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From my sketchbook: Tulips from Amsterdam

I first visited Amsterdam as an architectural student and was totally enchanted by the impossibly tall houses reflected in a maze of canals.



I revisited it through the pages of favourite novels, stepping back in time to Amsterdam's ‘Golden Age’ of the 17th century with Deborah Moggach's Tulipmania and Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist.


Photo credit: Today's Quilter; quilting by Jayne Brereton at Quilter's Trading Post


Amsterdam's 'Golden Age' is inextricably linked with tulips. Native to central Asia, tulips were first cultivated in Europe at the botanical garden in neighbouring Leiden and were eagerly traded by wealthy Dutch merchants. They were celebrated in paintings, displayed in fanciful towers of Delft pottery and sold for astronomical sums at festivals. The obsession with this elegant flower has never waned and the Netherlands has lead the world in tulip cultivation ever since. Indeed, on satellite maps neatly planted tulip fields can be clearly seen to the north- and south-west of Amsterdam .


I'm very fond of tulips in my own garden


I was able to make a return visit to Amsterdam last autumn and, knowing I would be making this quilt, visited the delightful Den Haan & Wagenmakers fabric shop a few blocks north of the Niewe Kirke. If you are visiting Amsterdam I can highly recommend it, just to visit the beautiful premises…although I defy you to leave empty-handed. After much deliberation I picked out some Fat Quarters of ‘Surat’ from Dutch Heritage Fabrics to base my colour palette on, adding some tonal prints from Liberty Quilting Cottons and blenders by Sarah Ashford for Dashwood Studio. A shot cotton background fabric, by Oakshott, provides a suitably watery setting for my house boats, canal houses, neat rows of tulips and a whirling windmill. You can find the quilt in issue 64 of Today's Quilter.



And if you’ve ever visited Amsterdam you’ll know that I really had to include a bicycle: they are absolutely everywhere!


Photo credit: Today's Quilter; backing: Sweet Escape by Bethan Janine for Dashwood Studio


The Editors and I also considered a 'blue and white' version of the quilt, inspired by Delftware. If you have a lovely stash of blue and white prints this is the quilt for you: the scrappier the better. Picking just one row creates a more contemporary version.



Row quilts are wonderfully adaptable as they allow you to repeat a favourite row, giving your quilt a completely different look. A quiltful of tulips, for example. Again, picking out one row gives a completely different quilt.



And of course individual rows are perfect for a table runner to bring a little tulipmania to your table, especially if you pair it with some Delftware.


And talking of choosing, I have a stack of bulb catalogues to peruse. Choosing tulips is almost as difficult as choosing fabric and just as much fun! Can't wait,


Nicola xx

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British designs by Nicola Dodd

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