Tuesday, 3 July 2012
The Charlotte Bartlett quilt
The last few weeks have been thoroughly quilty and it shows no sign of abating. The fabrics above are a mixture of Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs, ordered from overseas where they weren't available in England. They will become a quilt for the garden. You might remember that at one point I was imagining a quilt of blues and greens that would blend into its habitat sympathetically. But then I planted a rose: it's beautiful and blousey and starts off with a deep fuchsia bud, that pales to a gentle rosy pink as it blooms, and seeing this gave me some clarity that I didn't want a quilt that blended in: I wanted a quilt that embodied the happiness of roses.
I spent hours and hours choosing the fabrics and, as ever, my own indecision drained the pleasure from this process slightly! As is my way in times of Extreme Flibbertygibbetness, I used PowerPoint to help me and after a time I came up with a combination of fabrics that I felt I may be happy with. It's just a random repeat of the fabric swatches and (thank goodness, for it's slightly chaotic in this form) and not a reflection of how the finished quilt will hopefully look. I've since added a few more prints in to give greater variety. I think there are about ten prints in total.
I am making a Snowball Quilt, inspired by one that I saw when looking through Kaffe Fassett's V & A Quilts book (I'll try and remember to share a few photos of some of the quilts in this book at some point as they're beautiful). I'd imagined a snowball quilt would be a quick thing to rustle up: an easy mix of small and large squares, sewn together in just a few short hours. In reality, my summer snowball quilt may only be completed as the first snowballs of winter are thrown. 168 large squares, 672 small squares. Every small square has to be sewn with precision to each corner of a large square, then cropped and pressed, before one can even begin joining parts of the quilt together. The repetition of the task, the short seams, the stop start of the machine which drowns my ability to listen to the radio - it all comes together to make it a loathsome task. However, as the quilt has grown before my eyes and I have begun piecing it together I have found that I love the effect, the colours, the shapes so much that I feel propelled forth, able to break through my boredom barrier and force myself to sew on.
These are perhaps a quarter of the squares needed. I couldn't bring myself to do all the cutting in one night. It is intended to be a huge quilt, perhaps the largest I've made, to accommodate the whole family and a picnic...however, I'm mentally reducing the amount of food that one really needs for a picnic...and even thinking that some family members may like to sit on the grass, not on the quilt at all. I shall force Charlotte Bartlettism on them to allow for a smaller quilt.
If you haven't met Charlotte, she's a character from an EM Forster novel who featured highly in our household as I grew up. If anyone was self-sacrificing in a way that inspired guilt in others they would quickly be accused of being Charlotte Bartlett, or if one wished to imply that they themselves were being badly done by, then muttering 'no, no, you sit on the rug' in the manner of Charlotte would convey the extreme level of self-deprivation with no other explanation necessary. Here's a passage from the A Room with a View that particularly delighted my mother and shows Charlotte at her very worst!
With many a smile she produced two of those mackintosh squares that protect the frame of the tourist from damp grass or cold marble steps. She sat on one; who was to sit on the other?
"Lucy; without a moment's doubt, Lucy. The ground will do for me. Really I have not had rheumatism for years. If I do feel it coming on I shall stand. Imagine your mother's feelings if I let you sit in the wet in your white linen." She sat down heavily where the ground looked particularly moist. "Here we are, all settled delightfully. Even if my dress is thinner it will not show so much, being brown. Sit down, dear; you are too unselfish; you don't assert yourself enough." She cleared her throat. "Now don't be alarmed; this isn't a cold. It's the tiniest cough, and I have had it three days. It's nothing to do with sitting here at all."
I haven't read or watched A Room with a View since I was fourteen or fifteen, but thinking about it now has made me think that I may put it on one afternoon while I do some English paper piecing...that would be a very welcome break from making snowballs in my self-imposed sweatshop.