Sunday, 27 September 2015

Welsh quilting and Welsh quilts - a brief history!

People often ask me how I got interested in quilting, and one of the earliest things that inspired me was a book on Welsh quilting. I thought that the simple style and intricate quilting of the old Welsh quilts was beautiful, and a hobby was born! I've visited lots of places that show Welsh quilts and researched some of the history, so this is a potted guide just to share a bit of the information I've gathered.

Quilting has definitely been part of the Welsh culture since the late 18th century - although it is likely to be an older art in the country, there is very little evidence surviving of Welsh quilts before this time. It is a little after this that there became a recognisable Welsh style of quilt-making, in their wholecloth quilts and woollen quilts in particular.

Initially, due to the cost of fabrics for quilting, quilts were roughly made from home-spun woollen blankets. In the middle of the 19th century less expensive printed fabrics began to become available to the masses and quilting production really took off - many of the best examples being made from Welsh flannel.

It is the Welsh flannel quilts in their bold colours and geometric shapes that give rise to the comparison between Welsh quilting and the more well known Amish style of quilting, and as there was a great deal of Welsh immigrants to America at this time, particularly to Pennsylvania, it seems impossible to deny a link between the two. The design influence also passed back to Wales, with American block designs appearing in Welsh quilts from this time as Welsh families travelled to and from America. The wallhanging below is one I made, inspired by Welsh patchwork techniques, hand quilted with traditional motifs such as spirals and the Welsh pear, or paisley design.

Quiltmaking in Wales however was not a hobby, it was a profession. Making quilts was one of the few ways a woman could earn a respectable living , and as there were many miners' widows around it meant that a woman could support herself and her family. Quilts were made to order by the local seamstress, many housewives in the area would get new fabric and wadding each year and have a new set of bedding made up for the winter - although there was usually a 'special' quilt in the household reserved for important guests.

Quilting in Wales remained an important industry until the early 20th century, when mass produced items started to take over. There was a resurgence between the two world wars when the Rural Industries Bureau established a programme to encourage craft industries in areas affected by economic depression. The quilts made during this time were mainly high quality quilts to sell as luxury items in wealthier areas. Sadly though, fabric production ceased during World War II, and after the war there was neither the necessity or the skills remaining to carry on the craft in any major fashion.

Quilting in the Welsh style has therefore all but died out in in our country. There are however many enthusiasts (myself included!) who wish to keep the tradition going and not lose the many quilts that have been found and restored from the "golden age" of Welsh quilting - some great places to visit to see some of these works of art are:

The Welsh Quilt Centre, Lampeter - Includes quilt exhibitions, courses and gallery shop, well worth a visit!
The Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagans - Includes a large historical textile collection, with patchwork quilts on the beds in the re-erected houses plus more available to view by appointment.
The Quilt Association - Membership organisation based in the Minerva centre in Llanidloes, with a great annual exhibition of contemporary and antique quilts.

Friday, 25 September 2015

New Lewis & Irene Fabrics Home Sweet Home collection!

 We have some lovely new fabrics just in - the folksy, pretty Home Sweet Home patchwork collection from Lewis & Irene fabrics. Available off the bolt or in a fat quarter pack or stash pack, and also in a strip roll or charm pack that includes one of each of the 15 fabrics in the collection plus 5 coordinating colours from the Lewis & Irene Bumbleberries colleciton!

Monday, 21 September 2015

What type of quilt wadding should you use? Guide to quilt wadding.

I have had quite a few customers calling recently to ask questions about what wadding to use and why, so below is the guide to quilt wadding from the website, hopefully it will be useful!

Also known as batting, the quilt wadding is the filling between the quilt top and backing that gives the quilt its loft and warmth. Available in cotton, cotton/polyester blends, polyester, wool and several new eco friendly types such as bamboo, there is a wealth of wadding brands out there to choose from - the different materials are detailed below.

The other thing to watch out for with wadding is whether it is needlepunched (where the fibres are mechanically felted together by being punched with many needles) or bonded (where the fibres are chemically bonded). Needle punched waddings are firmer and denser than bonded wadding, so can be more difficult to hand quilt, however if you want completely natural materials then the chemicals in bonded wadding are best avoided.

