Ulverston Grammar School was a 5-mile bus ride away from Dalton and I had to walk a mile before I got to the bus stop. I always enjoyed school, mainly for the social advantages and sporting opportunities and I performed moderately well on the academic side. I believed the one, single experience that put me off sewing for life (or so I thought) was making my wretched gingham apron, by hand, in domestic science! This torturous experience seemed to drag on for most of that first year. We sewed cross-stitch patterns on the pockets and waistband and constructed each section by hand. We watch the teacher’s demo, had a go, queued to have our stitches rubbished, took them out and tried again; queued, had our stitches rubbished … and so it went on. I don’t think I would ever have got to the cooking stage had I not been able to take it home during a long holiday and get my mother to complete it!
Aside: After mentioning this at a lecture several years ago, I was approached by an elderly quilter from the audience who sympathised with my early sewing experiences. Then added ‘At least you didn’t have to make the gusseted knickers my dear!’ Thank goodness for that eh?
MY QUILTING JOURNEY
Most of my early quilts were backed with a plain, backing fabric (Quilt Police cover your eyes: usually polycotton sheeting which often crept onto the front as well!!) As I learned to quilt by hand, I struggled to get even stitches on the back. As a result, I did just enough quilting to hold the three layers together which is, of course, one of the functions of the stitch. The decorative element of the stitches would have to wait!
Whilst making this quilt, one of my daughters, at 11, just happened to have a pink bedroom, so this quilt became destined for her bed! I got her to choose some patterns and on the cat block I embroidered an impassioned ‘Sewn with love, Mummy x’. When it was finished, I put it on her bed and explained about the time that had gone into it making it and how she was to look after it. Imagine my horror when I saw muddy paw prints going diagonally across it a few days later. As I ranted and raved, Tam pondered the situation, then determinedly scooped the quilt off the bed, threw it onto the floor in my studio and said that she would rather have the cat on her bed!
Aside: This was a valuable, if not humbling lesson for me. I learned that if you want a child to love a quilt, you have to invite them be part of the whole creative process. You do not foist a complex and precious masterpiece on them and expect them to respect it!
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Hi I'm Dilys Fronks!