Thursday 12 December 2013

An Update on the Anniversary Quilt
December 2013

The quilt group decided to have a get-together at the end of term to place all finished (and nearly finished) blocks together on the table, to see how they looked. This would help to show which colours were predominant and to identify aspects of the University's 175 year history not yet represented. The table was a kaleidoscope of colour, texture, fabrics and stitches: it was fun to take a step back and review our achievement!


Of the 25 blocks, 21 have been started, and 6 completed already. Fifteen members of the group attended, admiring each other’s handiwork. Several felt that they would have time during the Christmas holiday to complete their blocks in time for the next meeting, as the weeks leading up to Christmas are so busy. Pat suggested that one of the spare blocks could depict Chester College. Fiona offered to look through old photographs and documents to see if there is anything which could be adapted.

Everyone is looking forward to seeing even more completed blocks at the next meeting in the New Year.

Michelle Spruce has given us an update on her block:

My block will represent Student Life. I have worked for the University for a number of years and have also recently become a student again, starting a postgraduate Masters degree at Chester, so I felt this was quite a fitting theme for my block. I also work in the Academic Quality and Enhancement department where we are focused on maintaining and improving the quality of both academic matters as well as the student experience. Due to the pressures of work and study this year I did leave it a little late starting my block and so (in true student fashion) had a mad dash to meet the deadline for having my block finished!!!


The different colours and patterns of the squares I have used in the background represent the variety of students at the University as well as the increasing internationalisation of the student body, with more collaborative partner organisations abroad. The silhouettes represent some features of ‘student life’. Starting at the top left block these are ‘Friendship’, ‘Studying’, ‘Student finance’, ‘Sport’, ‘Reaching for the stars’, ‘Partying’, ‘Standing up for what you believe in’, ‘Reading your subject’, and ‘Graduating’.

I had originally intended to stitch the silhouettes, however due to time pressures I opted for using transfer paper and fabric paint. I think the effect still works ok though. I’m still trying to decide if I need to add any further embellishments including a possible border. It depends how my design looks when put against the others.

Monday 25 November 2013

The University Anniversary Quilt

During November 2013 the quilters have been making considerable progress and a December meeting has been scheduled where everyone will bring their finished blocks to be laid out.

As Fiona states, we will then be able to ‘see what the predominant colours are and how we can balance these. This will help us decide what the last few blocks need to be, and will show us which colours will be most suitable for our sashing and borders’.

This is how the central blocks of the quilt will look:

Anne's alumni garden square

Kate's UCAT square


Kath Roberts: The University Crest

I’ve been using more than a little artistic licence during the stitching of the crest. For example, I thought the lettering for the motto would look better with a combination of backstitch and stem stitch, as it wouldn’t have been readable in full cross stitches as shown on the chart. I have also outlined the main shapes of the crest in full cross stitches in one colour to emphasize them, and then have filled these in with the charted colours, but have deviated from the computerised chart – if I’ve missed or added stitches in a particular colour I’ve just let it be – the overall finished effect should be the same, and I know I haven’t got the time to keep unpicking and redoing stitches. It is taking me much longer to stitch than I originally anticipated, one of the main reasons I’m not religiously following the chart, the other purpose being that at least the design will have had some creative input from me, instead of just following the computer generated chart.

The University Crest is almost complete!

The Mission Statement square

This has been designed by Louise Botten, former PA to the Vice-Chancellor, however due to other commitments Louise can’t do the actual stitching, so I have offered to do it. It shouldn’t take too long to complete (hopefully) once I’ve done the Crest, consisting of whole cross-stitches and backstitch for the main block of lettering. It will be stitched in the University colours on cream 14 count aida.

Fiona's Beswick building square

Pat's rememberance square

Layout of ideas for the label text

Ideas for the dates

The quilters are looking forward to seeing what has been completed so far laid out at the next meeting. Everyone has been keeping note of the hours they have spent working on the quilt and it will be interesting to find out just how much labour has gone into it so far!

