Patchwork & Quilting: A Maker's Guide

It's been a while since I last posted, so now I have a whole queue of things impatiently lined up waiting to be shared, but this book, published by Thames & Hudson for the V&A, has leapfrogged straight to the front of the queue.

Last year, an email landed in my inbox asking if I'd like to contribute an English paper pieced project to a book that the Victoria & Albert Museum were bringing out. Contributors were invited to pick something from the museum's collection and create a piece inspired by it, which felt like such a delicious premise for a project.
I chose this Sundial Coverlet from 1797 as my inspiration piece, drawn to it through a combination of it containing some wonderful blocks suitable for EPP, as well as finding the thoughtfulness behind its structure appealing. Described by the V&A as 'a microcosm of her world in cloth', the maker has placed matters close to home at the centre of the quilt and slowly stitched her way out to the far corners of the world. The central blocks relate to domesticity: a pincushion, needle, scissors and it also looks to bare the initials of either herself or family members. Moving outward, the coverlet is dotted with blocks that reference the garden: ducks, birds, butterflies and honeysuckle. In the four corners are pieced maps: the top two showing the Eastern and Western Hemispheres on the globe; while the outline of England and Wales, and then Scotland, are depicted in the two bottom corners. It's a structure that made me imagine a maker who appreciated what was close to home, but who was also outward-looking and whose dreams were filled with travel and adventure.

While the more figurative blocks initially attracted me to the quilt, I focused on some of the geometric piecing that the quilt encompassed, which is better for EPP. I chose three blocks, which increase in level of difficulty, beginning with simple hexagons, working up to smaller pieces and some gentle curves. Having drafted the blocks, I chose to use Liberty prints, which feel to bridge the gap between old and new. This is the most simple of the three blocks:

In the photo below, you can see the direct inspiration for the quilt block that follows. I've tried to mirror the original maker's careful placement of prints - you can see that she's used the same prints at 12 and 6 o'clock, and then again at 1, 5, 7 and 11 o'clock and so on. The curve sits on the outside edge of the outermost pieces, so one doesn't actually have to sew any curves together.

Again, in the block below, I've tried to make my placement of repeating fabrics sympathetic to the original layout, as it was so thoughtfully done that I didn't want to dilute its loveliness in translation. The blocks could be made placed in repeat to make a whole quilt, or framed and put on the wall, which is where mine will be going.

I wanted the three blocks to each have a distinct feel, but also to work together as a cohesive trio for photography. When choosing fabrics for a block, I'm always waiting for that illusive feeling of 'ah, yes, of course', which comes when I finally feel I've found a combination of colours and prints that works. It's long been a source of frustration for me that I'll hold a project up for weeks, while I wait for that combination to materialise (although this subsequent sewing exercise has really helped with conquering that - I'd really recommend it for fellow indecisives). In order for me to meet my deadline and not steal too much time away from another project that I was immersed in for much of last year, I knew that I had to make quicker decisions with these blocks, so I decided to confine myself to just one weekend for fabric choices. 

I've found the quickest and least wasteful way for me to trial a large number of fabrics is to scan them in and then mess around with them on my laptop, swapping fabrics in and out, until I have a combination I feel happy with. My sister had offered to be a second pair of eyes for me and that weekend we had countless texts and phone calls, discussing what was or wasn't working with each version. I was relieved that by about 7pm on Sunday, I had all three blocks finalised and a digital image of how each fabric should be cut there for my reference and the finished blocks do look identical to those first images (above, the first photo shows the digital version, the second is the hand-sewn versions)! It made the cutting and sewing bit really speedy and a few days before Christmas, I posted my blocks off to the our editor, ready for their photo shoot in the new year. 

So, on to the actual book, which is a thing of beauty. It's peppered with samples from the V&A's collection, which makes it feel a really rich and weighty book. It's also fascinating to see how each contributor has approached creating a modern version of their original inspiration piece.

The book's other contributors are Jenny Barlow, Susan Briscoe, Caroline Crabtree, Jenny Haynes, Pippa Moss, Ruth Singer and Gillian Travis and their makes are all gorgeous. One of my favourites is this reversible cot quilt by Pippa Moss - I haven't tried making a whole cloth quilt, but this makes me want to have a go. Beautiful tactile fabric and intricate hand-quilting.

Another project that jumped out at me is this gorgeously bold quilt by Jenny Haynes, finished with hand quilting in thick perle cotton.

There are so many other lovely projects inside - too many to mention here. 

Finally, I wanted to show you some of the beautiful step-by-step illustrations by Eleanor Crow. When I first received proofs of my pages, I could scarcely believe how perfectly she'd reproduced the Liberty prints...almost lovelier than the originals. 

If you're interested, you may well be able to hunt a copy down in your local bookshop. Alternatively, you can find it on Amazon (that's an affiliate link by the way - it means if someone buys a copy, then Amazon give me a tiny percentage of the sale price. Amazon doesn't share any of your details with me though. If you'd rather they didn't pass on a share of the sale, just type in 'Patchwork & Quilting A Maker's Guide' on Amazon and it should come up for you).

I think a launch party for the book is being planned at The Village Haberdashery in London on 25th November. I'll share more details nearer the time, but if you fancy coming along, it would be really lovely to meet you.

Wishing you a happy weekend,
Florence x


  1. Florence this is amazing! What a special project to take part in. Your blocks are absolutely stunning, the fabric combinations are beautiful. I really envy your skills of being able to produce digital versions (I really wouldn’t know where to start on the software) it must be so helpful being able to try out different fabric combinations. Once again I think your blocks are incredible! I will definitely be looking into purchasing this book it looks lovely.

  2. this looks like a fabulous book

  3. What an extraordinarily special thing to be a part of!! It looks like someone at the V&A is super smart - what brilliance to contact you. I can't believe you did all the fabric selection in one weekend. Your pieces just sing with beauty. Congratulations!!

    1. p.s. I *knew* you'd make the cover as well as the poster!! : )

  4. I'm actually selling the book in my shop and was delighted to see your projects in there! Jenny came to teach here a few weeks back and ordered the books to sell during her class /talk. Unfortunately they didn't arrive until she left so I have been selling them to all her students and beyond! It's a gorgeous book

  5. So beautifully inspired and designed and created, Florence! This is a wonderful post, thank you for describing your process so clearly - and congratulations on your success!

  6. Congratulations, Florence! Isn't it funny how the original diamond block maker had kept some of the prints 'right way up' instead of making them radiate out from the middle? I really like how you imitated that! I've always found those wholecloth (aka Welsh?) quilts very appealing too. x


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Florence x