Monday, 15 February 2016

William Morris Quilts five to seven!

My gosh yesterday disappeared and my promised quilt post did too! We had a busy few days with birthday celebrations with a friend's on Friday, our eldest daughter Emily's on Saturday and an Aunt's 90th yesterday….so I guess I was all tuckered out - sorry! 2003 and 2004 were quite productive for me with Morris quilt designs so I thought I would record three in one post.  Another of my most favourite designs from William Morris is Peacock and Dragon. Again in Linda Parry's wonderful Morris Textiles book is a photo of a wallhanging from 1878 and she reveals it was 'the nearest woven fabric to Morris's ideal of a medieval hanging'. Larry and I also share a passion for anything medieval so it seemed fitting to call my quilt "Medieval Morris". Some of these original woven wool hangings are available for me to see here at home in the Art Gallery of South Australia's collection and hanging in the dining room of Carrick Hill. Parry also records that these 1870's woven wool textiles reveal Morris's 'influence of Middle and Far Eastern textiles'. She goes on to say 'It has been suggested that the animals in Peacock and Dragon represent chinese phoenixes'…………

 You will see where I have reproduced the phoenix birds and dragons……….
On searching for this design on the web I found you can even purchase wallets, thongs (known as flips flops I believe for those of you in the northern hemisphere!), phone covers and what I think are awful garish tops……..
But I have the absolute best gift of all………a cushion made from some original 'Peacock and Dragon' textile from Morris's very own workshop! I hug this cushion frequently and from time to time you might possibly catch me smelling it just in case a bit of Morris is woven in the fibres (!!) You can just see the edge of the dragon's wing in the cushion…….
 And why would I be in the possession of something so precious you might ask…… was an incredibly generous gift from Helen of Whitecroft Tours on one of our Morris tours three years ago (and I have no idea where the original photos are amongst my 9,000 tour photos so these were from the blog I posted very late that evening)………

 One of those incredible moments in life that I will never, never forget……….
 I also had the chance to wrap myself around some of this textile in the cafe at Kelmscott Manor (and last time we were there it had been removed……I wonder why???!!!)…….
 Anyway back to the quilts! In 2003 I also made a quilt with a little more piecing than I usually do and called it 'Morris in my Garden'. Why on earth I had roses spilling out of the garden urn I will never know but it seemed okay at the time.There is really no relevance to Morris at all apart from all the original William Morris prints from Rose and Hubble that I used………..
It now has a new home in the beautiful village of Maldon Victoria. How that came about is a long story but this wonderful friend felt that she needed to repay my generosity in providing a pattern to her free of charge……..our return gift was a stay in her beautiful cottage!! So the least I could do was leave a quilt on the bed! I am somewhat embarrassed about this quilt now as it is not my best work but I know she treasures it and always will. Last week she sent me these photos ahead of time as she thought I might be sharing it on the blog with my series of Morris inspired quilts………

 My label is the funniest thing ever and I had quite forgotten until Maree sent me the close-up photo of it. The label says "Don't lift this label for the folds might show……only the maker through hours of trial will ever know…..the label said cotton but I'm not so sure…….with my years of quilt making this point is sore"!!! That is hilarious now when I think back that I had bought some awful cheap backing fabric that puckered like crazy - I remember having to re-baste the quilt several times! And I hand quilted (yes hand quilted!!), this quilt with minimal machining in the ditch (and it was hand beaded and couched as well)……….
 Thankyou Maree…I know you love and treasure the quilt and that is all a quilt maker can ask for xxxx Finally I want to share my "William Morris Floral Sampler". This is still one of my favourite quilts and again uses a lot of those beautiful Rose and Hubble fabrics. I used many of Morris's designs simplifying them as I usually do…….
So with that I have a hard copy of the pattern packaged up for anyone who might not already own a copy and would like one. I will get Larry to put names 'in the hat' for one lucky person! Over the weekend I also started a long term project that has been in my mind for several years. I have been yearning to reproduce an embroidered wall hanging in the style of May Morris. I have not been able to find anyone who actually teaches the methods from this era so have decided to let May teach me….something that I should have gone with all along! Looking closely at the old embroideries from the late 1800's one can see that the stitches are all quite simple - just what I need!………..

 Long and short stitch, chain stitch and a stitch that May calls a darning stitch. I have also seen this stitch as basket weave, brick stitch and burden stitch, but I will go along with the darning stitch for now!

Most of these embroideries were stitched on silk fabric using very heavy silk threads. I have searched and searched for the same ply silk but have come to accept it is difficult to get and would also be incredibly expensive. There is also another hanging in the Art Gallery that uses the same stitches but using wools as well as silk……….

So I've decided to do my piece on linen but using a 3 ply cotton that I can source locally. This is the original hanging embroidered by Mary Isobel Barr Smith here in Adelaide in the 1890's that I want to reproduce………
I backed some green linen that I have had for a couple of years with a pellon and then a good quality quilters muslin. I then hand drew the design in reverse on the muslin and then free motion quilted the drawing so that the design is now transferred to the front. Took me a while to work that one out but I am really pleased with the result…..

Now I just have to fill in the drawings so it might take me a while! My source as mentioned is a book by May Morris written in 1893. It is a simple instruction book and is still available here: Decorative Needlework by May Morris. The work is done in your lap and not a frame so that suits me well. Once I complete the embroidery I will back the piece and then quilt it - hand or machine? Not sure yet!
And here are my first stitches from today on one of the tree trunks…….I think I will get a lot of pleasure from this in the evenings in front of the telly!

Take care till next time x


  1. I love that cushion that you got - how nice for you and to have been to England so many times to see all Morris. Love the sampler on the bed - do not put me in for the drawing - I have enough Morris to think about at this point :) Love the embroidery have fun with it.

  2. Love how you simplify those Morris designs and keep their essence. Your embroidery piece will be a wonderful adventure. It's so much fun to be revisiting your body of work in this fashion. Thank you!

  3. Gorgeous quilts. I just love the embroidery too. It will be a labour of love but so beautiful and such a pleasure to do.

  4. I'm enjoying this journey through your quilts, and what a sweet gesture for Maree to send you pictures in anticipation of you needing them. All beautiful quilts, and the bed frame it's on is beautiful too.

  5. A Texas "kricky" would I love that pattern. You didn't know I speak Aussie did you :-)
    I have a closet full of Wm Morris just begging for it. My delight is in seeing your posts on all that beauty. Thank you!

  6. What a great, informative post. THe Barr Smith piece is so beautiful, the colours soft and sweet. And how clever of you to transfer the pattern using free motion quilting. I love that idea. Happy Stitching.

  7. How lovely to see your happy smile on receiving the cushion, it has gone to a most appreciative home. Gorgeous work as always.


  8. Always inspiring and an insight into such an artistic world.


Thankyou for dropping by and sharing in my journey. And thanks especially for your lovely comments….I may not always respond (especially if there is no email address) but please know you are appreciated x