Papered Parlour fabric blooms at the Quilting class. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Since I went to the fantastic V&A quilting exhibition last year I have become somewhat fixated on learning to quilt myself – god knows when I will find the time to actually create said quilts, buy but I’m a major hoarder so I have bags and bags of scrap fabrics lurking in my cupboards just yearning to be given a creative use… the result of encouragement from my mother to make my own clothes during my teenage years. She too has bags and bags of fabric stashed in her loft. Thus it was with some excitement that I enrolled on one of the Papered Parlour quilting workshops, which have been selling out super fast in these thrifty times.
The Papered Parlour HQ is located on a characterful side road just off Clapham High Street, far from the trendy hustle and bustle of east London. It’s a haven of creative inspiration with vast skylights flooding the premises with sunlight. The Papered Parlour Contemporary Patchwork and Quilting courses are run by Cassandra Ellis, a former interiors stylist from New Zealand, long settled in the UK, and currently making a living from her quilting obession. She sells in Liberty and Anthropologie and is available for personal commissions.
Louise serving tea when we arrived.
Cassandra doesn’t adhere to the modern school of quilting, which demands high prices for complicated patterns and carefully pre-selected rolls of brand spanking new fabrics. She instead encourages the time honoured approach of upcycling fabrics that can be found lurking somewhere in most homes, so all participants were asked to bring along our own fabric scraps. I had a good old rummage and brought along a nice selection of brightly patterned fabrics, the remains of mine and my mother’s dressmaking during the late 80s. I can still remember each dress, so they bear a lot of significance for me, and well reflect my tastes, which as you might be able to predict veer somewhat towards the colourful and highly patterned.
On arrival at Papered Parlour we were all treated to a lovely cup of tea in a pretty vintage teacup, then Cassandra sat us around the large table and introduced us to the basic quilting equipment: a cutting mat, ruler and the all important rotary cutter. Moving around the room we all told stories about the fabrics we had brought with us.
One lady had brought a remnant from her wedding dress and the shorts she had been wearing when she gave birth to her first child: the combination of cream embroidered silk and denim sweatshirt material making for an interesting patchwork effect. Another had ambitions to finish off a quilt that her nan had been making and one had brought a shirt that she had bought with her husband on honeymoon, which she laughed that he had since grown out of. Apparently a woman at Cassandra’s class once incorporated a bra into her quilt, and she has also been asked to make a quilt from the clothes of a deceased child, which must have been an emotional project to work on. Another lady with a terminal illness attended her class intending to make a quilt as a last gift for those she loved.
Rotary cutter and cutting mat.
Cassandra laughed that most people plan to make their first quilt for a friend but often end up keeping it… although they all have to be passed on one day. She also pointed out that even when the same fabrics are used it’s scary how indicative of ones personality a quilt is. Without even realising it my quilt reflected similar colours to the clothes I was wearing on the course, a phenomena that often happened when I was creating print designs at college.
Cassandra’s aim is to reclaim the art of quilt making as intuitive and non frightening… so we were all presented with easy to follow block patterns (the smaller more manageable parts that make up a whole quilt) to start playing with. Soon enough everyone was knee deep in fabric samples, some of which were provided by Papered Parlour, purchased from a local store called Fabrics Galore that sells Liberty ends of roll. Cassandra helpfully advised those nervous about their colour choices, but naturally I got stuck straight in and was soon buzzing out multiple blocks on my sewing machine.
Halfway through the afternoon we stopped to enjoy a delicious old fashioned sponge cake encrusted with lots of fresh berries from Cakesisters of Clapham Common: perfect sustenance for the busy creative bee.
Choosing my fabrics and putting them together. I could tell you a story about almost every one… that blue one at the bottom with the ditzy pattern is an off-cut of a dress I made when I was 17 to attend my aunt’s wedding. Or now I come to think of it… did my mum make it for me?
One man at a previous quilting class was so excited that he whacked out multiple quilt blocks before being hit by a truck cycling home. Luckily my own hasty output did not predicate the same outcome, though said fella was by all accounts pleased to be kept off work, enabling him to finish his quilting project. Myself? I hope to make my four colourful blocks into a big square pillow… but who knows when I will find the time…
My final four blocks.
Cassandra Ellis was an excellent and inspiring tutor and the Papered Parlour the perfect place to kickstart what I hope will one day become a proper quilting hobby. If you too would like to make the most of your fabric scraps then make sure you enrol for the next batch of Papered Parlour classes, which are sure to book up just as fast as the current ones. Follow the Papered Parlour on Twitter for updates. Check out Cassandra Ellis on her Haven Workroom blog.
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