Do you wake up under one of your own creations? Yes, I have too many. They’re the essence of what a home is (that and a roast chicken). We all have one on our beds, I made quilts for both my stepchildren, and they’re also on the sofas. It’s very cute when the kids are watching TV the quilt comes off the sofa and on the laps. We have a chocolate lab called Mr Darcy, because he’s so good looking, and Lily, an Australian terrier – they have their own too. In fact there’s a quilt that didn’t start off as a dog quilt but has become one because Mr Darcy lay on it all the time.
Is the rest of the house as cosy? We live in Peckham Rye in London. People might assume I’m going to be wearing velvet and jangly bells and have a purple streak in my hair and every wall’s going to be a different colour. It’s nothing like that. There’s no built-in furniture, everything is very simple, along the lines of Barbara Hepworth’s house in Cornwall. Clean, not fussy. The whole house is one colour, pale grey, with wooden floors. We had new friends round for dinner and they described our house as “soporific”, as in they didn’t want to leave!
What is it like, teaching workshops in your own home? I’m quite fanatical about having everything prepped. I get up at 5am and bake. It’s not just about learning to quilt but about creating a homely feel. I have a huge studio up in the roof. By the time they get to floor five people go “Oh my God!” You can see across the city of London. I really enjoy the whole community thing. People share fabric and tell stories. That’s where it all started – doing your day’s work, getting the children to bed, and doing craft was the only chance people got to sit and talk. It’s lovely.
Tell us about the memory quilts you make for people When I make a commission for someone, or teach someone, when they hand over their bags of children’s clothes and wedding dresses and husband’s shirts, in some way they all tie together because it’s their story. When it’s finished, they don’t see the quilt first – they see their lives. It’s incredibly emotional.
Can you suggest a good project for beginners? The only thing you’ve got to learn is cutting fabric and sewing it back together again. It’s about building blocks – that piece of fabric can be sewn to that piece of fabric. Try a little memory piece. These came about from someone I know who, when someone died, cleared out all the clothes then realised, ‘Oh God, we should have kept those’. You can use any cottons, anything from shirts to kids’ clothes, mixing up with Liberty or Indian block prints. You can use wool but not very heavy wool – you’d struggle to put silk next to wool, they’d have a little fight and the wool would win. If you want to incorporate silk or lace, back it with something. Ties are perfect for binding edges.