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Dressing and Undressing in Pride and Prejudice


A Talk by Professor Deborah Wynne at the Chester Literature Festival, 24th October 2013 at 5.30pm to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Austen's Pride and Prejudice

The bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice in 2013 has highlighted the continuing popularity of Jane Austen and her most famous novel. Not only was it recently voted the favourite reading of the nation’s teachers, but Austen herself has been chosen to appear on the new £10 note. What is the basis of Austen’s appeal to readers today? Why have so many screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice been made? Professor Wynne will address these questions by considering the relationship between the novel and two iconic screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice: the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson and the 1995 BBC television series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

For more information, click on the link below:


Monday 30 September 2013


The design for the community quilt to commemorate the University’s 175th anniversary in 2014-15 is now taking shape. Many members of the quilting group have decided on the design of their block and some are making good progress with the sewing. Here are a few updates on the innovative and striking designs created by Helen Berrie, Jenny Mann and Fiona Roberts.

Helen Berrie: The Kingsway ‘Flying Saucer’


For information about this sculpture, see:

Helen writes: “I chose to make the quilt square of this as it is a striking sight which I pass most mornings on my way to work.  The building at Kingsway would have been a bit too challenging (possibly not recognisable on the quilt) and I wanted to ensure some of the other University sites were represented along with main campus.  I also thought that an artwork such as this flying saucer was a good representation of Kingsway as it is the home of the Faculty of Arts and Media.”

Here is a photograph of Helen’s work in progress:



Jenny Mann: 'Founders’ Day, 25th January 1839'


The University’s Six Founders: William Gladstone, Horatio Powys, Edward Stanley, John Bird Sumner, James Slade, Henry Raikes

Jenny writes: “My initial idea was to recognise the 6 Founders and incorporate their pictures onto a block using a patchwork technique popular in 1839.  Research confirmed that paper pieced hexagons were very popular in this period.  This is a technique I love doing, so an easy decision to make.  Having an idea, i.e. printing a photograph to fabric, is one thing and putting it into practise is another. A friend came up with calico fabric sheets that can go through a home printer.  However during a visit to the Quilter's Trading Post, to source the fabric for the hexagons, a different option was presented.  The owners have facilities to print directly to a fabric background.  This means that the 6 Founder's photos and all their names and the title can be printed at the same time.  I can then applique 6 hexagons onto the background.  Each hexagon will have a 6 cm circle cut in it to frame the face of a Founder.


The colour for the hexagons is a very deep rusty red - apparently red tended to be 'rusty' in the early 19th century.  It is a good match to the red of the University of Chester shield.  I have also sourced some tiny number 15 beads which I plan to sew to the outer edges of the appliqued hexagons.  

So I have been drafting up the block and have today sent, electronically, the mock-ups and photographs to the Quilter's Trading Post.  I shall follow this up by either posting all the mock-ups or taking them to the shop.  

The photographs show the positioning of the images of the Founders and the text for the printer. One shows the hexagons in place and the last is the ring of hexagons, useful I thought for checking everything is in position before the final printing to fabric. 

The font chosen is Franklin Gothic Medium 20 bold for the names and 36 bold for the title.

I will not be making the hexagons up until I have the printed fabric in my possession.”

Kath Roberts: The University Crest

Kath writes that doing the University crest in cross-stitch has been a challenge. She has "revised what I am capable of doing by February, and have decided to use the 40 colour chart instead of the 60 colour chart.  I thought I was in serious danger of going mad trying to follow the 60 colour chart, the 40 colour one is easier to follow but should still give a good result – it looked from the 60 colour chart that in some cases only a few stitches were in any one particular colour so it shouldn’t make too much difference to the look of the finished result."




Fiona Roberts: The Tiled Floor in the entrance to Senate House

Fiona writes: “I felt that the pattern of the tiles was reminiscent of a patchwork block and that is what led me to choose this as a design for my contribution to the anniversary quilt.  I originally looked at the Minton tiles in the Chapel, but they have so many curved lines in the design that I knew it would be very complicated to reproduce in fabric!  I then found these tiles and felt I would be able to make a neater job, though I still have a few stray threads to tidy up. 


The floor tiles in Senate House and Fiona’s representation in patchwork

To make the block I calculated the size of the two light coloured blocks, each with nine equal squares – a pattern known as “Nine-Patch”.  I made these, and then experimented with the more complicated triangles, and got the dimensions right on my second attempt.  I can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with!”

