Fiona Roberts, the Alumni and Development Manager at the University of
Chester, recently gathered together a group of volunteers to discuss the possibility
of working together to create a quilt. She explained:
“In 2014, the University of Chester
will be celebrating its 175th anniversary, which makes it one of the
longest established higher education institutions
in the country. There will be a calendar
of events throughout the year, welcoming many alumni to return to their alma
mater. These will range from a service
in Chester Cathedral, to sports tournaments to balls with music and fireworks:
something for everyone, reflecting the diversity of our students over the
However, parties and performances will pass and it has been acknowledged
that a more lasting testament to the University is required: something which
can be seen for many years ahead.
The concept of a quilted commemorative wall hanging was suggested and
approved, so I invited staff and students interested in quilting to get
together and pool ideas. An informal
group was formed in April 2013, planning to create a commemorative quilt
depicting aspects of the institution and influences over the 175 years. Alumni and local quilters have also been
invited, and it is anticipated that the quilt will comprise a variety of
textiles, depending on the skills and interpretations made by the contributors.
In total, there are nearly 20 people willing to give their time and talent to
Each member has made their own decision on what they would like to do, and
how they wish to interpret the theme.
Some are focusing on campus buildings or activities, others on the city
and other local influencing factors.
There are few rules, though everyone needs to produce a block which
measures 14 inches when completed! The
quilt will feature the coat of arms in the centre, meaning there must be an odd number of blocks.
The crest is a very detailed image, and will therefore be represented in
cross-stitch. The sashing and posts will
be decided when the blocks have been assembled, but everyone agreed that they
would like to incorporate the University colours, black, red and white.
The project is scheduled to be completed by June 2014 and the quilt will be
exhibited at the various campuses of the University of Chester during the
anniversary year (2014-15). When taking
into account interpretation, and wanting visitors to enjoy our efforts, each
contributor will be invited to write a short passage about their design – why
they chose it, how they designed and stitched it which will be accompanied by a
photograph of their block. We envisage a little booklet to accompany the quilt,
sharing what we have created and the journey that we took to achieve our goal.”
Fiona gave everyone an idea of the challenges ahead as she showed the work
she’d done on a patchwork quilt, explaining how the design had developed and
indicating some of the difficulties of getting the dimensions right!
Some members of the quilting group explain what they have chosen to sew,
Felicity Davies: Briefly, the story of my block choice – I
originally chose the River Dee because it is an iconic part of Chester and I
felt it would provide a good subject for a panel, but I also wanted to include
something that would represent the department within which I work, which is
Careers and Employability.
As I drew out my design sketch, using the Old Dee
Bridge as a design element, I realised that the bridge symbolises how the
Careers and Employability department is like a bridge in the way it helps
students to cross over from studying to employment.
felt inspired to begin work immediately with the following result:
Amy Jones: I plan to design a square based on
the Amber ‘Peace’ cross which was designed by one of our alumni, Frederick
Starkey. I published a story in the first edition of The Cestrian that I
worked on, called ‘The amber cross: a peaceful reminder’ so I know all about
its history. I also think it ties in nicely within my role within the
University, as I deal with alumni and alumni stories daily.
I wanted to incorporate flowers
into my design as many of the alumni that I speak to, always recall how well
the gardens and grounds were maintained on campus. I’ve never done any sewing
or quilting before, as my crafting interests lie within card making and
scrapbooking, so I’ve no idea how it will pan out! I’ve bought myself a sewing
machine and I have some scraps of material…I just need some thread and I can
Liz Johnson: Karen Boyle and I spent several lunchtimes putting
ideas together around the Warrington campus and Warrington the town. We came up
with lots of ideas; then tried to sketch mock-ups of the ones we thought would
have the most visual impact. As the Warrington Wolves train on the campus
(literally outside my window) we decided their emblem would make a good strong
square with primrose and blue as the main colours.
We talked about making the block as a quilt but
decided that cross-stitch would make a clearer image. I had been to see the
Lewis Carroll windows at Daresbury Church a few weekends ago, and that also
used lots of blue and yellow in the designs. One of the ideas we had was to use
silk painting for one of the squares. We thought the stained glass would work
really well as a silk square and so we have incorporated three of the Alice in
Wonderland figures into the block.
Wendy Fiander: I am currently thinking about the designs for 2
squares for the quilt – whether I manage to produce 2, or even 1, remains to be
seen, of course. The themes of these squares are sustainability and
international, both of which seem to me to be important areas of growth and
development for the University at the moment – so these squares are recording
features which have prominence now, rather than historically, so that trends in
these areas can be followed in the future from as they have been portrayed at
this point in time.
I have been involved in several initiatives to
contribute to the sustainability agenda for the University, notably the managed
printing strategy, videoconferencing, power saving for computers and the Green
Impact Scheme, so have an interest and some insight into activity in the
area. I don’t want my design to just be a collection of generic logos,
but would like it to reflect the actual work being done at Chester, which is
proving a challenge. I think the design will develop further, am keen to
welcome feedback and good ideas from other people and will, of course, liaise
closely with the University Sustainability Manager to ensure that the current
activity is portrayed correctly.
The international square seemed quite an easy
concept to work with, and a fairly obvious design to do, which was its
attraction to me. I consulted with the Dean of the International Office
to ensure that our ideas aligned, and will continue to do so over the work on
the square. I have experimented with light sensitive fabric to see if
this would be a way of getting a world and UK outline onto fabric as the basis
for the design, but have now decided to purchase fabric which is already
printed with the world map in the correct scale to fit on the square and
embellish this with detail about the University partnerships and other
Deborah Wynne is charting the progress of the quilt and will post updates as the story develops....
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