Thursday, 23 January 2014

Never Forgotten improv

Public Service Announcement: This post is long! Grab a cuppa if you've got the time, otherwise scroll through to the pictures :) If you're looking for the scrap giveaway it's here.

I mentioned in my FAL post that I have 2 quilts to make for the Quilt and Stitch Village Show, well, today I'm going to tell you a story about one of those quilts in the making. This particular quilt will be entered into the Special Theme category which this year commemorates the centenary of the start of WW1. I've decided to go for an Improv quilt as the judges can't be too picky about mismatched points, no, seriously, I figured it was the best way to bundle up the myriad of reasons why this category is important to me. Before I show you the quilty bits I want to give you the back story...
Me aged 14ish on school history trip to Belgium/France
I went on a school history trip in the late 80s that made an indelible mark on me. We visited many significant war memorials and battlefields in France and Belgium culminating in a trip to the Menin Gate in Ypres where we witnessed the buglers playing of the Last Post (I could cry just thinking about it now). Although some of the places and names never registered with me, the experience has remained amongst the most emotionally significant events in my life.
2 boys from my school year wading through the trenches of WW1
Seeing young lads my age wading through the relics of the WW1 trenches and realising that boys not much older than them had died in the vary same spot was (and still is) mind-blowing.
Entrance to a trench dugout
I've always had a keen interest in the World Wars and this was something that gained greater significance to me when learning about our family history from my Great Uncle Harry. In recent years I have been revisiting our family history with Jess (she loves history, Harry would have been so proud!) and with the magic of the internet it's amazing what you can discover these days. I knew that at least 2 of our ancestors were killed in action but I didn't know much else beyond that. First up is Sgt Bernard Fitzpatrick, the handsome chap in the bottom right hand corner, he was my Great-great grandfather (I think). We had this lovely cutting from a newspaper (courtesy of Uncle Harry) but today I was able to find his military records online and found that he was mentioned in despatches twice. Once for an unspecified act and again when he received a Russian medal - the Medal of St George 4th class for gallantry and distinguished service in the field.
Bernard died in the Battle of Loos on 25th September 1915, a month after his Russian medal was announced.
Our second loss was Bombardier James Dawson, he was my Great-Grandfather's brother. I don't believe that we have a picture of him in life but here's one of his war grave.

He died in France on 22nd April 1918. This picture was found in his pocket when he died...
...the handsome chap in the uniform is my Great-Grandfather George, he was discharged from the army after 2 and a half years service in 1917 due to injury which left him permanently incapacitated with chest trouble. James and George were both born in America to British parents so were classified as British citizens. Their parents certainly had a rough few years!
I'm certain that I'll find more ancestors that perished in WW1 the further into our family history search we go. I'm so proud of our men! 

So, if I haven't lost you already I'll show you the quilty stuff :) I wanted to make a "modern" tribute that wasn't "in your face" a memorial. I grabbed a whole selection of low volume prints and solids and a little selection of red prints to represent poppies.
I had a good flick through Lu Summers book for some inspiration for the improv element then got chopping. I'm afraid to say I can't do improv without some order and control so I chopped "scraps" specifically for this project to add to the small amount I found in my scrap bin :) Amongst the fabrics that I chose are a couple of symbolic ones; there's a Minick and Simpson stripe and star that I've used in other projects before now which symbolises the American connection to the Dawson family, a Hometown text print which has lots of words like family, territory, etc which I thought were very relevant along with a Cross print from Curious Nature which I thought looked a bit Military like.
My intention was to pull random scraps out but in reality I have been a bit more structured  in my fabric placement, I know...not very improv. So far I've made 3 blocks, only another 22 to go ;)
The chevrons at the top represent Sgt Fitzpatrick(3 stripes) and Lance Bombardier Dawson(1 stripe). Here's a little close-up of the text print.
The splash of red is the first of 8 "poppies". 
I'm going to try to use a few different prints for the red poppies but the Minick and Simpson stars and stripes will be at least 2 of them.
I'm loving how it looks so far. I intend to include some basket weave blocks to represent the trenches along with some crosses and who knows what else?! :) I actually really enjoy the process once I get into it but it is very time consuming as Improv really doesn't come easily to me. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the judges to this little quilt once it's finished. I know that last year there were some odd remarks on a few of the "modern" quilts so we shall see. Either way, I'm delighted to be honouring our ancestors in a quilt. This lengthy post has been a record for prosperity so if you've reached the end of it give yourself a clap and chocolate to celebrate ;) Catch you soon x
P.S Almost forgot, thank you for the lovely responses to my Not-so Lonestar finish! xx


  1. What a beautiful way to remind us all of WW1 and your own personal family history. Di x

  2. Wonderful idea, and I am sure it will wow the right people!
    I am with you on improv - it is way harder that traditional blocks xxx

  3. Beautiful story R! Like you, I'm fascinated by the social history of our world wars! Would love to visit Auschwitz one day. It will be a very special quilt to you, so it won't matter how anyone else judges it. Jxo

  4. I love your backstory to this quilt and look forward to seeing it as it progresses. Lovely so far.

  5. How funny, I also toyed with entering this category with improv, but I couldn't make my mind up in time, so I went for a different one instead! Great back story though :o)

  6. Thanks for sharing your backstory with us, it was really interesting. I love the look of the blocks for the quilt and the ideas for the representations are smashing. Sue :)

  7. a very moving blog. thank you for telling us about both your relatives who lost their lives and your visit to Ypres. My brother has a painting of the Menin Gate at midnight with the soldiers in the back ground, it is very touching to see. Love the selection of fabrics you are using in this qulit

  8. It will be a beautiful quilt. Thank you for sharing the story.

  9. What an amazing idea, and a true tribute. I just hope the judges "get" improv!

  10. I love this, and it is wonderful to have something so personal too. Thank you for sharing the story behind it.

  11. What a great idea. My niece is doing that same trip with school this year. Thankfully my grandfather came back from WWI his brother and other Great Uncles of mine were not so lucky.

  12. What an amazing idea and great stories behind it too

  13. A wonderful post about some wonderful men. I love your quilt so far and think it will have a powerful impact when finished - it's already touching xx


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