Meet a Member – Mary Jenkins


Get to know The Guild better by meeting our talented members! We have interesting and inspiring members all over the country doing amazing sewing and we want you to be able to share their work.

Meet Guild member and Welsh quilt enthusiast, Mary Jenkins.

What are you working on now?

I work on many different projects at the same time and have at least ten in progress at the moment. I jump from one to another as the mood takes me, or when I have a burst of inspiration.  This isn’t counting those in the quilting queue – I must have at least 15 waiting to be quilted.  As I only make crib sized quilts and smaller this isn’t as formidable as it sounds, but I am a hand sewer and quilter, so progress is slow.  I do feel frustrated at times as I have so many ideas either in my head, in my sketch book or bundles of fabrics that have been selected for a project, but know that I may never get around to making them as at my age I am running out of time!  I need a team of quilting elves to do my bidding, but I am not sure even that would work because I am very controlling when it comes to my quilts and want to do everything myself as they are a reflection of my life and times – so very personal indeed!

BeFunky-collage (1)

Clockwise from top left: A top inspired by an old Welsh quilt, probably next in the quilting queue; a pile of Welsh doll and crib quilts; close up of some of my little Welsh quilts – a reversed one in the foreground; red house at the centre of a scrap quilt entitled Stars fell on Abertridwr.

What is your favourite quilt that you’ve ever made?

The very first patchwork I fell in love with was the Sundial Coverlet in the V&A collection, when I saw a picture of it in an old V&A book.  It wasn’t until their big exhibition in 2010 that I actually saw it. It lived up to all expectations and I was determined to make a tribute quilt.  I didn’t try to reproduce it, though this has been done by other designers, but I took its colour scheme and many of its block patterns and designed my own using fabrics from my stash – many of which are vintage, but not reproduction.  I drafted the patterns referencing pictures online, which was challenging but very satisfying and wrote a blog on my progress named after the quilt which I called The Cottage Orne Quilt.  I worked at it pretty constantly with a break between finishing the top and the quilting.  So many memories of friends and occasions are sewn into this quilt and that makes it very precious to me.

BeFunky-collage (2)
Clockwise from top left: The Cottage Orné Quilt; work in progress; a Broderie perse basket on another work in progress using a herringbone appliqué; a detail of the Cottage Orne featuring some of the 12cm blocks and larger block with basket based on one seen in a late C18th example.

Who are your quilting heroes?

Over the years I have admired the work of many quilters, but when it comes to heroes – and it may sound cheesy but it’s truly how I feel – it has got to be the Welsh quilters who made such wonderful quilts in the past.  I have studied and written about Welsh quilts for quite a few years now, but I am a comparatively late convert to my own country’s quilts and I regret that very much indeed.  We don’t know a great deal about these women because, of course, women’s work wasn’t thought important enough to be recorded. But when you make and quilt the Welsh way you do gain an insight into their lives and their ways of working, and I am full of admiration.  The best work was done by professional quilters who, though they quilted for money and being of course very poorly paid for all that, nevertheless put so much imagination into their stitching and made works of art!

Can you recommend a good quilting read?

I love British traditional patchwork and quilting and only wish more was written about it and we in this country revered it more than we do.  I return constantly to the books written by Averil Colby and Dorthy Osler published by Batsford, now out of print but worth seeking out.  My one wish is for Averil Colby’s book on patchwork to be re-edited and re-issued, so that it flows and is easier to follow.  I long for that every time I refer to it, as at the moment one has to constantly flip back and forth between pages of text and illustrations!

When did you join The Guild and why?

Almost at the beginning!  My original Guild number was 275, but I lost that because of a glitch in my membership and the computer system, which is a shame.  I was originally in the Quilt Circle, which folded just after I attended the first meeting in Bath, so I was initially sceptical about getting involved with another quilting organisation, but was persuaded by my friend Jean Davies to join.  Together we set up a group in South Wales and I became a Guild Regional Representative and then one of the first Regional Co-ordinators.  These were happy times!  We were full of enthusiasm and every event was exciting and we felt we were at the beginning of something very worthwhile, which we were.  Of course the passage of time means that I now find going to Guild events bitter sweet, because so many of those friends I shared those happy times with are no longer with us.  I support the Guild in other ways now, by contributing to the magazine and occasionally donating to the acquisition fund when an interesting quilt appears on the market.


We are asking Members to tell us a bit about their sewing life using five simple questions. At the end of the interview each member suggests another to interview. This way we hope to bring you a wide range of makers from all corners of The Guild over the next weeks and months. If you know an inspiring quilter who we should feature, get in touch and we’ll send out a copy of our questionnaire.

One thought on “Meet a Member – Mary Jenkins

  1. I was lucky enough some years ago to spend a morning at the Welsh National Museum looking at the patterns and designs used by some of the old quilters . These inspired me to continue hand quilting .


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