Inspired by Lucy...
Updated: Sep 9
I have another Today's Quilter project to share with you and it's a really special one, because it's inspired by one of my quilting heroes: Lucy Boston. You can find it in issue 56 and it will be landing on your doormats any day (if you're a subscriber).
A few years ago I read Diana Boston's beautiful book, The Patchworks of Lucy Boston, about the work of her mother-in-law. Lucy Boston was truly a renaissance woman: restoring the ancient Manor house at Hemingford Grey, creating an outstanding garden around it and setting her Carnegie Medal winning Green Knowe books there. She was also an accomplished and inventive quilter.
Diana describes how Lucy "sewed her patchworks sitting in her armchair by the dining-room fire..." meticulously piecing each block by hand. My quilt was inspired by Lucy's iconic Patchwork of the Crosses, one of the most treasured designs of the 20th century. The design features repeated rounds of elongated hexagons and each round has been fussy cut, emphasising the block's symmetry and making each one unique.
The fabric placement completely alters the appearance of each block, too, which is what makes it so fun to piece. For example, in the illustration below the pale pink recedes and the more dominant red and green highlight different parts of the block, transforming it, by turns, from a 'wreath' to a 'plus' to a 'cross'.
My machine-pieced interpretation of the block omits the outer round of hexagons, but includes some of the elements of fussy-cutting that make Lucy’s endlessly adaptable block such a favourite.
Striped fabrics, like the fun measuring tape print, work particularly well for the centres
I had enormous fun choosing fabric for this quilt and mixed two complimentary Layer Cakes by Bonnie & Camille for Moda, Handmade and Little Snippets, which both feature sewing motifs. I cherry picked the larger prints for fussy cutting, using the blender prints for the outer portions of the block.
A useful tip for fussy cutting is to make simple templates from clear plastic - marked with the quarter inch seam allowance - to help you to decide which motif to highlight. I also made a practise block to test them out.
As Lucy's blocks were hand pieced over paper templates - that is, English Paper Pieced - the edges of the blocks created a secondary diamond design. This inspired my diamond border: a gentle nod to the original.
Jayne quilted it with a gently meandering blossom and we had a long conflab (technical term) about the choice of colour for the binding. The red and charcoal are both quite dominant in the quilt...and then there was that aqua border. I left my decision for a few days - which is always the best thing, if you have the time - and chose a charcoal gingham binding.
As someone who came to quilting quite late, I find Lucy's life as inspiring as her quilts. Her restoration of Hemingford Grey Manor, her fame as an author and many of the quilts she made - including the Patchwork of the Crosses - were achieved in the latter half of her life and with every passing decade her energy and enthusiasm for creative challenges seems to have grown.
With winter here and many cosy evenings ahead, you may decide that you want to hand piece a quilt just the way Lucy did half a century ago and Sew & Quilt have a popular block of the month club to make the Patchwork of the Crosses, using Liberty Tana Lawn and the original EPP method. If you choose to hand quilt your creation - whether it's machine or hand-pieced - you can find my favourite tips here.
You can also see Lucy’s quilts by appointment at the home they were created for, The Manor at Hemingford Grey. Or snuggle up under a quilt and read Diana's excellent book...