Well known appliqué expert Shirley Bloomfield
tells us about her quilting journey
When did you start quilting? My first piece, a small bag made
from diamonds and hexagons
pieced over papers, was made in
1968. It was made as part of a
college course when I was training
to be a textiles teacher. We had one
session on patchwork and had to
design and make a patchwork item
which could be used as a class
project. We were given a week
for the task! I still have the bag.
Are you self taught? I taught textiles in High Schools
for about 25 years, but have only
specialised in hand appliqué since
taking early retirement ten years
ago. My technique has been mostly
self taught using the books by Elly
Sienkiewicz. Ive also attended
classes at the Elly Sienkiewicz
Appliqué Academy ® in the USA.
What is your favourite colour? No particular favourite. I choose
colours appropriate to the flowers,
foliage and wildlife in my designs.
Do you have a large stash? I dont have a very large stash.
I mainly buy fat quarters to give me
a wide range of fabrics and only buy
longer lengths for backgrounds or
if its a fabric I really love and know
I will find it useful. A fat quarter
goes a long way in hand appliqué!
I arrange my fabric by colour in trays
and drawers in my workroom.
What type of thread do you use? For hand appliqué I use YLI #100
silk thread. I have a modest
collection of about 30 colours
which blend in with my fabric
colours. I also have the usual cotton
and polyester, machine embroidery
threads and quilting threads.
Hand or machine? Most of my work is now hand
appliqué and hand quilted
occasionally I machine quilt on my
old Bernina record electronic it is
my trusted workhorse!
What is your favourite technique? Needleturned hand appliqué and
How many quilt books do you have? I have 50 specific to quilting but
lots more general textile and design
related books. My favourite quilting
books are Baltimore Beauties and
Beyond Volume One and Dimensional
Appliqué, both by Elly Sienkiewicz,
and Quilting with Japanese Fabrics
by Kitty Pippen.
What is your top tip or advice for beginners? Always work in good light saves
eye strain and you can work faster
and more accurately. Start simple
and gain confidence.
What was the influential exhibition you have seen? Quilt Festival, Harrogate 1992
where I saw my first Baltimore
Are you a member of any groups / guilds? I am Chair of Chelsworth Quilters and a member of Quilters' Guild of the British Isles.
Which living quilter do you admire the most? Ellen Heck
(American award-winning quilter)
Where do you sew? In my workroom I need good
light, space and everything to hand!
How many hours a day or week do you sew? Difficult to say. Now my sewing time has to be fitted around teaching,
designing and writing, I do not have
Do you have a day job or other commitments? How do you
reconcile the two? Since 'retirement' my quilting
has now become a full-time job.
What are you working on just now? I have just finished all the projects for my book, 'The Appliqué Garden',
which will be published in August (2006).
It features Baltimore style quilts with
an English flavour. Although this is
my first book, I have published a
range of 20 hand appliqué block
and quilt patterns and my designs
frequently feature in magazines. I
am now developing some broderie
perse designs. A quilt I have been
working on for a while is now at
the quilting stage.
What is your proudest quilting moment? Being Guest Artist at the Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy® in 2006. Invited to be part of the
full teaching faculty in 2007.
Where do you get your inspiration? I live with my husband (and 3 cats) in a 500 year-old cottage with a large garden in the heart of rural
Suffolk. Unfortunately as teaching and designing are taking up
increasingly more of my time, the garden is declining as the quilting
blossoms! However, my inspiration comes from the plants, flowers and
wildlife in my cottage garden.
Are you interested in other textile crafts? I have always loved textiles and
over the years have tried many
from dyeing, printing and batik, to
dressmaking, crochet, knitting and
everything else in between!
What is your preferred wadding and why? Quilters Dream Cotton Request
quality (very low loft, consistent
thickness, easy to needle and does
not need prewashing)
Is there a fabric or thread type you cannot resist buying? I cannot resist beautiful batiks.
Do you dye your own fabric? I now find such a beautiful array of 'hand-dyed' look fabric that I dont
dye my own any more.
Do you teach? I teach day workshops for shops
and quilt groups as well as regular monthly classes in Lindsey. I also
teach week-end and mid-week residential courses in Suffolk and
Northamptonshire. This year I will be teaching at Le Maison
du Patchwork. I also teach and demonstrate at quilt shows this
year (2006) at The National Quilt Championships, Sandown, The
Scottish Quilt Championships, Edinburgh and the Festival of
Quilts, Birmingham. The most enjoyable aspect of
teaching is to see how students learn techniques and then run with
them to develop their own designs. I love to see the progression from
the first early stages; how students develop confidence and the
enjoyment and satisfaction they get from the stitching. It's a real
pleasure to be part of the process. I also give lectures on the history
of Baltimore Quilts and my own take Baltimore with an English flavour.
What has been the best workshop you have been to as a student? A hand appliqué class in the USA with Anne Connery in 2000. I learnt
a lot from this charming lady. The tables were turned this year when
Anne attended my class which I taught at the Academy.
Ever travelled abroad in search of quilts? I have made several trips to the east coast of the USA to see examples
of original Baltimore Album quilts.
The Baltimore Historical Society has
a large collection and there are some
beautiful quilts in the collection of
the DAR Museum in Washington.
What are your quilting goals? My goals to continue to spread
the word that hand appliqué can be fun, rewarding and is not
difficult. It just needs time, patience and practise but the
results are worth the effort.
Is there anyone else in your family who quilts? My sister quilts.
Where can we see your work?
An exhibition of my quilts will be shown in September at the Quilt Show at Hever Castle in September (2006).
You can also see my quilts on my website:www.shirleybloomfield.co.uk
- Mary Simon Re-visited (2003) 135cm square. The four blocks were adapted from an 1840 quilt in the DAR museum and given a 'watercolour' look by using modern batiks. The border is strip pieced using left over batiks from the blocks. Hand Appliqué. Hand quilted.
- Garden Quilt (2001) 94cm square. This was the first quilt I made using blocks designs
based on the flowers and birds in my garden. Hand Appliqué. Hand quilted.
- Seasonal Star (2006) Work in progress. Blocks reflect the changing seasons
in the garden.
- Robin in Autumn (2001) 59cm square. One of Shirley's most popular block
designs. Hand appliqué. Machine quilted.
First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 14 Issue 8 August 2006