Wedding Guest Signature Quilt project by Jennifer Campbell Kirk for Vintage and Floral
I was commissioned by the Mother of the Groom, Janet Hindley, to make a Wedding Guest Signature Quilt for her son and daughter-in law to be, as a sentimental heirloom wedding gift. The brief was to design and make a patchwork quilt made of cloth signed by the couple's wedding guests. The project took approximate eighteen months from initial consultation to the finished quilt.
The first meeting in my Regent Street Office
The process began by discussing the initial brief with Ms Hindley over the telephone, followed by a face to face consultation with Ms Hindley, her daughter and her son's fiancée, Michelle, at my office.
We discussed initial design ideas, style, quilt patterns, colour, choices of cloth and wadding and the number of guests.
I always have lots of fabric and patterns available for clients to tell me what they don’t like as well as what they do, so
I can gain a good understanding of their tastes.
I originally trained as a therapist so I have learnt how to be observant and a good listener. During the early stages of such projects, clients are often uncertain about what they want and gaining a good understanding of their taste and preferences can be a challenge.
I also bring along examples of my work so my clients can touch my quilts and see the quality and craftmanship.
The design process
Initially Ms Hindley and Michelle wanted a design similar to a traditional American quilt they had seen in a Quilting book and so I sketched four designs for the couple to choose from. However, the groom wanted a simpler design so the couple decided on a one patch quilt made in their Wimbledon wedding colours of purple, green and cream.
I sketched a further four designs and the couple decided to amalgamate two of them. I then sketched a final design which was agreed.
I always have a schedule of work with deadlines and timeframes for the couple to sign off at different stages of the project. This ensures I stay on track and finish the project on time. Being a qualified project manager with a background of running large art projects for the V&A and Leighton House Museums has been invaluable in transferring these skills to making bespoke quilts.
The next stage in my design process is to narrow down the exact shades of colour the couple want and then source high quality designer fabrics sending samples in the post for approval. Once this has been signed off, I source high quality fabric pens and begin a series of tests to see how each pen responds to the fabric once it is placed in the wash. In my experience one brand can react differently to different fabrics when washed and so I always run tests and never take any chances.
On completion of the tests I hand cut the fabric into the chosen squares and sent them to the couple along with several fabric pens several weeks before their wedding. The plan was that guests would sign the squares which would be incorporated in the quilt.
Making the quilt
After the wedding, the couple returned their signed squares and I set to work in making a quilt top. Once finished the top is given to a specialist longarm quilting company to stitch the three layers together using beautiful pantograph designs chosen by the couple. Michelle and Julian chose the fun daisy and loop pattern. Some couples choose hearts and swirls or pretty flowers.
When the quilt was returned to me I applied a double bound edge for extra durability and stitched it in place by hand. It is quicker to do this by machine but I just love the personal quality and softness of hand stitches and such a special quilt deserves my time and attention to detail.
Finally the quilt was sent to the couple and my satisfaction is only complete once I know that they are delighted. Not only were Michelle and Julian delighted with their quilt but Ms Hindley was so touched, that she wrote me a poem and dedicated it to me. Here it is:
Stories stitched with every thread.
Heirlooms created in silk and cotton
of memories, events and words unsaid
Events now tangible, n’ere forgotten.
Love made eternal by her skill
as the quilter weaves her magic spell;
Cutting, stitching to fulfil
celebrations, that only time will tell
Their stories, of ordinary folk
with every cut and every stitch.
But by her skills this quilt, bespoke,
their stories forever will bewitch.
Oh, Quilter! Do you really realise
the magic weaved twixt your fingers and eyes?
by Janet Hindley
(Inspired by and dedicated to Jennifer Campbell Kirk for the quilt made to celebrate the wedding on 23rd August 2015 of Julian Hindley and Michelle McNamara)