 Cotton - Cotton wadding is soft and washable, and its clingy qualities make it great for machine quilting as it helps prevent the fabrics moving during quilting. Cotton can shrink quite a lot on first washing, which is ideal for the antique puckered look, but for a smooth look it is essential to pre-shrink the wadding. Cotton wadding will soften with age, and is breathable and drapes well.

Cotton/polyester blend - Cotton/polyester blend wadding is loftier than 100% cotton wadding and more breathable than 100% polyester. It also shrinks less than all cotton batting, and can be more affordable. For a good combination of the easy handling of polyester and the natural breathability of cotton, a good cotton/polyester blend is ideal. The Hobbs Heirloom quilt wadding we sell is an 80/20 cotton/polyester blend, available in king, queen, twin and crib pre-cut sizes. It is also available in a black queen size version for use with dark fabrics.

 Polyester - Polyester wadding is soft, light and has high loft, and is probably the easiest wadding to use for hand quilting, but it can be hard to handle when machine quilting so a thinner wadding is best for this. Polyester wadding has very low shrinkage, so is ideal for quilts that will be washed often (such as childrens' quilts), it can also be tumble dried. Cheaper polyester wadding do have a greater tendency to 'beard', where the fibres work their way through the cotton quilt top and backing, so it is worth investing in a good quality brand from a quilt shop rather than the generic 2oz/4oz wadding available from many general sewing shops. Our Sew Simple polyester wadding is great quality and also great value, available in 1/2 metre units of a 90inch wide bolt.

 Heat resistant wadding - A variation on standard polyester wadding is the heat resistant wadding, which uses a combination of Mylar heat-resistant film and hollow polyester fibers. It is ideal for any project that requires thermal properties, such as pot holders, oven gloves, tea cosies and ironing board covers. We stock Sew Simple's standard heat resistant wadding and extra wide heat resistant wadding, perfect for larger projects such as table covers.

Wool - wool wadding is very warm and has high loft, and is light to handle. Wool wadding is great for hand quilting and also suitable for machine quilting. It has low shrinkage so can be washed although it should never be tumble dried. Wool wadding is great at regulating body temperature, and can absorb a lot of moisture without feeling damp so it is ideal in lower temperatures. Wool is also naturally flame retardant making it ideal for quilts for infants.

 Silk - Silk wadding is a naturally lightweight and warm wadding, often used for quilted garments due to its excellent drapability. Silk wadding has high shrinkage and needs careful washing.

 Bamboo - Bamboo wadding is probably the most common of the new wave of eco friendly waddings, being made from the fast growing bamboo plant grown with no fertilizers or pesticides. It is needlepunched, and has low shrinkage and similar breathability and coolness to cotton wadding.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Knitting & crochet sale launched, plus more new Moda fabrics!

 If you're anything like me, quilting won't be your only hobby! Personally I crochet and tat as well, so for all those who also like the wool and thread crafts we've just launched our knitting and crochet sale - with 20% off all knitting needles, knitting tools, crochet hooks and crochet tools you can pick up a bargain to feed your other crafty hobbies today!

Also new this week is the full Moda Simply Colorful patchwork fabric range - Simply Colorful by V and Co for Moda is the ideal range if you love vibrant colour and bold patterns! In bright yellow, deep orange and warm red, the range has fun geometrics and softer florals in each of the three colours, working well with plains or great for making a statement on their own. We have fat quarter packs and stash packs availabe in red, orange and yellow, great to build your stash or for when you need lots of different prints in a certain colour range.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Glow in the Dark patchwork fabrics from Timeless Treasures now available!

We don't often get fabrics in for Halloween, but I couldn't resist these! The Glow in the Dark fabric range from Timeless Treasures does what it says on the tin, all the white on the fabrics glows after the lights go out, making them brilliant for costumes and Halloween decorations (the stash pack or fat quarter pack would be great for bunting)!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Lewis & Irene Bumbleberries ful Autumn 2015 collection now available.

The Bumbleberries patchwork fabrics are Lewis and Irene's gorgeous range of blenders, and each season they bring out a new range of colours to complement the print ranges also newly available. This is the full Autumn 2015 collection, full of warm Autumnal colours such as browns, reds, greens and creams.
This will not be an ongoing range, however we will be getting two other Lewis & Irene print collections delivered soon so these are the ideal complementary fabrics to match up with them!