Formal classes at the school on Tarawa were scheduled for the mornings, the coolest time of the day. After lunch, there was a compulsory rest period for the children and this was followed by organised activities for an hour before the evening meal.
The PE lessons usually took the form of playing games, mainly volleyball, softball and tennis and the pupils were the keenest I have ever known. The pitches, on hard packed coral, were marked out, regularly I might add!, with lines of the whiter coral sand carried from the waterside. There were regular inter-house competitions played during the activity sessions and a sports day held once a year. (My greatest dilemma then was to mark out a full size and accurate running track, using white sand to mark the lanes!) As a teacher, usually wearing tennis whites and sunglasses, I taught technique, organised teams and umpired the matches.
I also had to teach classes at the Tarawa Teachers College (TTC) where students from 18 to 40 were being trained as teachers for the primary schools on the outlying island. Although we played the usual games, I was also interested to learn about local games.
MY QUILTING JOURNEY 1986
Jacobean Spring was my first competition entry, way back in 1986. The event was held at Audley End in Northamptonshire and the Marquis of Bath presented the prizes. My quilt was voted the winner of the hand appliqué section and was then selected as the over-all Championship Quilt! Imagine my surprise and delight. I had started at the top … and I have managed to work my way down over the next 20 years! For my efforts I was awarded 4 pairs of Wilkinson Sword scissors: dressmaking, embroidery, snips and pinking shears (not the sewing machine that is awarded nowadays!). I must also say that, way back then, this quilt was fresh, original and different. It wouldn’t win any prizes in today's competitions where availability of fabric, expertise in technique and innovation in design are far superior. But in 1986 I was proud to be National Patchwork Champion!
Whilst still smarting for the injustice of destroying my own handiwork at 7, I went on through Green School in a whirl of marbles, skipping ropes and tag to be sent to Nelson Street to prepare for my 11-plus. This girls-only school was meant to settle me and focus my mind on academia, as well as coach me for the big exam. It did just that!
After assembly each morning, before the headmistress ever arrived in class, we were programmed to recite our tables from 2x through to 16x and chant our number bonds from 2 to 10 (as in 7 + 0 = 7, 6 + 1 = 7, 5 + 2 = 7 etc). When she arrived, we stood up and blew our noses (and heaven help us if we had forgotten a handkerchief!) ready to go through pronunciation exercises to help our diction. Spelling tests were common and script writing was obligatory; this was a good all-round, traditional education.
Mind you, the headmistress was a fearsome individual with a hooked nose and never-miss-a-trick eyes. She used her glasses removal technique and frantic stare theatrically to scare the living daylights out of us! Boy did we respect her. And yes she got me through my 11-plus so, in1960, off I went to Ulverston Grammar School, to class 1S.
MY QUILTING JOURNEY
Whilst making these early traditional quilts, I was beginning to learn some valuable lessons. Accuracy in cutting shapes for patchwork is essential. Finishing was my aim at first and I would bodge and manipulate the shapes to fit. This wasn’t good enough when I began teaching and I knew all my work would be scrutinised by students.
On the other hand, I found that appliqué was more forgiving, with room for gentle manoeuvring; perhaps that’s why I liked it immediately! And this led me onto another appliqué sampler quilt:
The 4 centre blocks were made using patterns from a book by Philamena Durcan. I taught them as a class project with great gusto and then wondered what to do with them (not more cushions!). So I decided to place them medallion-style in the centre of a quilt, but I hadn’t a clue how. ( I think if I had realised that maths was involved in quilting I may never have got started!) All I could think of doing was to lay the ready quilted centre blocks on a larger piece of fabric and cut generously to fill in the corners! The bouquets of flowers and smaller appliqués camouflage the bodging that went on to make it all fit together! As with earlier quilts, each block was hand quilted before it was joined into the body of the quilt.
Hi I'm Dilys Fronks!