Valentine's Day, on the 14th of February, is a mere month away. The origins of our rather commercial celebrations are shrouded in mystery, but the first recorded Valentine poem was written by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th Century. Called The Parliament of Fowls it describes a conversation between the birds, brought together by 'Dame Nature':
"For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every bird cometh there to choose his mate...
...Well have they cause to rejoice full oft,
Since each a marriage with its mate does make;
Full joyous may they sing when they wake;
Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this wintry weather does off-shake,
And the long nights’ black away does take"
The heart symbol also started to appear in exquisitely illustrated, handwritten volumes of romantic poetry and tales of courtly love in the same period.
Whatever the origins of Valentine's Day, grey February certainly benefits from a sprinkling of pink hearts and some spirit-lifting flowers and chocolates. But for quilters, heart motifs - whether appliqued, patched or stitched into the quilting design - have been popular throughout the year for many centuries.
The 1718 Silk Patchwork Coverlet from the Quilters Guild Collection
Our earliest surviving quilts were entirely made by hand, often to celebrate a marriage or a birth: a literal labour of love. They frequently included heart motifs, either singly or as a quartet forming a stylised flower.
Nancy Horsfall's 1833 Wedding Coverlet from the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection
I was inspired by the quartered flower motif in Nancy Horsfall's wedding coverlet to design my Heartsease quilt, which is still one of my favourite Layer Cake patterns...
I then went on to design a traditional frame quilt, Nesting - again inspired by Nancy's quilt - which played with the same motif (along with some of Chaucer's birds)...
And I enjoyed making the central floret of hearts so much that they became the repeating motif in my Angelica quilt...
Last, but not least (although it is smaller), my Danish Hearts Table Runner took inspiration from woven Christmas heart decorations. I've reimagined it here in the fresh, spring colours of Tilda's soon to be released Pie in the Sky...
I LOVE heart quilts so much (sorry) that I've put together a Valentine pattern bundle, so you'll be fully prepared for any forthcoming weddings or christenings: you can buy all four patterns - worth £33 - for just £24. The listing for the Paper bundle is here and the PDF bundle here.