s all different colours on the back. And you leave the… The backing fabric you leave slightly wider than the top fabric, and you would just quilt your quilt your blocks together, your pieces together, and then you’d … at the right side you’d put … with top fabric you’d put right sides together, and then do as you would a quarter of an inch seam allowance. And then you’d come to the back and the wadding, you’d trim that so that it filled the gap that you created. And then you would turn under the seam allowance on the back, hand stitch it down. And then I think in some places, because of the detail of the quilting I did, I think I then had to go and do more quilting. But I probably, if I did it again, I’d probably do it differently, but that’s experience.
KH: So why, why did you choose to make this by Quilt-As-You-Go?
SN: Because I felt that it was easier to because there was… Because every block is different and every… there was… all the quilting is different, it was easier to do it in smaller pieces, um, than to do it as a, as a, a whole quilt. And again it’s the first big quilt that I’ve ever made, so I was learning.
KH: And do you… W-W-Would you recommend that as a method or have you… do, do you not use it very much anymore?
SN: I don’t use it, I haven’t used it since, but then I haven’t made a quilt like this before. I think if I was to make a quilt again like this I would still use the Quilt-As-You-Go method. And I’ve just realised I’ve missed a block out. I’ve got waves, to create the waves of the, the water, and I can’t remember the name of the block is that I’ve done, so sorry [laughs].
KH: Oh, well, it’s all right. They’re, they’re, they actually form a row above the block that has Denali and the eagles.
SN: Denali and the owls, yes, and also there’s some that … eagles. Oh, eagles. Got owls on the brain.
SN: And also there’s some over the salmon as well. Mm.
KH: Yeah. There’s one more block that interests me there.
SN: Oh, the totem poles.
SN: Yes. When we went to – forget where we went now – to see these, we saw these totem poles and these are just representations of totem poles, just sort of symbols that you would find on them. And again they’re bonded on, then… s… just zigzagged around the edge.
KH: So that’s an appliqué method?
SN: An appliqué method. And then I’ve gone ’round the out, outline with just a straight mach-machine stitch, straight stitch and I’ve, I’ve put… some of them I’ve put… I’ve bonded other pieces on top as well as the… [faces]. Mmm.
KH: And how is this quilt used now?
SN: This quilt is in a bedroom on-stairs, upstairs, and it sits on, it’s o… sits on… Actually they’re two twin… they’re two single beds pushed together, and it just sits on the top of it, and it goes with the curtains and everything that are in the bedroom, so.
KH: And how do you feel about it now? It… Are you still pleased with it?
SN: I’m still pleased the fact that I a-achieved this, but I think obviously with experience I probably would have done… I’m not quite sure how differently I would have done it, but I think I would have done it slightly different and, hopefully, my techniques would have been better, my stitching. Looking at it, when you look at it closely, some of my stitching could have been better. But no I’m still very pleased with it and it’s… I still enjoy seeing it when I go in the bedroom. Yeah.
KH: O-One thing we haven’t described is how it’s bound.
SN: It’s, it’s bound with… a double binding, but what I did was all the fabrics I’ve used, I’ve joined them together and used that as a binding so it’s not just one plain binding, so it’s just got little, little bits of… ’cause it’s the usual quarter of an inch wide, ’cause I like I like a tight binding on quilts, and with mitred corners, I see, and, and I’ve just used all the, the fabric that was leftover just to create the binding.
KH: Is there a label on it?
SN: There is a label on it.
KH: Okay, tell me about the label.
SN: And the label is quite a crude label which says: ‘Barnt Green, Worcestershire, made in memory of a cruise to Alaska to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, which was the 11th of May 2004.’ I’ve just, I’ve just handwritten that onto a piece of fabric and then, and then stitched it in.
KH: And was … was that the date of the cruise or the date that you finished making it?
SN: No. No. The…That was the date of our wedding anniversary…
KH: Oh, right.
SN: …and the cruise was in June 2004, and I didn’t start making the quilt until probably the September; because I belong to a class, went to a class with Edwina Mackinnon, who she then called it Block A Month, and it’s through her that I actually produced this, this quilt because she had developed this memory quilt, and she’d worked out the sizes of blocks and things that, that you could do to get a reasonable size quilt. And so I used that as a basis, but then developed obviously my own ideas for what I put on it.. So it was probably started in about 2004 and I think it was probably finished in about 2006, when it…
KH: Well, it’s a really lovely quilt. Have you ever exhibited it?
