From my Sketchbook: To Skye!

March 14, 2017

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing
Onward the sailors cry
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye...

 

My goddaughter was named after the beautiful Scottish island of Skye and when I made a quilt for her birthday I wanted to include elements  that would remind her, and her parents, of that magical place. 

 

 

The iconic croft house was my starting point. Built low to protect their inhabitants from Atlantic gales, they were heated by peat fires and often thatched with heather: their eaves weighted with stones. 

 

 

The crofter's livestock sheltered behind dry-stone walls - drystane dykes - which immediately brought Irish Chain blocks to mind, separating my little crofts from one another. And I love a bit of chain-piecing...

 

 

I wanted to include one of the seabirds that find a safe haven on Skye's rocky coastline. I settled on the Black Guillemot - known locally as a Tystie - with it's distinctive scarlet legs. He was enormous fun to make...

 

 

Skye and I chose the fabrics together: a beautiful selection of textural prints by Carolyn Friedlander, picking out her favourite blue for the backing and binding. Then I hand-quilted my finished top with scallops. A technique I found in Carolyn Forster's wonderful book Utility Quilting, making my template from an old cereal packet in true Blue Peter style...

 

 

I've never hand-quilted in an continuous pattern like this before, but it was surprisingly quick and effective - suggesting waves - and I loved the results. I'll definitely be doing it again. 

 

 

The gifted quilt now graces Skye's bed and, as a budding needlewoman herself, I know she appreciates it. And as I write I recall a day, many years ago, sitting in a Paris kitchen with her mummy, as we sang the Skye Boat Song to our babies. Because quilts are memories made of fabric...

 

Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep
Ocean's a royal bed
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary head...

 

Nicola xx

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