Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Stash, wildlife and an amazing old quilt book

We're back from our short holiday to the West Highlands (more on that later) and now I am starting my week off at home with, hopefully, lot's of time for sewing.
But first of all I was off to Glasgow yesterday to spend my birthday money, and also to meet up with the 3 lovely girls who worked with me in our, now sadly departed, Glasgow store.
It was wonderful to see Sarah, Gemma and Jen again and enjoy a very chatty lunch at the Butterfly & Pig restaurant (most unusual menu language I have ever read!). Jen and Gemma have both found new jobs, which is wonderful. Jen's is in the Glasgow School of Art shop (Well done Jen, who  just graduated from there with a 2.1 in Product Design - way to go Jen!!). So after lunch Sarah and I wandered over to say hello and I found this amazing bowl of ceramic buttons for sale (see top). I couldn't help purchasing the 3 buttons above, and jen wrapped them up so beautifully with the cute GSA birdy sticker.
Next stop Mandors, which in my opinion, has the best selection of fabric and haberdashery in Scotland. The fabrics in the bottom left are all from the craft selection, with the pile to to the right from the dressmaking. I love the sribbly yellow flower one on the top. Also there are 4 Liberty designs amongst that pile, all at half price (£13.99 a metre). I always pick up some of these discounted Liberty fabrics at Mandors - worth going there for that alone. The 3 fabrics at the top are also from dressmaking and I loved them so much I bought 20cm in each colourway - they look so good together!
The 'rat-tail' cords are for the button hole loops I make in my cushions and also some extra wool for my 'African Flower' crochet blanket.
What a haul!! All bought with birthday money from Jonathan (well almost, I may have gone ever so slightly over budget, shhh...).
I also managed to get Sarah started with fabric for a log cabin cot quilt for her sister. This will be Sarah's first quilt so I expect the 'quilting hot line' will be busy soon. Sarah and I have a deal - if she doesn't get herself signed up with some recruitment consultants this week then she doesn't get anymore help with making the quilt - tough but fair!
Also I would like to thank our lovely assistant, Devin, who was very patient with me while I piled up bolt after bolt of fabric and dithered over cutting instructions. She even let me talk about this blog and promised to have a look later!
Ardnamurchan, where we had our short break last week, is an amazingly remote place. Hardly any shops at all and single track roads with 'passing places' (which had my nerves in tatters!).
So imagine my surprise when I discovered a leaflet for Loch Sunart Yarns & Buttons in a tiny place called Salen. Of course I had to stop by for a look...
Emma Moss runs a mail order business selling the yarns she spins and dyes herself as well as natural buttons she has sourced. She also has a super little craft shop selling lovely gifts.
When I got there Emma was stting in the sunshine spinning Alpaca wool on her lovely Dutch, 'barge painted' spinning wheel. Unfortunately, the photos I took of her and the shop have got corrupted on the stupid disk thing in the stupid camera, but if you click on the link above there are plenty of photos on her website.
Although I am not usually so interested in neutral colours, this wool was so beautiful and soft I knew I would find a use for it. The 3 skeins to the left are a silk/alpaca mixture and the one on the right is a camel hair mix! The blueish buttons to the left are made from mussel shells - how cool is that?! They are really beautiful.