Some members of the quilting group recently consulted the owners of Quilters Trading Post for advice on the best method for putting the blocks together.  Renowned machine quilter, Pam offered to host the group when they were ready to put together the blocks and sashing, and to quilt the top using one of the shop’s long arm quilting machines.  This will bring a more professional finish and will ensure that all of the unique features are shown to their best effect.  Much forward planning was needed to estimate when this work will be done, as there is around a four month waiting list for this service! 

If anyone is interested in having their own work quilted, they can contact Pam at





Monday 19 August 2013

A Frenchman in Brighton in the 1850s

Francis Wey, a French writer, travelled to England in 1856 with the idea of recording his impressions of the English and English life. His account refers to many details of clothes, from the marvellous riding-habits of ladies in Hyde Park to the rags of beggars on the London streets. Yet Wey is extremely surprised to find that English men bathe in the sea naked. On a visit to Brighton Wey, believing that he should respect local customs, reluctantly abandons his clothes in the safety his bathing machine and ventures cautiously into the sea. However, after a long swim he learns a rather odd lesson about English prudishness.

He writes:

‘I spent two days at Brighton, where an Englishman, I am told, can find enjoyment. […] In fine weather bathing takes place in full view of the front, swarming with idlers of both sexes. Men go into the water stark naked, which surprised me, knowing how easily shocked English people are. Never shall I forget my bathe at Brighton! It was on a Sunday, at the time at which worshippers return from church. I had been assigned a cabin in which to undress. It was a wooden construction on wheels placed at the water’s edge, with steps half-submerged by the waves. Getting into the sea was easy enough, as my cabin screened me from view.

Unfortunately, I went for rather a long swim, as I wanted to get a good view of Brighton from afar. […] When at last I regained my depth, I found that my cabin, which I had left with water lapping the hub of the wheels, was now high and dry at fifteen paces from the sea. To put a finishing touch to my discomfort, three ladies, a mother with her daughters, had settled themselves on camp stools in my direct line of approach! They seemed very respectable females, and the girls were both pretty. There was no possibility of reaching my cabin without passing in front of them. They each held a prayer-book and they watched me swimming about with serene unconcern. To give them a hint without offending their modesty, I advanced cautiously on all fours, raising myself by degrees as much as decency permitted. […] As the ladies did not move, I concluded they had not understood my dilemma […]. What was I to do? Remain in the water and inconvenience my host, or emerge from it and affront the ladies? I determined on the latter course. After all, why had they settled just there? I rose slowly, like Venus, from the waves. Striving to adopt a bearing both modest and unconcerned, reminiscent of the lost traditions of innocence of a younger world, I stepped briskly past the three ladies who made no pretence of looking away. I felt the blood rushing to my face. […]


Bathing machines at the seaside

When at last we got home, Sir Walter [his host] teased me good naturedly about my misadventure, and his wife told me that she knew the ladies, who were very puritanical! They disapproved of bathing on Sundays and had adopted that unexpected method of discouraging Sabbath-breakers. Could one conceive a stranger mode of teaching a transgressor to be virtuous or of performing an act of religious fervour?

I would, perhaps, have omitted this incident, but for its bearing on various observations I have made on the inconsistency of English prudishness. In reality it is mostly offended by words. If one can replace the actual expression by some euphemism conveying exactly the same meaning, all is well!’

From: Francis Wey, A Frenchman Sees the English in the ‘Fifties, trans. Valerie Pirie (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1935), pp. 296-299


Tuesday 6 August 2013

The Anniversary Quilt

In 1839 the University of Chester was founded and plans are underway to design and construct a quilt to commemorate the 175th anniversary. Here are the latest design ideas and updates on progress so far. 