SN: I have exhibited it. I put it into the exhibit… the Festival of Quilts in 2007. And I hadn’t realised it until I was looking up for this but I’ve also obviously put it in the Quilts in the Garden in 2008. I had some … nice comments and some strange comments about it but one of which I… In the Festival of Quilts I put it into the pictorial section because I thought it told a story, and one of the judges felt that it should have been in, in, in a… the traditional part of the exhibition, I suppose because it has got a couple of traditional blocks in it. But never mind.
KH: What do you think about putti… the, the importance or not of putting quilts in an exhibition?
SN: I think people should show their work. This is the only time I’ve ever put a piece in an exhibition. But I think it is important that people… you know it’s nice for people to see what you’re doing. I mean I’m very fortunate that because I belong to a regular class and we have an annual exhibition, so all the work that we create is actually exhibited in a local exhibition in Bromsgrove, and people do come and see it. The only reason I’ve never put another quilt into the Festival of Quilts is because I don’t want to have my quilts judged. I’m, I’m happy for people to, to share them, to enjoy th… looking at them, to comment themselves whether they like it, whether they don’t like it, which you do when you’re looking at a quilt, but I don’t feel that y-y-you should be judged every time if you don’t want to be. And I think possibly, I don’t know, whether more people might put quilts into big exhibitions like the Festival of Quilts if they know that you’re not going to be judged. Might be just a person… personal point of view, I, I don’t know. No.
KH: Oh, thank you.
KH: Can you tell me now a little bit about how you came to be a quilter and what… a little bit about yourself if you want to?
SN: Self. My love of sewing de… was developed by at school by a very… well she felt elderly when she taught me, she may not have been elderly, and in s… in secondary school. And we, we had to make the usual apron, cookery…cooking apron, and mine was green gingham because we had to do it in our house colours, and we had to make a little hat as… a little… not a hat but a, a band that ran, went around your head. The bib and the bottom of the apron had… was white, and you had to show how you could face a, a, a piece of fabric and we had to hand-stitch it, and, and my mother wore that apron for a very long time. I… Sadly I don’t think she ever… she di… she has it now, but it did last a very long time. Mm. And it was through that that I really got into sewing. My mother’s s… did s… did some sewing, she always had a sewing machine, but she was a, she was a big knitter, which sadly I’ve never really got into. But then whilst I was at school we always had a fashion show at the end of the school year, and the wo… the year that I was to be confirmed into the Church of England I made my confirmation dress, which was obviously white. And I made… I made… It was, it was a full skirt. I remem… I can see it now. It was a full skirt with inverted pleats, so it was quite a challenge to make, and in the fashion show I was the one that came on last in my dress. A bit like the bride really I suppose [laughs]. Um. And then s… but sadly I couldn’t do GCSE O-level. I had to, I had to decide whether I was going to do sewing O-level or whether I was going to do domestic science and I decided to do domestic science O-level which in hindsight I probably should have done my sewing. And the other person who was a great influence was my aunt, who sadly is no longer with us, and she was, she was a great creator of… she was a potter, and she did dressmaking and, and I had, I had her sewing machine. I think it might have been for my 21st birthday she gave me her sewing machine which was a Frister Rossmann, and which is still going strong I think. And so and then… I, I made a few clothes for myself after that but not many. I obviously had a career as a nurse, and had children, made my son some clothes. I can remember I made him a lovely little coat with a velvet collar, and I made him green dungarees; all these things I can see coming back to me. And then I had twin girls and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be able to make lots of dresses for my two little girls,’ but sadly, because I was so busy with three children, I only made them a couple of dresses but I did smock them a couple of dresses for them which I was very proud of. And it wasn’t until… I… they, they were at school, they were at secondary school so I had more time on my hands and with a, a friend and a neighbour, we decided we’d go to a Victorian handicraft course, in Bromsgrove, and that’s where I really discovered patchwork and quilting. And we only did small things. My needle-case that I use, that was made then, and I’ve got some cushions upstairs which we did tumbling blocks, I did a Dresden Plate by hand, and that’s, that’s where I started. And from then we dec… the… this friend Pat and I, we decided that we wanted to join an embroidery group, so we joined Forge Mill Embroiderers, and I was a member of that group for a very long time. And one morning we had this lady call Edwina Mackinnon come to talk to us, at the embroidery group, and I then decided… I’ve always wanted to do a City and Guilds, and I decided that after meeting Edwina, seeing… seeing what she produced, the… her enthusiasm for the subject, the beautiful work that she created, I decided that I probably could do patchwork and quilting City and Guilds with her, and that’s really how I’ve got to where I am now.
