Saturday, 28 March 2015

Completed: The Charlotte Bartlett Quilt II


I made this quilt as my parents' Christmas gift, but I've only recently photographed it, because when I finally finished this quilt, either me or one of my family had flu (the flu took five weeks to complete a full circle of the family, with each person suffering for nearly three weeks, decimating Christmas with fevers and chills) and just the idea of hauling a quilt up onto the wall to photograph it made me ache, so I didn't bother and gave it to them only having taken a few close up photos.


To recap, I've made this quilt before and loathed every minute of construction due the repetitive machine piecing it requires, but whenever I got that first bright red snowball quilt out, my father admired it with such previously-unheard-of enthusiasm, that it spurred me on to embark on the hateful pattern once more. I called the original quilt The Charlotte Bartlett Quilt - here's an explanation of why, taken from a blog post a few years ago:

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."

True to form, my parents' snowball quilt ended up being much smaller than I'd originally planned too, making it a very worthy Charlotte Bartlett Quilt II. However, despite my not enjoying the pattern, I did put large amounts of love into making it, so there is no bad feeling emitted by the quilt - I would say it is positively puffy with love!


While the quilt pattern was chosen for my father, the fabrics were really very focused on my mother's tastes. Ever since I can remember, she has always revelled in rich blues and I chose the fabrics for this really carefully, trying to pinpoint which prints contained the exact shades of blue that I know she is particularly drawn to. Because Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs prints are large in scale, it's actually quite a tricky task doing this via the Internet as often the swatch that you see, doesn't reveal quite how many other unexpected colours appear. I cross-referenced each print with larger samples that I could find around the Internet before ordering, to try and get around this problem and, luckily, I was really thrilled with the colours when they arrived and only omitted a few of the ones I'd ordered.

I went and photographed the quilt in situ one day in February after a dog walk with my mum and the boy child. I had thought it would take two minutes...but we discovered that we don't possess a stylist's skill for artfully draping quilts and ended up laughing over our own poor attempts at a successful this-quilt-just-happened-to-be-draped-nonchalantly-over-the-chair shots. This photo is entirely affected and there was nothing nonchalant about the draping whatsoever. It involved two grown women tweaking, pulling at it and frequently marvelling at our own ability to make a quilt look like it had been 'dolloped' somewhere. But look, at least you can see quite how right the colours are for my parents, when cross-referenced with the print on the wall!


Eventually, we realised that it was far easier to photograph a quilt when draped over a mezzanine wall, which my mother happened to have to hand (over a decade ago, we lived in this house for eight months when our own house was found to be structurally unsafe. The wall hides my parents' bedroom, which meant that they were often woken to the noise of our two-year-old daughter playing with farm animals and having tea parties below! In retrospect, this was possibly the loveliest alarm clark imaginable for them).


The photo below shows you the piecing before it was quilted. I really love the snowy blue print that sits between each snowball. 


I also really love that hidden in amongst all the snowballs, is a picture of my father's moustachioed face (before he grew a beard). I asked my parents if they could find his face in the quilt and apparently they could. 


The quilting for this was something of an experiment. As a graduate from the School of Straight-Line Quilting, as well as that of the University of Seaweed-Shaped Meandering, I felt the need to embark on another course of action that challenged my over-reliance on these two techniques. I sought advice on Instagram as to where I should go next, and someone came up with the clever idea of big, lazy concentric flower petals, that are just (apparently) one step up from the curves of seaweed. 



You can see a close up of some of my flowers here. I would say it took the course of the entire quilt for me to come close to completing a perfect flower - I am awe of people who have the ability to do incredibly intricate quilting, because for me, this took days and extreme amounts of concentration. Every time my husband came up to see me, I was sat in exactly the same place, doing exactly the same thing, seemingly making very little progress at all. My husband took this photo of me one night at around midnight when he went off to bed (for the uninitiated, the white gloves are quilting paraphernalia, rather than a sartorial homage to Michael Jackson), but a photo taken 24 hours later would have looked almost identical. Quilting does not come naturally to me. 



