Amy Emms Bursary

I have just been awarded the Amy Emms Bursary for 2020, which I am very excited about. It is an opportunity to work with the Quilters Guild and Heather Audin at ‘The Quilters Guild Museum Collection’ researching and promoting North Country Quilting, particularly the strippy quilts. 
Amy Emms was a North Country Quilter and eminent teacher who was influential in passing on design and hand quilting skills. She was awarded the M.B.E. for her work and died in 1998 aged 94. The bursary is to encourage a member of the Quilters Guild to further their knowledge of, or skills in , the traditional art of quilting. 
I will be studying strippy quilts , making notes and sketches of the linear quilt designs and creating a collection of samples. 
My findings will then be summarised in a pamphlet to be used by ‘The Quilters Guild Museum’ for reference purposes, and shared online on my blog.
I am also going to use these designs to create a contemporary wall hanging to celebrate these beautiful quilts. 
As I go along I will share my work on this blog.
So how to start , with tracing paper, graph paper , brown paper and scissors ! 
The book is one I keep returning to for help and inspiration, written by Mavis FitzRandolph and Florence M. Fletcher (1955). It shows the construction of many of the North Country patterns using simple methods which would have been used in the Northern Pennine cottages. 

Working hard

I have recently been working on finishing my quilt ‘Celebration of North Country Quilts’. I wanted to create a more contemporary piece with appliqué and embroidery techniques to complement quilted areas.
I hope you enjoy the patterns and motifs in this piece of work, motifs that have been  passed down in the Northern Dales through the generations. 

Finished strippy quilt (in traditional style )

Since finishing my 10 week blog on North Country quilts I have been working on my two hangings , one traditional and one contemporary, based on the North Country ( Durham ) quilts. 
This traditional one is pieced together using English paper piecing, then quilted with traditional strippy patterns using hand quilting thread. I wanted to make the back look as good as the front and used coloured quilting thread to show up the designs.

For the contemporary  quilt I am using a variety of appliqué and embroidery stitches. Again I am working the back to look as detailed as the front . 
This is a photo of work in progress. More photos to come as I progress with the work . 

North Country Quilting Online Course

I am running a 4 week online course to make up this North Country Quilt design which will include information on our quilting heritage and a look at my collection of quilts. I am working with Lorrayne at  ‘Oh Sew Sweet ‘a patchwork shop near Barnsley.. This design can then be made up into a cushion or mat which we will help you to create.

If you are interested please use this link

I look forward to meeting you there.

In recent years

North Country quilting declined after the war years as an economic activity. It was carried forward by homemakers and enthusiasts. More women worked and people wanted new modern textiles that were factory made. However quilters such as Mary Lough, Florence Fletcher and Amy Emms all were teachers who excelled at the craft and taught classes. From these classes competitions were entered, the Women’s Institute continuing to promote the craft. Amy Emms was awarded an MBE for her ‘services to quilting’ and she created some beautiful pieces. The instructions in her book are very clear and well worth a look at. (Amy Emms’ Story of Durham Quilting’)
Women in the Dales did continue to quilt together to meet and chat, this was mainly at the village Church or Chapel.
I went on a course with Lilian Hedley to design a small wholecloth, which I enjoyed enormously. Since then I have explored the motifs and designs of the quilts and used them in my own work.
This design from a strippy quilt is one of my favourites and could be used as a border on any quilt.

If you would like the pattern please use the contact form and I will send it to you as a pdf.

To quilt a sampler you need 3 layers, plain cotton fabric (which has the design drawn on), the wadding and a backing fabric.

This  is then pinned and tacked together to ensure the layers stay together while you work on them.

Quilting can be done using running stitch with quilting thread for a traditional look or 3 strands of a stranded embroidery thread to create a more colourful design. You could use a quilting frame as would have been done in the cottages of the Northern Dales.

My finished quilted sample using coloured embroidery thread.

If you have any questions or would like to share quilts and information it would be lovely to hear from you . Use the contact form and I’ll get back to you. Thank you for reading my blog and hope you have been inspired by it.