KH: And, and I noticed you said you were… you joined an embroidery group first rather than patchwork and quilting group. Ha… was that just an accident or how did that happen?
SN: I think we were looking, we were looking for a group to join where we could just do some stitching, and I think that was the f… the, the first group that we discovered. I was into cross-stitch at the time as well, thinking back on it, although a few members of the group didn’t think much of my cross, cross-stitch I think though [laughs]. I don’t know why. But, and as I say, I hadn’t… I didn’t really know, apart from the small amount of small things we did in this Victorian handicraft class which was just for a year… I’d I didn’t really know anything about patchwork and quilting, and it wasn’t until we had this talk with Edwina that really opened my eyes. But I don’t call myself a patchwork and quilter, I call myself somebody who dabbles in textiles, because I enjoy embroidery and I, and I enjoy… I enjoy patchwork quilting, but I enjoy creating probably more art quilts than the traditional quilts, so yeah, so I don’t class myself actually as a patchwork and quilter.
KH: One of the things we didn’t mention when you were, were describing your Alaska quilt was the fact that some of the stitching on it is hand stitching, isn’t it?
SN: It is, yes.
KH: It’s, it’s embroidery stitching…
SN: Is it embroidery stitch? Yeah.
KH: … although the majority of the quilting has been done with a sewing machine. Would it be fair to describe your work now as being a mixture of the two or what?
SN: Yes, very much a mixture of hand, hand stitch and, and machine.
KH: Mmm hmm.
SN: I’ve never ever … traditionally quilted a quilt, but which I am a… I am doing now. The quilt that I’m making now, I am, I am hand quilting that in the traditional way, although it’s still not traditional because it’s going to be large stitches; it’s not going to be the, the small, beautiful stitches that you can… you see some people do, because I don’t think, I don’t think I could ever achieve that [laughs]. Not to my satisfaction anyway. No.
KH: Would you, would you say there’s a time consideration as well? You like…
SN: And also there’s a time… Yes. Yes.
KH: You like to get them finished?
SN: Like to get them finished, especially as this particular quilt that I am now hand quilting I actually started the blocks in I think 2006 and I’ve only just finished them, so yes [laughs].
KH: Yes. Could you describe a little bit what City and Guilds Part One was like when you, when you did it? What… How, how… What format was that?
SN: Yeah it’s, it’s, it has changed. I mean I… Actually I forget when I did it. I… We did. It was very much two, two separate years, although I think I took three years to do it in those… and you could, you could take three years then to do it. The first year was very much learning the basics, learning the techniques, doing lots of samples of all the, all the different techniques that there are. Some of, some embroidery techniques as well, not just all, all patchwork but learning how to put a block together, how to… how to j-j… [sighs] just like how to do appliqué, different types of appliqué, how to… Oh, can’t think what else we did.
KH: Did, did you do things like trapunto and…
SN: We did trapunto we did Italian quilting…
KH: Yeah. Yeah.
SN: … and we did… And then, and then in the second year, we then had to … do the four or five elements of it which was, one was make a quilt, or a, or a, a hanging. We had to do a s… a, a miniature quilt. We had to do a 3D piece. Um. I can’t remember what…
KH: Can you, can you remember your 3D piece? What was that like?
SN: I did a… I made a box and I made it for… And it’s a bit, looks a bit like a shoebox actually ’cause it’s the size of a shoe… I did a s… It was made into as a sewing box, and it was just a rectangular box, which then I did put a, a s… a rectangular, a smaller rectangular bit that slotted inside, and I made it for, for m… one of my daughters for her sewing box and, and I’m assuming she’s still got it. I’m hoping she’s still got it.
KH: Do you ever, do you ever do any other 3D pieces now?
SN: I have done, yes. I’ve, I did a workshop with I can’t remember who and we did… we layered Lutradur I think it was and we burnt into it and I made a c… a, a, a cylinder. I have made other boxes, but, yeah.
KH: So w-where, where is… what’s your favourite? What do you like doing now?
SN: What do I like doing now? I like… dyeing fabric and using that in my work. At the moment I’m making a book cover and … I’m also making a quilt. I’m doing a wall hanging for my mother, which is quite tradi… it, it is more traditional because it’s using the pinwheel block down it. It’s going to be a hanging for her, which is going to go on the long wall as you walk down the stairs, on the long wall. I just like, I just like playing with fabric and seeing what, what happens with it and… Also, I tend to, I now tend to make things that I will have a use for, like I’ve, I’ve made a set of table mats, which… and a runner, which sits on my kitchen table. But, yes.
