When did you start quilting? About 30 years ago. I had always loved patchwork but didn’t know where to begin until books began to appear in the late 70s. I then taught myself from books.

 
The Tailor’s quilt c.1852, The Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagins
The Tailor’s quilt c.1852, The Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagins

Favourite colours you enjoy working with? Although red and purple are my favourite colours, I don’t really have a favourite palette of colours. I have so much fabric that when I am rummaging through it, either tidying or searching for a particular piece, I start grouping fabric which seem to work well together and this selection usually suggests a quilt theme. Therefore, you could say that my quilts are inspired by fabric, rarely the other way round. Patchwork to me is to use fabric that is manufactured for everyday use in the era in which I am working. If my work lasts, it can then be identified in its time slot. So I am not interested in creating fabric by dyeing or painting, that is for quilters who are textile artists – I am a patchworker. I always have hand quilted my work, though not as intensively as I do now since I have got hooked on Welsh quilting.

Size of stash – and where do you keep it? Enormous. I have been collecting for 30 years and only make crib size quilts so I don’t get through it at a great rate. I keep the fabric for my current projects in my workroom and the rest in a building at the bottom of my garden in plastic storage boxes. However, I don’t keep a large stock of threads, probably only about 40.

Type of sewing machine you use?A 1920’s hand operated Singer that my mother was given in her teens. I have a Frister Rossman but I prefer the Singer. I learnt dressmaking on it when I was young and it is my heirloom. I only do machining for long sections like borders. I am much more comfortable hand piecing and much more accurate.

Favourite quilting books? Patchwork and Quilting, both by Averil Colby and Traditional British Quilts by Dorothy Osler. I enjoy reading anything on traditional British quilts, especially if they are well researched as these three are.

Top tip? Be on the look out for fabric at all times. As most of us usually have a lot of medium toned fabric, look particularly for lights and darks.

Most influential exhibition you have seen? The permanent collection at the American Museum in Bath – if only other museums copied their way of being able to flip through a display all housed in one room – it is such a successful means for quilters to access quite large number of quilts and study them at close quarters.

 
Summer Quilt
by Mary Jenkins
Summer Quilt by Mary Jenkins

Which quilt would you like to have made? The Tailor’s Quilt on page 15 of Making Welsh Quilts. I love Folk Art quilts but am very nervous about making one. This one is the best ever!

What are your quilting goals? To quilt all my patchwork tops. To encourage more quilters, particularly in Wales, to do Welsh quilting. If they don’t, this wonderful craft will die out.

Are you a member of any groups/guilds? I am a member of the Quilters’ Guild and Embroiderers’ Guild and have served as Regional Rep. and as Regional Co-ordinator for Region 12 of the Quilters’ Guild. I was a founder member of Glamorgan Quilters and their Secretary for 5 years. I now belong to a group of quilters called Merched Morgannwg who meet and exhibit regularly.

Piece of advice for beginners? Don’t just buy fabric made specifically for patchwork. There are great possibilities in fabrics for home furnishing and clothes, often nearly new in charity shops. You can also buy fabric on Ebay.

Where do you sew? I cut out and pin up my quilts in my workroom, but I usually sew in the sitting room listening to the TV.

How many hours a day or week do you sew? Of course it varies, but I do sew most days. Generally, a minimum of 2 hours a day but mostly a lot more.

What are you working on just now? I am very busy hand quilting quilts for our display of Welsh quilts at the Festival of Quilts in August (2006).

Tell us a bit about yourself I live in Cardiff with my two cats Isabella and Wilfred. My husband died last year while I was in the middle of the book so it has been a difficult time for me. I have been helped enormously by being involved in the world of quilting. It has given me a focus and companionship.

First published in Popular Patchwork July 2006