Right, it's now half-past nine on Saturday morning and I probably ought to get out of bed. 

Wishing you a lovely weekend, 
Florence x

26 comments:

  1. That is a stunningly gorgeous quilt! All your care and attention to detail really paid off, didn't it? Wow.
    Thanks for explaining about the white gloves - I had no idea quilting requires gloves! They look like the gloves I've used to handle portfolios.
    Speaking of which, here's my photographer's tip for artful (dis)arrangement: toss the entire garment/item lightly into the air, above whatever you want it to drape over. Gravity is our friend ;)

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    1. Thank you so much for the tip - that's a fantastic idea! And yes, the gloves have textured finger tips, which help you grip the quilt as you move it around the bed of the machine.

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  2. I love Philip Jacobs' prints, so lush and rich, and now I can only think of Freddie and Lucy saying ' Poor Charlotte! Poor, poor Charlotte!"

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  3. Amazing quilt, Florence! The colours are stunning. And let's not forget that Charlotte Bartlett turned out to be quite the hero in the end. Also... what a house! x

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    1. I have to confess to not having read the book since I was 17 and so the memory of Charlotte's martyrdom is the abiding one and very little else! And yes, it's a lovely house, isn't it. x

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  4. It is a stunning rich blue quilt and the snowy blue fabric you used between the blocks is absolutely perfect . Yes, It turns out that quilting quilts is harder than it looks , just tried this recently on a long arm. Lovely!! and a wonderful gift.

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  5. well it absolutely glows like stained glass. What a gorgeous gift for your parents.

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  6. Florence. Your parents quilt is wonderful. I love the colours beautiful. What a wonderful Christmas present.
    Rosezeeta.

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  7. Stunning! I love this and the first one equally.

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  8. It looks quite puffy, what battinng did you use?

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  9. That quilt is stunning! and i love your blog name! My first pet gerbil was called Flossie Teacake and it used be my nickname from my nanna :)

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  10. Yay for finishing a lovely gift, and I am DYING over the name. So funny.

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  11. This is the most gorgeous quilt I have seen in a long time! I quite fancy one myself actually, if you have spare time.

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  12. The quilt is stunning in situ against the brown and white. It provides an amazing shot of colour. Well chosen fabrics and pattern. Lovely all round!

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  13. Artfully draping quilts doesn't come naturally to me either. Setting up pictures sometimes seems to take as long as making the quilt took!

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  14. This is gorgeous (and the other Charlotte quilt). As a very new quilter (on my first small project) I'm drawn to bright bold prints but was beginning to worry my taste was all too mad for quilting and I was going to have to tame myself with plain bits between. Now I can see I can just go mad and it will work and I'm so inspired, I can't wait to give a mad snowball quilt ago. Thank you

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    1. Have you bought any Kaffe Fassett books? I think you'd find them very reassuring as they have virtually no white in at all! Jane Brocket also uses colour in a similar way in her quilting books. x

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  15. Truly gorgeous Florence - your patience is never ending x

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    1. I think it ends just before curtain making ;)

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  16. Beautiful quilt, and so aptly named! :D

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  17. I love how honest you are. "Loathed and hateful patterns", laughing over how to drape a quilt on a chair, graduating from straight lines to petals and hidden moustaches. What an enjoyable ride you take us on.

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    1. It is truly loathed and hateful! And dear lovely Lysa - so kind of you to comment when you are still awaiting an email from me! I have had a rather frantic month, but will reply after Easter, hopefully with accompanying photos! I'm excited! x

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    2. No rush, I'm going underground for six weeks, starting on the 13 of April anyway. I'll be working on my second Surface Pattern Design module. Perhaps our schedules will align then :D

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  18. Thank you so much for all your lovely comments! 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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