Kath Roberts
I decided to depict the University Crest and chose this block mainly because I enjoy cross- stitching and tapestry and thought this would be a challenge as I haven’t done anything this complicated for some time!  I think our crest and logo are very striking images, probably one of the best traditional HEI logos, reflecting the long history of the University and relating back to the foundation of Chester College in 1839.
In many ways this block is the easiest to design – Michelle recommended online sites that convert a digital picture to a cross stitch pattern, so I converted a jpeg image of the University Crest using the Pic to Pat website, on 14 count Aida fabric and using DMC threads.  So there hasn’t really been any ‘design’ input from me, it will all be in the stitching!  I have decided to use the pattern that consists of 60 colours (the more colours used the greater the detail).  Shirley had some thread colours that she very kindly passed on to me to keep the cost down.  All I have to do now is stitch and hope I can finish it before the deadline for making up the quilt!

This is the website I used:

and this is what it should look like when finished!

Shirley Bowers

If someone asked me to highlight an iconic representation of Chester – it would have to be the Eastgate clock. 

I have been thinking about the best way forward with my design.  Firstly I thought of just completing it in ‘blackwork’ but then decided on a collage of materials including lace for the ironwork. I took a fair but of time regarding the actual size of the clock face and decided on a 6” face so I purchased a black plastic face from EBay !!


Fiona Roberts has given me some material that looks like the sky which will be the background and Felicity Davies has agreed to stitch it onto the calico material  supplied by Maxine Bristow.

Great team to work with – full of good ideas.

Fiona Roberts
I have decided on a design and am nearly ready to start my anniversary block at last!  I’m going to do a traditional patchwork block using the layout and colours of the tiled floor in the entrance to Senate House, which used to be the Principal’s residence, and where students came to be interviewed when they applied. 
The Victorian floor tiles in the entrance to Senate House.

Monday 8 July 2013

Carol's and Pat's Textile Event Report

Textile Stories: The Fabric of Everyday Life

A Study Day held at the University of Chester

 Saturday 15th June 2013

Carol Edwards and Pat Barlow, both MA students in English at the University of Chester, compiled this report of the Textile Stories Study Day.

Carol’s account of the morning sessions:

This free event attracted an almost exclusively female audience, only one man was present. The first presentation was called ‘The Lightfoot Letters’:


Maria Walker, a textile artist, and Angela Topping, a poet, talked about their collaborative work and an amazing coincidence. Maria had bought, on a whim, a bundle of old letters with the idea of using the stamps and parts of the writing in her work. However, having read them she became too intrigued to dismantle them. The letters were to a young woman, Frances Lightfoot, who was living away from her family home in the 1920s. Maria began to use the narratives in the letters, along with her own artefacts and old family photographs, in her displays. When she met Angela Topping, who was equally intrigued by the use of words in art, they began to share ideas and combine their work. Here is where the coincidence arises - it transpired that Frances Lightfoot was Angela’s paternal aunt, so Angela had the delight of reading letters written by her grandparents and her father, who was twelve at the time. We were able to see (and feel) some of Maria’s work and listen to Angela read poetry inspired by her family.

Maria Walker (left) and Angela Topping and a display of textiles and publications
 relating to their collaborative project The Lightfoot Letters


Next was ‘Down Memory Lane: Yorkshire’s Heritage Examined through Clothing’ by Lynne Webster and David Backhouse (the aforementioned solitary male) from the Yorkshire Fashion Archive in Leeds. The Archive collects twentieth-century clothing and focuses on telling the stories behind the garments. Lynne talked about the donation of 23 garments from one donor, Michael Hyman.

The clothes were hand- knitted by his maternal grandmother for his mother, and they were astonishing. Examples were passed around the audience for close inspection because it was only then that you could tell they had been knitted: there was a light-as-air dress that looked like lace; jackets and dresses that appeared to be made of woven material, all beautifully lined. The garments were knitted without patterns - Michael’s grandmother would copy clothing she saw in the posh department stores in Leeds. Her history was no less astonishing than her knitting, because her family, being Jewish, had been forced to leave Russia in 1904.
Lynne Webster and David Backhouse from the Yorkshire Fashion Archive displaying a hand-knitted dress.
 Finally, before the lunch break, Kate Harland (Learning Development Officer) brought a selection of clothing from the Grosvenor Museum Textile Collection. The garments ranged in date from the Victorian period through to the early 1970s and there was ample time for more close examination. Touching seems to be overwhelmingly important for people interested in textiles
A display of some of the costumes held at the Grosvenor Museum

The response of the audience to these presentations was interesting. There were a few technical or academic questions, but the comments mainly reflected family memories that had been provoked by the talks or by the exhibits - although not even the oldest among us could cast our minds as far back as the nineteenth century!

