When did you start quilting? My first piece, a small bag made from diamonds and hexagons pieced over papers, was made in 1968. It was made as part of a college course when I was training to be a textiles teacher. We had one session on patchwork and had to design and make a patchwork item which could be used as a class project. We were given a week for the task! I still have the bag.
Are you self taught? I taught textiles in High Schools for about 25 years, but have only specialised in hand appliqué since taking early retirement ten years ago. My technique has been mostly self taught using the books by Elly Sienkiewicz. Ive also attended classes at the Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy ® in the USA.
What is your favourite colour? No particular favourite. I choose colours appropriate to the flowers, foliage and wildlife in my designs.
Do you have a large stash? I dont have a very large stash. I mainly buy fat quarters to give me a wide range of fabrics and only buy longer lengths for backgrounds or if its a fabric I really love and know I will find it useful. A fat quarter goes a long way in hand appliqué! I arrange my fabric by colour in trays and drawers in my workroom.
What type of thread do you use? For hand appliqué I use YLI #100 silk thread. I have a modest collection of about 30 colours which blend in with my fabric colours. I also have the usual cotton and polyester, machine embroidery threads and quilting threads.
Hand or machine? Most of my work is now hand appliqué and hand quilted occasionally I machine quilt on my old Bernina record electronic it is my trusted workhorse!
What is your favourite technique? Needleturned hand appliqué and dimensional flowers.
How many quilt books do you have? I have 50 specific to quilting but lots more general textile and design related books. My favourite quilting books are Baltimore Beauties and Beyond Volume One and Dimensional Appliqué, both by Elly Sienkiewicz, and Quilting with Japanese Fabrics by Kitty Pippen.
What is your top tip or advice for beginners? Always work in good light saves eye strain and you can work faster and more accurately. Start simple and gain confidence.
What was the influential exhibition you have seen? Quilt Festival, Harrogate 1992 where I saw my first Baltimore Album Quilt.
Are you a member of any groups / guilds? I am Chair of Chelsworth Quilters and a member of Quilters' Guild of the British Isles.
Which living quilter do you admire the most? Ellen Heck (American award-winning quilter)
Where do you sew? In my workroom I need good light, space and everything to hand!
How many hours a day or week do you sew? Difficult to say. Now my sewing time has to be fitted around teaching, designing and writing, I do not have regular hours.
Do you have a day job or other commitments? How do you reconcile the two? Since 'retirement' my quilting has now become a full-time job.
What are you working on just now? I have just finished all the projects for my book, 'The Appliqué Garden', which will be published in August (2006). It features Baltimore style quilts with an English flavour. Although this is my first book, I have published a range of 20 hand appliqué block and quilt patterns and my designs frequently feature in magazines. I am now developing some broderie perse designs. A quilt I have been working on for a while is now at the quilting stage.
What is your proudest quilting moment? Being Guest Artist at the Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy® in 2006. Invited to be part of the full teaching faculty in 2007.
Where do you get your inspiration? I live with my husband (and 3 cats) in a 500 year-old cottage with a large garden in the heart of rural Suffolk. Unfortunately as teaching and designing are taking up increasingly more of my time, the garden is declining as the quilting blossoms! However, my inspiration comes from the plants, flowers and wildlife in my cottage garden.
Are you interested in other textile crafts? I have always loved textiles and over the years have tried many from dyeing, printing and batik, to dressmaking, crochet, knitting and everything else in between!
What is your preferred wadding and why? Quilters Dream Cotton Request quality (very low loft, consistent thickness, easy to needle and does not need prewashing)
Is there a fabric or thread type you cannot resist buying? I cannot resist beautiful batiks.
Do you dye your own fabric? I now find such a beautiful array of 'hand-dyed' look fabric that I dont dye my own any more.
Do you teach? I teach day workshops for shops and quilt groups as well as regular monthly classes in Lindsey. I also teach week-end and mid-week residential courses in Suffolk and Northamptonshire. This year I will be teaching at Le Maison du Patchwork. I also teach and demonstrate at quilt shows this year (2006) at The National Quilt Championships, Sandown, The Scottish Quilt Championships, Edinburgh and the Festival of Quilts, Birmingham. The most enjoyable aspect of teaching is to see how students learn techniques and then run with them to develop their own designs. I love to see the progression from the first early stages; how students develop confidence and the enjoyment and satisfaction they get from the stitching. It's a real pleasure to be part of the process. I also give lectures on the history of Baltimore Quilts and my own take Baltimore with an English flavour.
What has been the best workshop you have been to as a student? A hand appliqué class in the USA with Anne Connery in 2000. I learnt a lot from this charming lady. The tables were turned this year when Anne attended my class which I taught at the Academy.
Ever travelled abroad in search of quilts? I have made several trips to the east coast of the USA to see examples of original Baltimore Album quilts. The Baltimore Historical Society has a large collection and there are some beautiful quilts in the collection of the DAR Museum in Washington.
What are your quilting goals? My goals to continue to spread the word that hand appliqué can be fun, rewarding and is not difficult. It just needs time, patience and practise but the results are worth the effort.
Is there anyone else in your family who quilts? My sister quilts.
Where can we see your work? An exhibition of my quilts will be shown in September at the Quilt Show at Hever Castle in September (2006). You can also see my quilts on my website:www.shirleybloomfield.co.uk
Shirley can be contacted at shirley@shirleybloomfield.co.uk for a pattern catalogue and further information on workshops, patterns and book.


  1. Mary Simon Re-visited (2003) 135cm square. The four blocks were adapted from an 1840 quilt in the DAR museum and given a 'watercolour' look by using modern batiks. The border is strip pieced using left over batiks from the blocks. Hand Appliqué. Hand quilted.
  2. Garden Quilt (2001) 94cm square. This was the first quilt I made using blocks designs based on the flowers and birds in my garden. Hand Appliqué. Hand quilted.
  3. Seasonal Star (2006) Work in progress. Blocks reflect the changing seasons in the garden.
  4. Robin in Autumn (2001) 59cm square. One of Shirley's most popular block designs. Hand appliqué. Machine quilted.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 14 Issue 8 August 2006