Hand quilting for the boy……

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These are some pictures of a quilt I made a couple of years ago for the Arpette.  A few years ago my sweet boy asked if I’d make him a quilt for his fortieth birthday.  As he knows, I’m not a very fast quilter, so the quilt ended up being just over a year late….


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I wanted to make a masculine patchwork and thought about some Japanese quilts I had seen ages and ages ago made from old kimonos….then thought about the film The Seven Samurai (one of the Arpette’s favourite films).  One of the best characters in it is Kyuzo, played by the actor Seiji Miyaguchi.  He has a wonderful face and I could happily watch him in it all day.  He’s not a pretty boy but there is strength and beauty in his movements and when he is just sitting still (after killing a whole load of bandits single handily) there is such calmness.

I thought this fabric would be perfect… it’s Japanese and is beautifully woven with slight patterns and texture in the cloth.  Because it is quite a lightly woven cloth (it frayed like the devil) I decided to cut it in quite big pieces…. this meant there was less cloth wastage (it was quite pricey fabric), but also incorporated elements that I had seen in the kimono quilts.  I sewed the patchwork by hand because I just prefer to do so, but I also like the soft feel the hand stitches give.


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I used a pattern that I had seen on some Japanese pottery at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, however it is also a very traditional quilting pattern called Baptist Fan…. it is lovely and calming to sit and sew by hand… your needle slowly moving back and forth across your lap.  The curved pattern also helps soften the straight lines of the patchwork .


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The “fan” itself is about 34 cms wide and each fan is made up of 14 arcs, each one a cm apart….  in all I used nearly 7 reels of quilting thread (so there is at least 1350 metres of quilting….. I do try to use a thimble but I still ended up with sore old fingertips…. however one of my favourite things (then and now) is to run my fingers over the quilted arc, moving over all the ripples…. a simple pleasure but incredibly satisfying.


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The quilt is 7ft square ( about 213cm square) and I used pure wool wadding inside and a plain cotton muslin for the back.  It’s both warm in the winter and also light in the summer.

Because the fabric is lightly woven I’ve had to resew some threads back into place as a certain gentleman likes to gently kneed it when he gets on the bed (we call this paddy pawing) and every so often a thread gets caught in his claws…. it’s not the end of the world and is easily fixable.


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I’m using the same pattern for my quilt for Ivo…. it’s not quite as densely quilted, instead the arcs are smaller and are quilted a little wider apart.

I’m planning to use the same pattern for my “dear ethel” quilt.  The feel of the ridges and ripples and the tiny indentations formed by all the stitches in each fan is well worth the time and effort.



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