Since I was nineteen years old I have been addicted to patchwork quilting after I went to The National Patchwork Championship, just to fill the coach up that was going! At the time I was studying Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management at Westminster College.
While I was at college I went to evening classes to learn to make quilts, but once out at work I didn’t have the time to continue these. After a couple of years I left the food industry and went to work at a local family owned department store, I started out on the housewares then moved to the book department, eventually working up to Assistant Buyer.
It was at this time that I began to teach Patchwork quilting in the evenings at a community centre. After a while, I thought about doing the City & Guilds Patchwork and Quilting, but I was newly married, working during the day, teaching two evenings a week and also doing up our house! I had no time to spare and also when I looked at the course I had already been teaching most of it for a while!!!
I gave up teaching and went part-time at work, moving to the Haberdashery and Wool department, when we started trying for a baby - our daughter, Laura, was born in 1999. I returned to work, part-time, only to be offered the buyers job for the Haby and wool department, and quickly had to learn to knit and crochet! I did this job for the next nine years, building up the department, doing demonstrations and introducing a knitting club. Unfortunately, with changes in the business, my department was shut down and I was made redundant.
I had no idea what I wanted to do and all the part-time jobs in retail I applied for I was told I was too qualified. I kept being told by friends that I should go back to teaching or at the very least demonstrating.
I looked into City & Guilds again, there was no college round where we live that was doing it, I would have had to travel a long way to do it and I was told I would have to do Level 1, 2, 3 then my Degree and teaching qualification. It would take years, and lots of money (all my redundancy money!) to get, plus I after reading the information I knew I would be bored doing levels 1, 2 and 3. I had taught most of the work but I wasn’t allowed to jump in at a higher level.
I was lucky a local Patchwork group asked me to teach them, they meet at the local Arts Centre and the Manager saw what I did and offered me a job. I was back teaching, that was over twelve years ago.
Other than the two years I went to classes, when everything was ‘old school’ and hand sewn, I am completely self-taught. I read lots of books, research and try different techniques, coming up with ways I can make things and also teach them.
My teaching principles are: to create beautiful items that anyone with a small amount of sewing experience can create, its not complicated, yes sometimes takes practice but if I can do it, so can you! I don’t create highly complicated decorative display quilts, I create quilts to be used, cuddled under, washed and loved.
Tortoise Crafts, is me, I am the designer and creator but it has become a family thing. Tony (my husband) is the technology and photographic side, he did all the photography for the book, and formatting and all the computer side, he designs and maintains this website and he is always supporting me and pushing me to try things. Laura does all the proof reading and gets called to look at and offer advice on things, she doesn’t want to create quilts but she enjoys cross stitch and embroidery. We are a team, without them I couldn’t do what I do!!
Although patchwork and quilting is my main creative area, from it comes the Quilted postcards, but I also do embroidery, cross stitch, knitting, crochet and weaving.
I am a Patchwork Tutor at Fairkytes Arts Centre where I run a number of classes. My classes are for mixed abilities, from beginners to more advanced.
For someone wanting to learn patchwork quilting, I work through a number of small projects with them. From a pincushion, to bag, to cushions, teaching different hand and machine techniques to get an understanding of the methods and for them to see which styles they enjoy creating.
In the classes I will usually demonstrate a project, showing a technique. This can be machine pieced, foundation pieced or hand appliqué or a combination of all three. I also do smaller quick projects, bags or cushions and seasonal items during the term.
Everybody works on what they want either from my teaching body of work or books they bring in, in the style, hand or machine to their own speed!
I had a number of my pieces published in Popular Patchwork magazine which has since been incorporated into The British Patchwork & Quilting Magazine.
Since then I have been working on the designs for the Quilted Postcards - Little Quilts Of Creativity book and finally published it in April 2020.
September 2013 - Sidney Snail
March 2014 - Soft Toy Play Mat
April 2014 - Dog Draught Excluder
May 2014 - Floral Quilt
May 2014 - Bag Special Issue
June 2014 - Laura’s Owl
July 2014 - Art Deco Border
September 2014 - Cottage Cushion
October 2014 - Bird In A Cage Cushion
January 2015 - Botanics Cushion
February 2015 - Rainbow Fish Cushion
July 2015 - Rainbow Hexagons Quilt
July 2015 - Sweet Gifts For Summer
August 2015 - Heart Of Hearts Cushion
September 2015 - Toadstool Quilt
November 2015 - Art Deco Rose Cushion
December 2015 - Hexagon Table Topper
April 2020 - Quilted Postcards - Little Quilts Of Creativity