The deadline for returning the blocks was mid-October, so we decided to set two dates, one in November and one in December, for putting the quilt together. At each stage of the project we had received offers of help, so Lucy (Project Manager) noted everyone’s details and we had an enthusiastic group of 14 ready to work on the assembly. As the wall hanging has grown in size, so has the space we have needed for working on it. As a result, we approached Chawton House Library who kindly offered us the use of their drawing room for the two days.
When planning the two days my aim was to make sure that everyone felt they had had a chance to be involved and contribute towards the quilt, particularly as there was a mixture of sewing experience, from those who had not sewn for many years to skilled quilters. Lucy and I also wanted to make it a day to remember, so we arranged for the Library to provide lunch, encouraged everyone to go for a walk in the beautiful grounds at lunchtime and ended each day with a reading of one of Jane’s letters.
The room was set up into four workstations:
Area 1: School Panel
The individual elements were designed and sewn at Chawton Primary School back in the summer, but it had not yet been put together as I wanted to wait until we had the blocks back and the design/size was confirmed. Each child had stitched their motif onto a piece of fabric then these needed assembling onto a backing, by hand, in a crazy patchwork style with the raw edges turned under. By the end of the day most of the pieces had been sewn to the backing fabric, and the remainder were pinned in position ready to sew at the second session.
Area 2: The Admiral’s Quilt
We have been thrilled with the number of English paper-pieced blocks we have received, but the size constraints mean we can only use a limited number in the wall hanging. So, a second quilt is being made for the Admiral’s bed in the house. We needed a few more, and then the blocks to be put together, so volunteer Pippa ran this area – which was a hand sewing oasis of calm!
Area 3: Sashing and Binding
Back in October, just after all the blocks had arrived, Sue Dell (Collections Volunteer), Lucy and I discussed the sashing fabric and unanimously decided on a mid-blue. Using a paper design of the finished quilt, there was a list of strips required, and people came and cut them throughout the day.
Area 4: Trimming the Blocks
We requested the blocks were designed as a 9-inch (finished) square, but sent to us larger to allow for any size discrepancies. They all had a careful press then were trimmed to 9 1/2in square (to allow for seam allowance). The volunteers did sterling work and by the end of the day 47 blocks had been prepared for stitching into the quilt.
The day ended with a letter written in May 1811 from Jane to her sister Cassandra that includes the question 'have you remembered to collect the peices (sic) for the patchwork’. An apt choice to end the day of sewing.