Early 2011 – out of the blue – I got totally obsessed with patchwork. It all started when Colette asked me do run a patchwork class at the Bronte Sewing Room. Since, I have had a number of quilts on the go at any time… and played with a lot of samples to experiment new techniques… and if you add to that the knitting and the creatures and other ‘unclassified’ and ‘assorted’ projects – no wonder there is always a terrible mess in my shed!
I love using solids, linen, and above all – fabric from old garments. It is about being sustainable, but also about being truly individual.
Let me try to patch it together for you, how the love of patchwork started and where it is taking me.
First ever patchwork piece (1973?)
I made this patchwork cushion as a little girl. It is amazing how it has stayed with me for all those years, I cannot recall every having been very attached to it, but mysteriously it has traveled with me from country to country and here it is.
This is silk quilt is handpieced . I got the scraps mainly from a wedding dress shop I worked at in London. My first job after tailoring college! I saw a picture of the design I started with (in the middle) and set out to make this quilt. But I got very quickly very bored and added the small round shapes – I wish I hadn’t, they are just wrong and detract from the overall design. Anyway, I went mad on the colors and just added evenly pieces to all the edges. I lived in a tiny loft room in Stockwell and only saw entire quilt after I moving into a big downstairs room leading into our garden, where I could spread it out to it’s full size for the first time! And hey, I signed it with my maiden name!
Giant Pineapple (1993)
I have no picture of it yet! It is falling to pieces, having been on our bed for all those years, so I better get one presto! When I made it, I worked at the English National Opera in London. Every now and again, when there was very little work in between shows, we were allowed to work on our own stuff. I made this quilt in no time, because we had such good facilities in the workroom (and I didn’t have a studio at home). As I was making it, everyone brought old fabrics from home they wanted to see in the quilt!
This is the Opera Quilt because I worked at the Australian Opera just before I made it and used a lot of the scraps from shows. It also has the fabric used in my wedding outfit (the bright blue linen) and my husband’s wedding shirt (big cream squares). It also contains fabric from the highlight of my tailoring career: the dark red squares are fabric from the prince’s wedding outfit in “Ever After” (the one with Drew Barrymore). I made it in 4 days whilst being 7 1/2 pregnant with my first child. This quilt was made for that first child, but is too narrow to put on a single bed, so it is hanging in our bedroom. It is this small, because I had two very little kids when I made it and I thought ‘right, unless I don’t finish it now, just the way it is, it will be a UFO for many years’. And I think it was a smart move!
Josephine’s First Quilt (2004)
When Josephine went to pre-school, I started this quilt for her, intending to make it big enough to fit on a single bed this time!And it didn’t take that long. She helped! Jo asked me to cut up her old pjs, some left over fabric from her curtains, old pants, the dresses I would have loved her to wear, had she not turned out a tomboy. There is even an embroidered lion in there somewhere that I made one afternoon after returning with her from ‘Sculpture by the Sea’. She was so exhausted and cried as I put her into bed in the afternoon. Jo so wanted a lion! I sat down quietly next to her in bed and made that lion for her…
We have recently patched this quilt, it has got so many holes now, but she loves it all the same.
I sewed the top in an afternoon. The family was busy doing whatever they were doing and I just wanted to get this done. So in the middle of all the activity I made myself invisible on the kitchen/ lounge room floor. Lay out all the squares in some order, sewed noiselessly at the kitchen table row by row, and by dinner time – it was done. Again, I used Esther’s old dresses, even an old blouse my mother made for me. She still loves it, and so do I!
I had just finished my Honours thesis and was doing some work and some voluntary work and all of a sudden found myself with a little time on my hand. Janet gave me some small scraps of Japanese prints, no more than a sandwich bag full. I so loved them. The grey is from a big scrap from some show from some opera I worked on. The white is some linen with a very interesting story (another time…) and this is what happened when I put it all together. Note – at this stage I still had no idea what a rotary cutter is!
Colette saw my Japanese Quilt and asked me to teach a class. I was delighted, but also felt the need to really get down to exploring technique a bit more. Here is a sampler that is made from the many scraps Ruth gave away as she packed up her house to go to Malawi! This quilt is backed with a beautiful embroidered tablecloth I found in Vinnies. I know this quilt will never win a price at any show – but I just love snuggling up under it on a cold winter’s evening. The dogs can join me and so can Plato, the pet rat.
Giant Dhalia (2011)
Looks so complicated? – but it ain’t rocket science at all! The medallion was done in a flash, and then it took a bit longer to process the final part of this top.
