#My Liberty - The Edwyn Collins Quilt October 07, 2015 22:13

The quilt pictured here covers my bed at home and my husband Paul and I sleep under it every night. It features three Liberty prints including Ornithology by Edwyn Collins from the Art Rocks Collection, as well as some remnants from my wedding dress. I made it in 2012 whilst heavily pregnant with my third child, and there is a story behind how and why it came about.

I met musician Edwyn Collins and his wife Grace Maxwell in 2011 when helping with an exhibition of his bird drawings at the 108 gallery in Harrogate. I knew his music because of the 1991 hit 'A Girl Like You', rather than his earlier career with Orange Juice.  I had also been greatly moved when reading the book Falling and Laughing: the restoration of Edwyn Collins written by Grace and published a year earlier. 

The book tells the story of how in 2005 Edwyn suffered a double brain haemorrhage, which left him partially paralyzed and only able to say his wife’s name, the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and ‘The Possibilities Are Endless’.  This story was made in to a beautiful and captivating film by directors Lovelace and Hall last year and to quote MOJO it is "a poetic testimony to the power of love and the indomitability of the human spirit". 

The exhibition featured many of Edwyn's studies of birds.  His life long interest in ornithology began as a young boy and at the age of nine he swapped one of his own drawings for a sketch of a bird by a friend of the family, the wonderful Scottish artist James McIntosh Patrick; a drawing which he still treasures today. In the late 1970's Edwyn found his first job at Glasgow Parks Department, employed to illustrate the native urban Scottish birdlife for educational pamphlets. Years later, inspired by a book on British Birdlife Illustrations by the Victorian artist Archibald Thorburn he began to draw as part of his rehabilitation after the stroke. Edwyn is right handed but lost the use of his right hand and so had to start again from scratch. Each of the drawings are dated and the early ones are, by his own admission, quite crude.  However they all demonstrate real skill and integrity as well as great determination to improve by challenging oneself. 

As I saw the show come together I fell in love with Edwyn's drawing of a Puffin and I decided to save up and buy it. Though it may sound sentimental having it in my home is a reminder of life's fragility and how love is the most important thing of all. Edwyn and Grace are remarkable people and their story really touched me.

Several months after the exhibition I was so excited when I was browsing Liberty's latest Art Fabric Collection (as I always do) and saw that they had collaborated with Edwyn to create prints using his bird drawings - including my puffin!  I had to make a quilt from this fabric to complement my original drawing. So I bought a metre and mixed it with 2 other prints.

I didn't want to cut into the bird fabric too much as it is so beautiful, so I chose a simple, brick-style layout and combined it with other solid and low volume materials.  The pop of orange colour is Marimekko and is a remnant from the bedroom curtains I had just finished before starting the quilt. I hand quilted it as it is King Size using different coloured cottons and some embroidery threads. 

The final element was adding a couple of the flowers from my wedding dress.  I chose a pretty inexpensive gown back in 2003 with an organza layer on top.  By the end of the evening, and lots of pretty wild dancing, it was totally ruined and had torn in a number of places. I eventually decided to throw away the main dress and just keep the organza, which sat in the kid's dressing up box for a while and kept making me feel that I really should try and preserve it! One day I had the idea to stitch three of the flowers into the quilt.  They were very flimsy so I used a fusible web to adhere them and hand stitched around the petals.  I don't think they will stay in place forever, and the kids have picked off most of the beads that were once there, but I love that it is an integral part of the quilt. 

Just a couple of weeks after finishing the quilt I had my son Ellis (now 3) and we spent a lot of time snuggled beneath it.  All stories in our home are read to the children in our bed at night, under the quilt, and I hope it will be passed on as a family heirloom, along with the story of how and why I made it. 

There is more information on Edwyn and his Ornithology range on the Liberty blog: http://www.liberty.co.uk/blog/9324/liberty-rocks-edwyn-collins/

It is also well worth having a look at the website of the film The Possibilities are Endless and watching it if you get the chance - http://www.thepossibilities.co.uk/about.html

The photograph of Edwyn is from The Guardian article http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2013/mar/18/edwyn-collins-understated-stream