Kate Harland explaining the story behind one of the garments

Several people talked about clothes made for them by their mothers. In my case, my mother always knitted for the family (not to the standard of the Hyman garments) but, once she had bought a knitting machine to speed the process up, my father took over and we were inundated with more jumpers, cardigans, scarves, mittens and even balaclavas, than we could ever need.
Pat’s report on the afternoon sessions:
The next talk, ‘All that Glitters…: The 5th Marquis of Anglesey's Clothes and Costumes' was given by Viv Gardner (Emeritus Professor of Theatre Studies at Manchester University)
Theatre Costume worn by the Fifth Marquis of Anglesey
She discussed the remarkable wardrobe of the 5th Marquis of Anglesey. Prof. Gardner pointed out that the 'everyday' of the 5th Marquis was that of an Edwardian aristocrat, not that of ordinary folk.  Succeeding to his title in 1898, within six years he had frittered away a vast fortune on clothes, furs, jewellery, cars, theatricals, etc.; extraordinary profligacy even by the standards of the Edwardian aristocracy.  Much audience laughter at personal items from the estate sale catalogue illustrating the Marquis's exotic tastes!
There were some moving details in this tale of eccentric extravagance: the Marquis regarded a shilling tiepin from a loyal servant with as much affection as grander jewels and friends clubbed together to buy back his coronation robes to spare him the ignominy of attending the coronation without these essential glad rags!  Sadly, the only surviving garment is a decorative waistcoat bought by the music hall star and male impersonator, Vesta Tilley.
The Marquis's waistcoat, later owned by Vesta Tilley
The Q&A session raised interesting speculation about the Marquis's sexuality, given his obsession with theatricals and love of dressing up in outrageous costumes, not to mention his skill at needlepoint and the annulment of a brief marriage to his cousin. Viv Gardner maintains there is no conclusive evidence for homosexuality but perhaps his fractured and isolated childhood (his mother took her own life when 'Toppy' was two), and early continental upbringing, made him appear 'un-English' and unmanly in his tastes.   
The next talk was given by Amber Regis (University of Sheffield) and Deborah Wynne (University of Chester), ‘Reading Miss Havisham's Dress: Screening Great Expectations’, a fascinating presentation on screen representations of the character, Miss Havisham.  The spectre of the ageing, jilted bride whose life literally stopped on her wedding day, and who never removed her decaying bridal clothes, is iconic.
Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham in David Lean's 1945 film version of
Great Expectations