Esther’s Sampler (2011)
This quilt I made in the Easter school holidays. By this stage I had started on my Double Wedding Ring already, but the only way I was going to be allowed to play in the shed was by making something for someone, in their company. I insisted that it had to be a sampler, because there were a number of blocks I wanted to explore; and Esther chose all the colors for each block. Pretty good teamwork!
Monkey Business (2011)
I saw a picture of this quilt – the blocks were a lot bigger, but I liked the general idea, especially the red ring around the edge. It is filled with cotton, which I found hard to quilt!
There is no more to say about this quilt.
This top was finished very quickly – I bought a lovely template set at the Craft Show – and it was done in an afternoon. It took a bit longer to work out what would happen next. So I appliqued the starflower to a big piece of calico and then used the template for the edges. It is filled with pure wool and that was divine to hand quilt and it is beautiful to snuggle under. Plato the pet rat unfortunately nibbled a hole into the top before I could photograph it… bad bad rat!
Flower Power (2012)
I started this quilt after preparing for an English Paper Piecing class… I just thought, why not start something quickly, something repetitive and ‘design as you go’? And I did. Great to fill the time during the before school swimming sessions when the brain is not in gear yet. I used just scraps and calico… just like for Starflower. I think this is last of the quilts with this colour scheme… I like it a lot, but it’s time for something new, n’est pas???
And then we have some assorted bits and pieces, ‘studies’ of new techniques.
What an inspiration you are !!
Never in my life would I have thought I’d be making a patch cushion, let alone a quilt which is now my 2nd project. Thanks to Swantje. After meeting not even a year ago, Swantje so casually yet enthusiastically encouraged me to start a little patch project. I would never have dreamed that I would love doing such a craft as it involved cotton & thread which has never been a focus for me. Anyway with her generosity & guidance I finish the cushion 12 weeks later , which I very proudly gave to my mother who was very surprised & also very proud of my creation. Thank you Swantje !!
Well done on your blog. It’s just great. I’m sure others who read it will enjoy as I have. I look forward to more. It’s inspiring as well as entertaining & how cute is Mr Fox !!
Looking forward to more…
I think we have got something really special going! When you are a patchwork/ knitting nut like myself, you don’t want to just carry on about what you do and how much you love it, to perfect strangers. But how good is it if someone approaches you and asks what you are doing and … they want you to teach them and they just go off and start loving it as much as you do yourself!!! And that is what happened to me when I met you – at 5.30am two mornings a week in the local pool whilst the 6 kids we have between us (I have less than Terese, so how many have we each???) train in the swimming squad! More there will be, don’t you worry!
Swantje, what a wonderful blog and collection of gorgeous quilts, memories and fabrics. How amazing you are that a year after chatting to me at Laura’s, you are up and away – inspiring all of us with your lovely tales of family and fabric and weaving them all together. would love to come to one of your classes – when are they?
Hi Deb, I would love to see what you are up to! Quilts? Clothes? Probably a bit of both, hey? Thank you for leaving this lovely comment!
You are truly a patchworker in the traditional sense of the craft. I’ve worked with patchworkers for a long time, and there is quite a divide between those who patch with ‘memory’ fabrics, dressmaking scraps and items gleaned from charity shops or friends and family, and those who buy new fabrics carefully co-ordinated from this year’s ranges. The main arguments are that it is easier to create something that looks good if the fabrics are designed to go together, and that if you are going to spend a long time making something by hand or machine it is good to know it will last by using new fabric. I waiver between the two approaches, but Swntje, you achieve great looking quilts using the more traditional method so are an inspiration to all those who prefer to recycle!
Actually its getting harder to source good patchwork fabric through recycling here in the UK. Charity shops charge quite a premium, and lovely cotton fabrics can be hard to find; I can’t bear the thought of patching with old fleeces or polyester!
Hi Jane, thank you for your kind words. I feel that I am learning a BIG lesson with every single quilt I am doing! I feel a bit of a piece about fabric choices coming on… there is quiet a bit of chat on other blogs about that and it is worth getting involved in that discussion, since it is on everybody’s mind. I would love to see what you are up to, Jane!!!
Lovely to hear from you! Swantje
Wow! I didn’t know patchwork could turn out such beautiful pieces! I need to take another look at my scrap stash…
Plato hasn’t been nibbling my quilt lately, I don’t think he likes the taste as much as almonds…