Chris English is a Huddersfield based quilter who delights in using recycled fabrics that come with a story to create colourful improv quilts, which often carry political or social messages. Chris tells us about his quilt #nevertrustatory which was accepted into The Quilters Guild Museum Collection in 2022.
I made #nevertrustatory in 2020-2021, and it was in part inspired by the anger and frustration I was feeling toward Boris Johnson and the Tory government during the Partygate episode (how did they think what they were doing was right? I’m still mad now! Liars and criminals in my opinion). I needed a way to express my feelings and I wanted to communicate my anger and frustration. For me quilting is very cathartic and definitely helps me express myself and my feelings. As a quilter I think it’s good to include these kinds of messages in your work.
I make most of my quilts in various sections, often I’ll want to try a new block or technique out as a sample and then I’ll join these pieces together. Usually, I’ll have multiple samples and lay them out on the floor to see how they look together. In this quilt there’s a real mix of techniques; half square triangles, improv piecing and nine patches.
I use a Bernina 1008 for my machine sewing. I don’t lose any sleep over points not matching. For me, I like to make quilts and enjoy the process rather than getting too hung upon perfection. I happen to think that perfect is the most overrated quality and is dangerously close to boring.
I love to use recycled and found fabric in my quilts and #nevertrustatory is no exception. I use shirts, bedding, tea towels, curtains and anything I can find really. I prefer to use cotton but will use any fabric if I like it. Sourcing fabric from charity shops and markets is not only good value but will guarantee that your quilt is unique.
The amazing orange hexagon flowers were found as a skirt at the flea market in Huddersfield for 50p! I was never going to wear the skirt personally, but I loved the colours and thought they were super evocative of the seventies and that they were better going into a quilt rather than landfill.
For the quilt back, I love to make pieced backs and will use a similar mix of fabrics. I love experimenting on quilt backs as you can really go for it and try different combinations. I like contrast in my quilts, whether that’s colour, scale, pattern or a combination.
I love adding hand and machine quilting to create interesting visual texture. Machine quilting a big quilt through a domestic machine though can be a challenge, so that’s another reason why making the quilt in pieces helps as it’s much easier to machine quilt a smaller piece. After I’ve added the quilt back, I’ll add hand quilting to contrast against the machine quilting. I love hand quilting and think it gives a beautiful handmade finish.
I find it super relaxing to spend the evening hand quilting and use it to de-stress after a day at work. I’ll also add appliqué or extra quilting over where the pieces join, this helps disguise the joins, however, sometimes I like the hard contrast between the pieces and won’t try to blend those.