Helen Bonham Carter as Miss Haversham
in the 2012 adaptation directed by Mike Newell
An audience poll revealed that most had heard of Miss Havisham, even those who had not read the novel.  After reading Dickens' graphic description of the character we learnt that the earliest illustration came fifty years after publication, so that all subsequent cinematic interpretations of Miss Havisham were forced to re-imagine her appearance and each reflected the spirit of its age.  From the optimism of the 1945 post war version ('getting rid of a gruesome past') where even in the black and white images there is a sense of her 'fadedness' to the 1998 'updating' of the story for a new audience in which the Kent marshes are replaced by swamps and alligators in California (this seemed an eccentric interpretation with bizarre directorial deviation from the original!). 
Ann Bancroft as Miss Dinsmoor/Miss Havisham in Alfonso Cuarón's film,
Great Expecations (1998)
Members of the audience noted that the two most recent TV and film adaptations (2011 and 2012) cast actresses who portray a decaying beauty more aesthetically acceptable for the 21st century. They were surprised that, after doing the sums, Dickens' Miss Havisham was all of 37! In all representations it is the decomposing of the finery which symbolises the mental decline of the woman.
Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham in the 2011 BBC TV adaptation of Great Expectations
The final presentation, ‘Christening Gowns and Family Identity’ was given by Sarah Heaton and Gina Hill (both from the University of Chester).  It focussed on another garment related to 'rites of passage', in this instance christening gowns.  Sarah and Gina outlined the interesting history of christening gowns and the tradition of passing them down through many generations of a family. In England this began when Queen Victoria herself commissioned a gown using the same silk and Honiton lace as in her own wedding dress; this gown was used fifty different times and a reproduction made for continued use, although there are examples recorded as early as 1730. 
The Royal Christening Gown  Image Source:
Both speakers related their own experience of dressing their daughters for, in one instance a traditional church baptism, and, in the other, a modern naming ceremony.  In one case a family heirloom gown was unearthed, in the other a new dress bought for the occasion, yet both emphasised the importance of the ritual in linking the generations; the fabric of the gowns bonded the families and their memories together - the fabric of family history indeed.
This subject clearly touched a chord with the audience, many of whom began to share their own stories. Indeed, throughout the afternoon the comments and questions generated by the presentations showed how thought provoking and entertaining they were.
Some comments from participants at the Textile Stories Study Day:
‘A really inspiring day, I have not been to anything like this before! Informative and unusual.’
‘Excellent speakers – well organised. Warm friendly environment – lovely room. Really enjoyed the day.’
‘Excellent day. Superb range of talks, esp. the Havisham and Leeds archive knitted garments. Very inspirational.’
‘A wonderful day very interesting. Very inspired by the talks and it was great to look at some lovely pieces of work. Thank you to Deborah and the team.’
‘Very enjoyable day, good variety of subjects. Lovely to see so much is being done to record and make accessible the everyday history of people’s lives through their clothes.’
‘Well balanced and very informative. A really interesting day for me. The Lightfoot Letters stood out, the Havisham dress a close second. More please.’
 ‘All thoroughly enjoyable. I loved the Miss Havisham lecture. Very interesting take on the character of women and their place in film.’
‘A very enjoyable event with a diverse interpretation on the subject of textile – the fact pieces were brought in for various talks really added to the experience – especially being able to touch and handle historical costumes from the Grosvenor Museum. The 5th Marquis of Anglesey talk was particularly enlightening, as it was from a theatrical perspective. The Miss Havisham talk was interesting as it included many non “traditional” interpretations or reworkings.’
‘Been a fantastic day thank you – Look forward to the next one.’
‘Enjoyed the day, it’s been very educational and inspirational to develop my creative processes further. It was great meeting others at this event. Great!!!’
‘Lovely day, full of interest & variety. Very pleased that I could enjoy (and have access) as an ordinary person, with a strong interest in textiles, “old things” & social history. Look forward to more.’
‘I have thoroughly enjoyed my day and have enjoyed the varied and informative subjects. Good to know that efforts are being made to preserve more recent trends in textiles and designs. Gained inspiration for my own work!’
‘This was a nice combination of talks. Interesting to hear of link between age of film and dress given to Miss Havisham. Link between people and clothing is good. To get updates on research is interesting.’
‘Excellent range and diversity of talks. Raised a number of interesting points – how we read, value textiles & I hope there are more of these days. Would happily pay!’
‘I have enjoyed the variety of the programme. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the Marquis of Anglesey. I was also interested in the combination of poetry and textiles in the first talk and hearing about the history of the Jewish family and the knitted garments.’
‘I have really enjoyed today. Is such a big topic – I didn’t know what to expect, coming, as I do, from an interest in the retail side of the textile story, but also how textiles have been so important in fashion and class. I was particularly interested in the Yorkshire Fashion Archive – as fashion is everchanging and its production & place of production changes. Great! Thank you.’
‘A fascinating and varied day, with lots of stories to think about. Enjoyed the contrast between the “everyday” clothes & esp liked being able to handle the textiles. Very encouraging to hear about so many different aspects of research. Thanks v. much for a lovely day.’
‘Wonderful day – really enjoyed the day – varied and interesting. I especially liked being able to see, and in some cases touch the fabrics. I hope you’ll organise another one.’
‘Thankyou for a most interesting and thought provoking day. One slight improvement could be in the presentation of costume items – a larger display table & rails so we could see the items more clearly.’
‘It was a lovely event – relaxed yet informative. The presentations were wide ranging & of a high quality. Very thought provoking!’
‘A very interesting day! Enjoyed the range of speakers and approaches.’