The best thing about our holiday was all the wildlife we saw. Over only 3 days we managed to encounter:
otters, seals, basking sharks, dolphins, puffins, guillemots, cormorants, razorbills, gannets, skuas and a golden eagle! I felt like David Attenborough!!
I have to point out that not all of this was available on the mainland. We took a day long trip by boat to the Treshnish Isles to see most of it. It was a 4 hour trip out to the Atlantic (in my mind I was half way to Nova Scotia!) and had a wonderful, magical time walking around amongst the puffins, who were very relaxed around people and also incredibly cute, especially when they fly and land.
Jonathan took loads of great photos but unfortunately, I can't share them with you as he tells me none of them are 'ready' yet so I will have to save them for a future post.
I would just like to finish this unusually long post by sharing this lovely old book that I also got yesterday. Jen picked it up for me from the GSA library where they were giving away books for free! I am very grateful to Jen for thinking of me when she saw it.
It was written in 1985 and shows a large collection of quilts from the Mennonite community as well as a short quote next to every quilt from it's maker or owner. For instance the 'electric fan quilt' above (1939) says, "I found this pattern in the Kansas City Star, dated April 28th 1938, and liked the pattern so much that I made the quilt, long before we had electricity. The scraps came from the family sewing."
Some of the quilts look so modern and 'designed' that you can't believe they were made by such a sheltered community and just with scraps! This one 'Flying Geese' (1960) says, "Mennonites could not, and often still cannot, bear to see waste of any kind. During the late 1950's, there was a dress factory at Hillsboro. My mother used scraps from that factory to make this quilt. The size of the scraps determined the size of the pieces. "
This one reminds me of a crochet blanket and is called 'Many trips around the world' (1945). "Quilts were used as gifts for many occasions. This qult was a gift from my husband's aunt. We visited her in her home in Hesston shortly after our marriage and she let us choose a quilt from several she had on hand. Being just new in the family, I hesitated and, since she was my husband's aunt, I let him choose. She let us knew later it was her favourite quilt, but she felt proud that we cherished it."

The book is full of charming, moving passages like that, which really bring to life how important and central quilts and quilt making was/is to this community. There is a nice history of the Mennonites too. I didn't know much about them as they seem to have been slightly overshadowed by the Amish in quilting books.
Just one more.
This one looks So modern! The sort of quilt I expect to see on Red Pepper Quilts blog. And yet it was made in 1930! 'Dutchman's Windmill', "Quilting was a winter activity for my Nebraska grandmother. Piecing was done during the summer in spare moments between chores, gardening and canning and, often, field work for some women. A scrap quilt doesn't have to look like a scrap quilt. My grandmother tied this quilt together by purchasing the blue for the border and the backing. This quilt is very special to me because I never got to know my grandmother. She died the very day my parents were married."

Looks like the book is out of print now but there are still some used copies around on Amazon and I would definitely recommend it for the inspiration.
I am going to feel ever so slightly ashamed as I start cutting in to my new fabrics, the Mennonites would definitely NOT approve!


  1. I love that we all think we're so modern and actually we're just re-making things that other people invented a long time ago!

  2. Great post Jo, Jen is so sweet getting that book for you. Really missed seeing everyone. S

  3. I am so jealous, my mum is from Glasgow so I spent my childhood and teens up there visiting my grandparents, now they sadly are gone so I hardly ever get up there anymore, I think it's about 3 years since my last visit. Now I hear about amazing fabric shops there and I want to go even more! and that bowl of buttons! I am impressed at your restraint only buying 3 :D

  4. Ohmigosh, would you LOOK at those buttons! That is a fantastic book, too. I love second hand books, especially library books, since they just seem to have a sense of history about them (regardless of subject!!)

  5. Such great things! Can't wait to see what you create. :)

  6. Great long post Jo!
    I have started cutting up my fabric - but have had a nightmare time with the sewing machine!! Found a manual online but it was in a foreign language!! As I started to cut up the fabric I have realised that the strips are not EXACTLY the same size and so I am worried that they will stitch together wonky! Do they have to be very precise before I start running through the machine? Oh the worry! I'm begining to wonder why I started this??! Ha!
    I'll get on to those recruitment agencies asap. :)
    Your photos look great! What lovely books Jen got for you. Was a great day and lovely to see you all again.
    Lots of love. XX :)

  7. Hehhehehhee..."ever so slightly over budget." We've all been there!:)

    Glad you had a lovely holiday.

  8. Sounds like a great holiday Jo! Love those buttons and what a great selection of fabrics! Aren't those quilts beautiful and yes they could easily be one of todays modern quilts.