Traditional & contemporary patchwork

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Back in October 2012 I talked about the work of Pauline Burbidge, a textiles artist who specialises in patchwork. This was one of the first techniques I remember doing as a child and it is one I have maintained an interest in since then. 

As a child I mostly did patchwork by hand cutting paper templates; using those as patterns to cut out pieces of fabric; and then folding the fabric over the paper and tacking it down before doing small oversewing stitches to hold the shapes in place. I vividly remember making a single bed quilt using this method stitching hundreds of hexagon shapes together to create an image of a panda sitting on grass with a blue sky background. I used scrap fabrics I had collected and although it took ages to make by hand I remember it being on of the first pieces of textiles work I was really proud of as it turned out even better than I had planned!

This sample below shows a sample made in this way using inspiration from Pauline Burbidge's 3D effect quilts. 

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As I grew older my interest in patchwork meant I experimented with it more using different types of patchwork such as crazy patchwork, a traditional Victorian patchwork technique, shown in the image below. In some ways this is more like applique as the shapes are stitched onto a fabric background and then embellished. This started to open my mind to the cross over between techniques and it encouraged me to experiment with textiles even more. 

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Below are instructions on how to do basic machine patchwork using squares. It is a good technique for beginners although accurate cutting of the fabric is essential for a good quality finish (better than mine in this sample!).

Sew 2 squares together using a 0.5cm seam and placing right sides together.  

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Some people recommend you press the seams open where as others recommend you press them to one side as this gives a more accurate join when lining up rows. I have found both methods work and suggest you use the one that suits you the most (but use the same method throughout your work). 

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Sew rows of squares together then join the rows by matching the fabric edges and sewing a 0.5cm seam. (This sample shows just 4 squares sewn together. Most patchworks use more squares than this and it is usually easier to sew all of the squares into rows then attach the rows to each other).

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Finished patchwork shown from the right side. 

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Patchwork is a very old and traditional technique originally designed to use up old fabrics because new ones were hard to come by. Nowadays however although it is still used as a technique for recycling materials it is also used as a decorative technique when using new materials. This link shows you lots of ideas on how patchwork is used in a contemporary way.

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