KH: How much time do you think you spend on, on stitching in general and quilting?
SN: I do s… I suppose I do spend quite a lot of time. Not as much as I’d like to. I do go, I, I do now g-go to… Following from, on from City and Guild, Edwina Mackinnon decided that she wasn’t going to carry on with, with invigilating City and Guild, but she still wanted to carry on with having a class. So she developed a, a class which is called Textile Inspirations, which we meet once a week, and, and that’s where I, I mainly, I probably do, do my stitching.
KH: Could you describe some of the processes that you go through to make a start on a, a, a new piece and how you take yourself through it or how Edwina helps you to get through it?
SN: We usually s… We… It’s usually led by Edwina who I do think is, is my mentor. I really do think that. She’s such, such an encouraging person. But what we do is at the beginning of term she will decide that we’re going to work on a subject. It could, it could… Last year it was colour, and we developed, we developed d-different ways of colouring fabric, using different techniques, and we would develop ideas in sketchbooks, and then, and work, work on from there deciding what we were going to make. And a lot of it was experimental. A lot of what I do is experimental, and, and, and what I decide to, how I decide to create something in the end comes from the experimental work that we do in sketchbooks or on fabric, using the machine, using hand-stitching. This year we’ve been using… making collagraphs which using a mangle to create. So what you do is you, you have a mount board, we use mount board as the… and then we put layers of paper. I used a lot of Anaglypta paper, just in shapes on, on… stuck on top. And then you ink it with special printing ink, and then you get a piece of paper and you layer the two together and you put them through, through a mangle, which creates pressure, and then you can… and it imprints the marks and the colours onto the paper. And I actually used it in fabric as well and got some good results and that’s why I’ve been making a book cover using these fabrics that I’ve created.
KH: Right. And you use the mangle because that’s a substitute for a printing press?
SN: That was a substitute for a printing press which we haven’t…
SN: … we haven’t got, but we had, we had the use of the mangle.
KH: Can you…
SN: And a spaghetti, a spaghe… Apparently, a, a spaghetti maker’s a very good thing to do as well, use as well as a, for pressure, yeah.
KH: One thing about quilters is that there’s no, n-nothing in the house that can’t be useful [laughs]. Yes.
SN: That’s right. That’s right. Going to an exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum last week, I discovered this lady who’d been doing tie dyeing, that she’d actually used a sandwich toaster to create some of her marks on her fabric. And since reading about it, she… what she done is, is she painted the ridges of the, of the toaster, and, and then obviously put her f… pressed her fabric somehow into this to, to get these marks from the sandwich toaster and that I thought was very innovative [laughs].
KH: Can you talk a little bit more about some of the colouring techniques you use?
SN: Us… Mainly use Procion dyes m… in, and obviously with Procion dyes it has to be on 100 percent natural fibres, usually cotton.. Or a lot of the work we… dyeing I do now is using a thickened Procion dye so you use something… well we use a thing called Manutex, which thickens the dye. The fabric needs to be… have been soaked in soda ash solution and then dried, and then you can use a, a, a screen to scrape your dye through or you can… One of the techniques that we’ve been doing this year, is just a very simple Perspex square, rectangle, circle and either painting the thickened dye, just with an ordinary paintbrush or a sponge brush or something or a sponge, painting it onto the Perspex, and then, because the, the dye moves on the Perspex, you get these lovely patterns. And then just literally printing the… turning the Perspex over and then just sort of s… laying it on the fabric, and just pressing it down so that you’re transferring the dye from the Perspex onto your fabric, and you can get some f… we got some fabulous results from that. Another thing you could do is you can still paint your thickened dye onto your Perspex, and then either use a stamp or use a roller, or just, just, just make marks into it and then obviously transfer that print onto your fabric; a, a way of mono-printing, but you’ve got some lovely, lovely results.
KH: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SN: And I have produced, this, this year I have produced a small wall hanging, having used that technique.
KH: Are there any sort of more exotic or way-out ways of colouring fabric that you’ve experienced?
