When one moves into a 900 year old house of stone, where does one start with decorating? Lucy moved into the Manor, Hemingford Grey, in 1939, and immediately started the restoration, realizing very quickly that she would need curtains and bedcovers. Because it was during war time, fabric was scarce so Lucy had to use her creativity to come up with a solution.
While American-style patchwork was virtually unknown in England at the time, Lucy, a very resourceful seamstress, looked at her fabric stash and recognized the possibilities. Without ever sacrificing precious wartime clothing ration coupons, Lucy selected favorite pieces of scrap fabric, cut them into squares, combined them with towels and dusters, and pieced everything into bedspreads and furniture covers.
The curtain problem was cleverly solved by buying old hexagon quilts from the early 1800’s and hanging them at the windows. Not only did they work as insulators, they added a splash of color and design to the cold look of the stone walls.
As with any quilts left out for long lengths of time exposed to the dust and light, the window quilts started to show their age and some of the fabrics began to disintegrate. Mending them is what inspired Lucy to make her own more complicated patchworks starting in the 1950’S.
All of Lucy’s patchworks were sewn by hand using the English Paper Piecing method. When she first began, she bought the paper pieces in precut packs…not from Little Quilts, but from a firm in Oxford. When this became too expensive, she started making her own shapes just like many of us try to do. Die cutters, photocopiers, and rotary cutters were not available at the time, though, so you can imagine what a tedious job this was. Lucy frequently enlisted the help of her friends to cut the shapes … now there are some good friends!
Lucy was an artist and clearly had an eye for color and texture. She made many patchworks besides the Patchwork of the Crosses quilt we’re working on. Blocks in all her patchworks are like miniature works of art. Lucy’s finished projects are not technically quilts since they are made of only two layers – the pieced top and a plain backing - with no batting in between.
The majority of her quilts were made when she was in her eighties, and she was still quilting well into her nineties. According to her daughter-in-law, Diana Boston, children would stop in after school to thread needles for her, and her last few quilts were stitched with white thread so she could see the stitching.Patchwork and writing were winter hobbies – spring, summer, and fall were reserved for gardening. All her stitching was done sitting by the fire in the warmest, but also the darkest room of the house with artificial light, as depicted in this scene from the movie "From Time To Time" starring Maggie Smith.
What an inspiration for all of us!
For more inspiration, check out our Pinterest Board where I'm posting gorgeous "work of art" blocks from pictures sent in by all of you.
If you need more patchwork papers, glue refills or other supplies, check out our website. Don't forget about the new Fussy Cut Finders we found at Quilt Market. They're available on the website, too.