Thursday, 19 August 2021

What's In A Quilt - 14

 I recently completed my crazy quilt project Crazy for Crazy, and now want to write its history.

Block #14 also has a lot of green in it. This time it is teamed with magenta. It is in middle of the top row.

I am sure you have already spotted the green upholstery plush in the middle! There are only four other pieces of fabric: a beautiful check in green and purple silk, with a dash of yellow. Where the yellow is interwoven with the purple you get a lovely orange tint. I haven't done much weaving in my time but love following Diane's blog 'sooner or later everyone will be blogging' where I can see how the waft and warp thread form magical patterns and colour shades. This checked silk, as well as the silk at the top, were a gift from a friend in the UK. Another UK friend gave me the light green quilter's cotton with rosebuds. The shocking magenta is from yet another ball gown made by Mrs I.

There is quite a lot of ribbon embroidery here: There is a row of Fargo Roses, I learned how to make them from Sharon of Pintangle, there are green flower petals and the Turk's Head (knots) are surrounded by ribbon stitches.
The two lace ornaments, the butterfly and the floral spray originates from Australia. The green and magenta metallic thread is probably from thread company Oliver Twist and bought at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham.

I used one of my favourite stitches, Double Buttonholed Chain (it looks like a ladder), and I think I whipped the edges with metallic thread there, too. The rope like stem is Portuguese Stem Stitch.

I made several changes while working this block. The seam between the plush and the checked silk used to hold a ruched ribbon, but I removed it and worked the Fargo Roses instead. 
Then there was a green butterfly, identical to the pink one, but it was such a garish green it overwhelmed the block. So instead I added a very plain button and fixed it with four Woven Picots.

What memories does this block hold?
Let's begin with the button. I once had a Japanese student, a teenage girl whose school English was just that - SCHOOL English. She knew her grammar, spelling and probably got quite good scores on her written tests. However, her speaking skills... well, she just wasn't able to create sentences by herself, or speak, and she was by nature such a chatterbox - I had heard her smattering of Japanese. 
I knew her dream was to study abroad, to make foreign friends, but however much she tried to follow the English coursebook we used, she failed, got flustered and downcast.
One day there was a violent typhoon and she was the only student who turned up for the lesson. There was no point in using the textbook with so many students absent. She had with her, though, a fashion magazine. We started looking at the pictures and suddenly she stammered:
I like! 
This dress, very pretty. 
You like?
 Pink very beautiful, girl colour, flower and lace, romantic... 
I want to buy, my mother NO! 
Too much money! 
I want work fashion shop...' 
and so the 'lesson' when on. I helped her fill in prepositions, articles, verbs and form her words into proper  sentences. 
After that I asked her to come a bit early for the lessons and we spent ten minutes with a magazine or a topic she wanted to talk about, before the other students arrived. She blossomed.
She eventually got everything she wanted, she went to the UK to study, she made foreign friends, she mastered English, she got a job as a sales clerk in a famous Japanese fashion house, then in the overseas sales department in another fashion house where she gallantly juggled English and Japanese on the telephone with many foreign customers, she then got married to an American and has lived with him and their three children in various countries around the world.
She gave me several bags of buttons from one of the fashion companies. They are plain and dull, but hold such good memories. I am so happy to have used one in this block.

Then there is the strange ribbon. It is a mix of velvet (magenta) and grosgrain ribbon (green). Again this has connections with a student. She knew I wanted some elegant ribbons for crazy quilt seams and introduced me to a shop supplying high quality ribbons to tailors and seamstresses. I think she used to pass the shop on her way to collage every day as she had nothing to do with sewing.
This ribbon and another in brown and turquoise silk are the two most beautiful ribbons I have ever seen. What remains of my purchase I keep under lock and key! I have no recollection whatsoever of where the shop is!

Finally, and I have mentioned this before when I wrote about block #1, are the pink Turk's Head knots. It was with my good friend Julie, also a teacher of English, and patchwork quilter extraordinaire, that I ventured to the wholesale district at Nihonbashi Bakurocho and bought these silk knots at Kanda Shoten's Shinmichi B Kan. It was such a good day and stands out in memory.

So I want to extend my many thanks to: Julie, Catherine, Midori, Helen, Sharon, Maureen, Sylvia, Auntie, Mrs I, Mother

This block was worked between 22nd April and 3rd June, 2020.


  1. What a lovely tale of your student - and particularly that you stayed in touch sufficiently to follow her career!

  2. It’s nice to see the closeups and read the stories.

  3. I think crazy patch is the wrong word for this type of embroidery. All those little pieces hold such memories, not only yours but other peoples. Things pass but memories live on. Memories are ever- living things.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with Rachel and Pamela.

  5. I absolutely love the story of your English student! You really did a great thing there!

  6. OH, I love what you did with that button! The story that goes with it is particularly heartwarming.

  7. Another stunningly beautiful block, great use of your button.

  8. Love the story of your student! I don't know if any student I've taught has ever shone in the language as I would have liked...

  9. Even without the embellishments, it is such fun to look back at a simple patchwork and recall the stories that go with that fabric.


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