SN: I have been abroad, I have been to India, and seen… Actually, no, the most exotic one I saw was in Bhutan, when I went travelling to Bhutan, a couple of years ago and we went to see this lady to, to do sort of natural dyeing, and… in her house. She was a really lovely person. And… But she’d forgotten that we were going and so she’d been at the the beetle juice berries. And we arrived and there she’d got this very red mouth and she was on an absolute high. And so it was a lot of fun to watch her light, light her fire and get… I forget what she was using actually to, to dye the fabrics; different vi… different leaves and things she was using to dye the fabric. And but we really felt that because she was on such a high [laughs] that she was going to cause some damage to herself but she produced some beautiful pieces of, pieces of fabric in just using a simple fire, and just very simple mordants, to create these lovely fabrics. And then her husband, he produced this… cooked us a lovely lunch which we had in their house. Yeah.
KH: The s… the social side of quilting and pa… and fabric and textiles is often just as good as the actual doing isn’t it? Yes. Yeah.
SN: It definitely is. It definitely is and I think that’s an important part of…
SN: … o-of it is belonging to, to, to a group so that you can share what you enjoy doing with, with like-minded people. Yeah.
KH: When you go to an exhibition, what do you, what do you look for in other people’s quilts? What, what… How would you decide that something was a really lovely quilt or do you, do you not have any sort of criteria?
SN: I don’t think I have any criteria. I obviously, because I’m so interested in colour, I like to look at a quilt and, and make… and I like it if the colours work together. And I just admire the people who just do whole cloths and do this just beautiful quilting. And, yeah, I d… There’s not one thing that I really think, ‘Oh, that’s what I’m looking for.’ I, I, I sort of like to lo-look at the quilt as a whole, and, and then decide whether, you know, obviously it’s my taste or not. But I just admire people that just do th… just do exquisite work I think! And yeah. And I think I admire people for putting their quilts in a quilt show. You know you, you, you look at something and you think, ‘Oh, that doesn’t hang very well,’ or you know, ‘it, it, it doesn’t look right,’ but at least they’ve been brave enough to exhibit it, more than I am now! Yeah.
KH: Someone once said to me that… if nobody put any quilts into shows there wouldn’t be any shows to go to, and that, that she thinks that everybody ought to be exhibiting. What do you think about that?
SN: I agree with that because there wouldn’t be! If, if, if nobody put, put their quilts in there, there wouldn’t be a quilt show…
SN: … because the, the majority of, of, of the quilts you look at are ones that are, are done, and exhibited in, in the different categories. I go back to what I said earlier, I think perhaps more people might do it if, if they knew they weren’t going to be judged, if you could, if you could say, ‘Please don’t judge my quilt,’ ’cause I think I, I, when my quilt was judged I did get quite upset by some of the comments that they made, because I’d done the best job [laughs]. I could at the time. And, but, but perhaps in hindsight I, I don’t know [laughs].
KH: Do you tend to go to most of the exhibits at the shows that are around or are you picky about which ones you go to?
SN: I, I’ve, I’ve always gone to the Festival of Quilts. I mean we are so lucky living in this area, that we have… obviously have the Festival of Quilts, we have the Malvern Quilt Show, as, as the two big shows that are just on our doorstep. The Malvern Quilt Show I haven’t… I d…, I, I used to go quite a lot but I haven’t been. It’s just I think through just things happening the weekend that it happens to be on. But, no, the Festival of Quilts I have always made sure I go to that. I go for two days, because I feel that you can’t do it in a day, there’s just so much to see.
KH: What do you think is special about it?
SN: I think what’s special is, is… well you get all those beautiful quilts that, that other people have done, but also I think the galleries; the, the names, the, the sort of the named people, the professionals, as, as what I like to call them, from all over the world that you can just see their, their work. You might not like their work, but it’s just lovely to just… to walk into a gallery and just see all this, this work that people have spent a long time doing. And the camaraderie again, meeting up with lots of people that you probably haven’t seen for years or people that you’ve… I’ve been, you know, as, as I mentioned about the going to Bhutan, I’ve been lucky to, to go to India and Bhutan and Uzbekistan and, on, on textile holidays, and I’ve met up with people who I’ve been on those holidays with who I would, you know, at these at the festival so that’s…, yeah. And I take… go with a f… a, a, a friend, two friends actually, one of who’s disabled, and she just gets such a lot of enjoyment out of going and she wouldn’t be able to go unless I took her. And the other friend, she has exceptional circumstances at home, and so for her it is two days out of a very d… a, a very hard life, and it’s just lovely to, to see her, the enjoyment that they get out of it as well.
KH: I think that I’d like to say a very big thank you to you. I think this has been a really interesting chat. And unless you’ve got something else that you want to add thank you and we’ll stop there.
SN: Thank you Kathy, I don’t think there’s anything else I can talk about [laughs].