Enjoy your quilting and making beautiful textiles, textiles that will be treasured and admired for years to come.

Patchwork and Applique

Alongside wholecloths, quilters used scarps for patchwork and applied designs in applique. Floral dress prints, spots and chintz were popular and a whole sample book of different colourways of the same pattern would be found in a quilt (often quilted by a dressmaker or one of their relations).
Mosaic patchwork was used to create a repeated pattern often with a hexagon or a diamond shape. These would have been English paper pieced. Squares and rectangles may have been sewn together with a sewing machine.

Mosaic quilt Reeth Museum, Swaledale

Medallion quilts were a little more complex, starting in the centre perhaps with a printed panel, frames of different patchwork patterns would be built up, sometimes over years and generations.

My own English paper pieced medallion quilt

Appliqued quilts often featured flowers, leaves, hearts and later flower baskets. A geometric red and white quilt with a stunning design from Rash Grange Farm, Muker in Swaledale.


This quilt was on display at the ‘Dales Countryside Museum’ at Hawes, Swaledale in an exhibition ‘Colour and Comfort’ (2019).
There was a lovely display of Northern Dale quilts and what was nice was the range of qualities from a machine pieced everyday quilt to a beautiful hexagon mosaic quilt which must have taken hours and hours.

This quilt was on loan from The Quilters Guild Museum Collection, for the exhibition
I liked the bold design and colours used in this one, and it has different colourways from a sample book.

Some of the applique designs came from America where motifs were exchanged with other European emigrants. Emigrants from the Dales returned from America bringing with them a wealth of new designs or sent them back to relatives in correspondence.

What astounds me is the quilting detail and design on some of these quilts, when today we would see it as unnecessary because of the busyness of the patterned fabrics and applique designs. This is the central panel of a quilt which is appliqued with the tree of life.


When I examined the back of the quilt it revealed a rich quilting pattern you would not see on the front.

The diversity and richness of the patchwork and applique quilts is well worth more investigation, from those created for everyday use to the professionally made intricate quilts.

Next week I will look at how to start a small project of your own.


Rural Industries Bureau Scheme

Although we now refer to North Country Quilts, during the 1930’s it was
called ‘Durham quilting’ when it was promoted through England and

The Rural Industries Bureau raised the profile of quilting and gave it
a new lease of life in County Durham and South Wales (which also has
a great quilting tradition). The Rural Industries Bureau wanted to
revive various crafts in ‘distressed areas’ including quilting. During 1929
a record was started of quilters who wanted orders for work.
Wholecloth Quilts were made to a very high quality and sold in London.
This cot quilt was made to sell at Little Gallery, London (1930-1939). It is
cream on one side and fawn on the other with bellows and flower motif in
the centre, and a border of roses within circles.


My sketches on a visit to  ‘The Quilters Guild Museum Collection’ in York

In 1932 the V & A Museum commissioned a wholecloth quilt. It was
made by Mrs Nina Pirt, a coal miner’s wife who lived in Spennymoor. This link takes you straight to the photo and description.

Dressing gowns, tea cosies, cushions and soft toys were also made for

Durham quilting was also promoted by Miss Armes who encouraged the
craft in the Women’s Institute and entries in the agriculture shows
were fierce.

To encourage the quality of the Durham Quilting Lady Headlam set up
the Northern Industries Workrooms in 1933. Work was in demand and it
was sold at Liberty’s, to Claridge’s Hotel for bed coverlets and commissioned by
private customers.

The Quilters Guild Museum Collection has a lovely green and red example of a wholecloth quilt made at Barnard Castle Workshop (1930-1940)

As with the quilt clubs the market collapsed in 1939 due to the Second World

Next week we will look at patchwork and applique in the Northern Dales , the various patterns and colour combinations used.

Quilt Clubs Week 7/10

Before talking about the Quilting clubs I think it is important to know a little bit about the area in which they came about.

A photo of Weardale today, once an industrial Lead mining area.

