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.

Florence x

19 comments:

  1. I love the colours and the pattern - so right for the garden. We too have some truly spectacular roses (we have moved into the most amazing garden that I feel hugely responsible for - like a curator of a prized museum) and to have those as inspiration is wonderful. And A Room with a View was also one of adolescent loves - I was inspired to read all of EM Forster, followed bizarrely by a full catalogue of Thomas Hardy. Stumbled and fell finally at Jude the Obscure...

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    1. How lovely, lucky, luck you! But yes, equally I can imagine how overwhelming that must feel!

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  2. There's no way that quilt is going to blend in :) It's a lovely selection of fabrics. I'm always a bit scared of using bright colours even though I love to look at projects that use them. Looking forward to seeing it in all it's glory.

    I must have watched A Room With a View about 20 times when I was younger but haven't seen it for years either! Going to check whether it's available on lovefilm...

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    1. LoveFilm is a good idea!

      I too normally veer away from bright colours as I don't like them in my house...however, creating a garden quilt is liberating in this way and I'm enjoyin using wilder colours.

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  3. Fab - this is going to be do beautiful. Worth all the hard work (hmm is that a Charlotte Bartlettism?)

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  4. Well, my hands are only bleeding a little and I'm sure they'll be useable for making other things in a year or two...I just do so want my family to have somewhere comfy to sit. I'll imagine them enjoying it as I have my poor, overworked hands bandaged and hopefully I'll barely even notice the pain!

    x

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  5. It will look fabulous, I have recently completed a quilt top which I have decided will be a picnic quilt. It is 2.4m square, so should hopefully fit the whole family and friends. It is basted and waiting for me, I must quilt it soon and get it ready.

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  6. Lovely! One of my favourite books and films, and it made me chortle to read the quotation as I could see her saying it! Good luck with that rather huge project Florence xx

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  7. Beautiful fabrics! Room with a View is one of my favourite films - I saw it on my first date with my husband when I was 17, so it has a very special place in my heart!

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  8. I love the colours of this quilt. it will look fabulous when finished.

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  9. Oh goodness, the mackintosh squares! I think of them often! I really recommend that anyone who's only seen the film should read the book immediately - the film's nice but it's not a patch on the book. Florence, this quilt sounds like the kind of nuttily enormous undertaking that I would embark on, only more so!! But it will no doubt be a Thing Of Beauty when it's done.

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  10. Florence you have brought such joy to my corner of the world on yet another grey day.
    I'm a regular reader of your blog and love to see the things that you make and the mental deliberating I'm of a habit to share with you. Today's post for some reason has has compelled me to thank you for sharing all of this with me. I think that it the literary reference that has made me chuckle at my computer screen and the thought of your children being forced to enjoy their one sandwich picnic, sat bolt upright and cross legged, that has struck a chord.
    Happy sewing I'm sure the almost thankless task shall reap much pleasure for the one sunny day of the year, when the ground is dry enough upon which to lay a picnic rug!

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  12. Macintosh squares are a byword in our household for someone being just a little too bit efficient and self-sacrificing! Love th fabrics but I don't envy you the cutting and stitching by which you will gather that I'm off quilting at present. It'll be a very joyful quilt when it's done though!

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  13. Macintosh squares are a byword in our household for someone being just a little too bit efficient and self-sacrificing! Love th fabrics but I don't envy you the cutting and stitching by which you will gather that I'm off quilting at present. It'll be a very joyful quilt when it's done though!

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  14. Go for Howards End. You would be a noodle not too!

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  15. Ah I can just hear those lines in my head in Maggie Smith's prim tones - brilliant book and movie!

    Beautiful quilt too, it will be stunning when it's done :)

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  16. Yes, perfect for the garden. Love your writing style, btw. You write like poetry. And I think your quilt will be poetry, too.

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  17. Hi Florence

    Just recently found your beautiful blog - the colours of this quilt are just divine!! You really spoil your lucky family - wishing you many sunny days in your garden to enjoy your quilt :-)

    Bee x

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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