Meet a Member: Linda Lane Thornton


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

Meet Guild and British Quilt Study Group member, Linda Lane Thornton.

Where do you live?

Andy and I left the UK in 2007, intending to spend the summer cruising the west coast of Scotland and perhaps venture a little further afield. Eleven years later, having sailed some 70,000 miles around the world, we decided to settle in the Azores, a group of Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic. During our travels I made a Journal Quilt for every month we were away – well I didn’t know we’d be away so long! Andy has learned a great deal about patchwork and quilting on our way around the world and is a great sounding board for ideas.

What are you working on now? 

This year I was one of the Artists in Residence in São Jorge for the Azores Fringe Festival – a diverse array of cultural activities including music, dance and art organised by Terry Costa, who is based at MiratecArts in Madalena, Pico. My exhibition was held at Die Kaasfabriek in the village of Santo Antonio on the north coast of the island. Die Kaasfabriek – The Cheese Factory – is the gallery space and atelier of the Dutch artist Pieter Adriaans, one of the few polymaths I have been privileged to know; an artist, philosopher, ocean racer and IT genius! Following on from this Terry has asked me to create a new series of Journal Quilts based around the volcano on Pico to exhibit at the Montanha Pico Festival in January, held on the neighbouring island of Pico. Terry saw my work at Die Kaasfabriek and wanted me to create an exhibition with the mountain as its centrepiece.


As far as research is going, I am organising a Quilt Documentation Project to be rolled out first in São Jorge. The Azores have a rich patchwork tradition but little is documented about it and it is not regarded very highly by non-patchworkers. The coverlets here – I have yet to see one which has been quilted  – have tremendous variety, but crazy patchwork is considered particularly Azorean. This desire to research into Azorean coverlets has led me to develop my Portuguese beyond a grocery vocabulary. I joined a quilting group which met weekly (until the sudden onset on earth tremors in March led to its being put on hold) and the first thing we made was a group quilt. This gave me a great insight into how the Azorean ladies go about designing and making patchwork.



What is your favourite quilt that you’ve ever made, researched or written about? 

My favourite quilt is still the Sampler Quilt I made using Lynne Edward’s book. It’s my favourite because I made a lot of it when my Mother was staying with us in Blyth (Northumberland) – we would talk about which one I would do next, whether I needed to buy any more fabric, which pattern I would use. I finished the last of the sashing just before she died, then had it quilted professionally as I had run out of time. It lay on the bed for one night before it was packed away in storage so that Andy and I could go cruising. I didn’t see it again for 11 years – at which point I finally got around to binding it!

As far as research goes, I thoroughly enjoyed the research I did into the Hawick Quilts. It took me to a part of Scotland I didn’t know at all well and I loved the oddity of surprising things happening when they were quite unexpected.



Who are your quilting heroes?

I have long admired Pauline Burbidge’s work and was thrilled to find her book ‘Quilt Studio on a sales table at a quilt show in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when Andy and I spent the summer in Chesapeake Bay. I snatched it up, as I knew it was out of print. I like the way Pauline uses her machine to draw the shapes of the natural world, the leaves, grasses, rocks and water around her home. She has remained true to her initial impulse to create art through fabric and stitch and has done a great deal to ensure that textiles deserve to be treated as works of art.

There are several other famous quilters whose work I admire, but closer to home I find the work of Chris Dixon and Gillian Arkley wonderfully inspiring. When I saw Chris’ wall hanging of the castles in the Northumberland borders, I really wished I had a home to hang it in!


Can you recommend a good quilting read? 

The most ‘quilty’ novel I’ve read is Tracey Chevalier’s ‘The Last Runaway’, about Quaker girl Honor Bright who emigrates to the United States and who is praised for her tiny stitching. But for a really good, emotionally-charged read, I turn to Fine Cell Work, either ‘The Sleep Quilt’, by Tracey Chevalier and Fine Cell Work, or ‘Threads of Time, which documents the history of this charity. I have supported them for many years because I believe they do such remarkable work with prisoners.


Another book I love to browse is ‘Quilts & Coverlets by Rosemary E Allan. This is about the items in the Beamish Collection and I just love looking at the pictures.

What do you love about The Guild and your membership of the British Quilt Study Group?

A quilt is an emotionally-charged piece of material culture. It has been made with a host of thoughts, feelings and emotions stitched into every seam. Yet although many of these survive, they are mysterious objects. The ‘When’ and the ‘Where’ can be arrived at by knowledge of regional styles, types of quilt and fabric fashions but all too often the ‘Who is unknown. I like the way in which the BQSG tries to tease the answers out of a quilt or coverlet, to give credit to the makers and to acknowledge the skill and artistry – not just craftsmanship – which goes into designing and making a quilt or coverlet.

I like belonging to The Guild because of its sense of community, of shared values, of the love and emotions we stitch into our quilts, of our guilty passions (mine is collecting books about quilting!), of the sense of camaraderie when things go wrong, and how help is always just at the other end of a fibre optic. I love reading about what members are up to, the confessions when things have gone hopelessly wrong, the answers that simply flood in to queries – one big, extended family; a bit odd from time to time, but always there!

The British Quilt Study Group is one of five Special Interest Groups open to members of The Quilters’ Guild. Why not find out more about joining The Guild?

We are asking Members to tell us a bit about their sewing life using five simple questions. This way we hope to bring you a wide range of makers from all corners of The Guild. If you want to tell us about your quilting life, or know a quilter you think we should feature, get in touch at and we’ll send out a copy of our questionnaire.

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