For the last fifty years, Abbeyfield has been providing care and companionship to older people throughout Scotland. And what better way to celebrate the occasion than in a Golden Jubilee quilt. Standing at over seven and a half feet tall, Abbeyfields 50th Anniversary quilt holds the patches of 54 sheltered houses across Scotland, each with a story to tell.
 
One of the patches
One of the patches
 
It all started a year ago, when organisers Ivy Stanley, Mairi Martin and Sue Jones asked each Abbeyfield house to prepare a patch illustrating the uniqueness of their home; one that expressed the ideas of residents, staff and volunteers. A year later, and after many hours sewing, the finished product is a real testament to the values of the charity. It delights me that the enthusiasm of our residents, staff and volunteers is represented in the quilt, said Ivy. The quilt uses a diverse range of styles including appliqué, cross stitching, fabric painting, computer imagery, and mural design.
 
In Hawick, housekeeper Amanda Robertson was keen to express how much enjoyment the project had brought to the house: Every one of our seven residents, the eldest of whom is 92, took part in the stitching of the patch. Its provided us with a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time together as friends. The blue and yellow colours of Hawick make this Borders patch a colourful addition to Abbeyfields quilt. Hawicks horse statue, from the battle of Hornshole has been embroidered on the patch, adding historical significance to Hawicks contribution. Ellen Graham, member of the House Committee at Hawick, says the quilt was an imaginative way of celebrating Abbeyfields Anniversary. The residents really enjoyed taking part in the venture and we hope to do some other needlework with them in the future.
 
East Lintons patch
East Lintons patch

A Story to Tell

Travelling to East Linton, I was pleased to find their patch tells a story too. Housekeeper Margaret Jeffrey was happy to share details about the houses patch: We wanted to make sure that our residents had a say in the patch so we asked them for their ideas and suggestions even the men enjoyed getting involved! The residents thought of what Abbeyfield means to them, said Margaret. They thought of the flowers in the garden; their security; their peace, and the outings they enjoy.
 
For the people of Abbeyfield, the opportunity to produce a patch brought with it hours of enjoyment, and for many, a new found love of quilting. Joan Rees, a member of the House committee at Cambuslang, tells the story of the Cambuslang patch. Our resident, Myra Neilson, had done embroidery and tapestry in the past but she didnt feel like she could do it as well anymore. Having hung up her needle a long time ago, it seems the project has given Mrs. Neilson a new lease on life and shes been spotted doing her embroidery again.
Irvines patch
Irvines patch
 

The Environment

North Berwicks patch was one of the first received by organiser Ivy Stanley. Describing how she felt at the time, she said: A surge of emotion took over me and I could feel the tears start to well up! The patch was everything we had asked for and I was so overjoyed that our hard work was coming together. The scene featured in the North Berwick patch is descriptive of what makes North Berwick such a delightful place to live. In the background is the magnificent Bass Rock with its enormous colony of seabirds, whilst at the top and bottom of the patch are the two golf courses. Small boats head out to the Bass, whilst residents and staff are entertained in the garden, all under the beautiful sunshine.
 
Although many of the residents had sewn at some point in their lives, very few of them had actually done any quilting or patchwork. Nonetheless, Jenny Strachan says this didnt stop the ladies at Abbeyfields Crieff and Muthill Society: The residents all had a say in the design and choice of fabric, and as the patch developed they were delighted at how it was turning out. To represent Abbeyfield House, the residents wished to depict an abbey in a field, so the local Inchaffray Abbey was sewn on the patch and set against a backdrop of hills, including Ben Vorlich, with the River Earn running through a green field leading the eye towards the Mercat Cross in the foreground.
 
The Abbeyfield 50th
Anniversary quilt
The Abbeyfield 50th Anniversary quilt
Up north to Banff and MacDuff, it is the inspiration for their patch that tells the story, confessed Margaret Ollason, House Convener of Abbeyfields Banff and Macduff House: Its quite funny, because the idea for the quilt actually came from a van that I spotted as it drove past. I saw that it had a lovely picture on the side of it and in the spur-of-the-moment, ran after the driver and asked if I could take a picture! The Abbeyfield quilt shows that no matter what level of experience you have with quilting, it can be an enjoyable way of spending time with dear friends. Since 1956, Abbeyfield has been providing care and companionship to older people through sheltered housing. If you would like to learn more about Abbeyfield, contact them on 0131 225 7801. 

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 14 Issue 11 - October 2006