The Northern Pennine region including Allendale, Weardale and Teesdale had rich deposits of Lead. The Lead mining was at its height during the 1700’s &1800’s when thousands of workers mined the area, many setting up homes there. Some of the quilting clubs started at this time to bring in extra money into the home, particularly for those who had been widowed.

By the late 1880’s the price of lead was so low, the big mining companies withdrew and unemployment was writhe. Some of the  workers will have  moved into the coal mining areas further to the east of the country, around Durham, Northumberland and Newcastle. Here quilters clubs were set up by miners wife’s who had been widowed or their husbands disabled. The quilt clubs came into their own during the strikes and depressions of the 1920’s and 1930’s and provided a much needed income.

The women in the mining areas would have been engaged in making quilts on large wooden frames in the farmhouses and cottages and would have fitted the quilting around household and farm chores. Three generations, grandma, mother and daughter might work at the frame.
If a quilt club was set up just one person would have worked on the quilt for longer hours each day, making a quilt in 1 or 2 weeks. The patterns would have been easier and quicker to complete and the running stitches not so small. They would have generally marked out the quilts and could be wholecloth or strippy quilts.

This quilt is from the Beamish collection and is peach/pink sateen with a cream sateen reverse. Quilted with a central rose and a rose in each corner with 12 concentric circles equally spaced around the quilt. It has a diamond infill finished off with a feather border. –circa 1920.

From the quilt I worked out some of the patterns used, the central rose design, the goosewing and concentric circles.

This is a simplified example of how the quilt club could work, which was like a higher purchase system.
The quilt club would have 25 members, each person contributed 1 shilling per week for 25weeks (the quilt costing 25 shillings) Names would be drawn out of a bag to determine the order customers would get a quilt. So once a week one person would receive a quilt and by the end of 25 weeks all 25 members would have a quilt.
After materials, wadding and thread for a quilt the Quilter was left with a small profit to live on.
The quilt clubs gave a continuation of the craft through the beginning of the 20 century and played an important role in providing a means of survival for women in hard times.
If you would like to read more M. Fitzrandolph in her book “Traditional Quilting” (1954) has interviews and stories about the quilt clubs which makes very interesting reading .

The quilt clubs by 1939 declined dramatically. due to textile rationing during the war years. 

Next week we will look at a beautiful cot quilt made through the Rural Industries Bureau to be sold in London.

The Sanderson Star Week 6/10

Elizabeth Sanderson (1861-1933) from Allenheads in the Northern Dales was an apprentice to George Gardiner. She ‘stamped’-marked out quilts with blue pencil markings throughout the area so successfully that she employed apprentices of her own. They marked out mainly wholecloth quilts but also did individual commissions. The quilt tops were taken by the packman to remote areas of the Northern Pennines and were sold at the local co-op.

Elizabeth became well known for the Sanderson Star which she designed.


The quilt consisted of a framed pointed star surrounded by alternating coloured borders. I like the boldness and contrast of the design which is often Turkey red and white so this is a little more unusual being gold and white. It still has the blue markings on so has not been washed. I do not know the history of the quilt but I imagine whoever quilted this loved her craft and took enormous pride in her work. The accuracy of the piecing and the close stitches shows a high level of skill. All Elizabeth Sanderson’s pupils had to make a Sanderson Star quilt to finish their apprenticeship.

The centre of a Turkey Red Star from Beamish
The patterns used in the Sanderson Star were distinctive. A central star consisted of  a rose or star design with the radiating kite shapes filled with a flower, feather and tendril design. A diamond infill surrounds  the star. The borders were cables, trails, and running feathers, the corners of the borders would have rose designs or diamonds.

Central star has a rose motif in the centre with a flower and feather infill in the radiating kite shapes.

Rose and diamond corner motifs

Cable pattern

Running feather

This is my embroidered detail of  a star showing the typical flower and feather infill and a more unusual tulip design found in a Sanderson Star quilt from ‘The Quilters Guild Museum Collection.

The marked ‘quilt tops’ created distinctive North Country designs and helped keep alive the craft of hand quilting in the mining areas of the Northern Pennine Dales and Northumbria.

Next week we will look at how the North Country quilts helped bring in a much needed income to mining families.