I can’t remember a time when I haven’t sewn, early memories of playing with the fabric under Mum’s Green table (where her sewing machine was in constant use), making clothes for my dolls and eventually for myself. I have strayed into other crafts but sewing was my favourite. Mum always had a scrap bag stuffed with wonderful, dress-making scraps as well as a few exotic pieces to delve into. So it was the same for me, when I first stitched patchwork in the early 1970s, I had a bag of my dress-making and other fabric scraps to delve into.

Fast forward to the early 1980s and we could actually buy new fabric to stitch patchwork, very limited cotton but the supply was growing. I of course had to buy to make something, or just because I loved the fabric.

Over the next 40 years of stitching patchwork, you can imagine, I have accumulated a lot of fabric. In addition, many people knowing I do patchwork, have handed me stuffed carrier bags of fabric as well.

About three years ago I decided I had to use some of my stash and all the scraps that were accumulating. I have made several “Scrap” Quilts and smaller projects such as table runners and bags as samples, for the classes I teach.

Last year when we were locked down for the first time, it was perfect timing to complete a scrappy quilt I had been sewing for a cousin’s grandson.

I had still been teaching 4 regular classes a month, and several sessions of Hens and Chicks* a year, before Lockdown. I had included teaching them how to use all the scraps and even recycled fabric, so I was able to bring environmental issues into the conversation.

After my baby quilt was complete I stitched another for a baby due in June and started to think about my next project. I designed a quilt block with the idea of teaching it later in the year- when we were able to meet and teach again! I wanted to use scraps of fabrics in the continuing aim to reduce my stash!

The first idea was to use primary colours and to make a block to see how it went, then repeat it to several different stages- as samples.
I soon realised that I wouldn’t be teaching any time soon so I took lots of photos and continued to make more blocks, in primary then secondary colours, six colours in total. On one of our walks from home, passing houses and gardens with Rainbows for the NHS, I suddenly had a lightbulb moment! I thought if I added indigo I would have a rainbow colour scheme.

As I stitched it I thought I would give it to my Great niece Kizzy, as she works at Gloucester Hospital but after a bit of a chat, she suggested it went to the Oncology department instead, as their fundraising had been severely restricted due to the pandemic. Sarah Wickett at Ambleside Quilting heard about the project and she kindly offered to long arm quilt it for me.

I have named it my “Rainbow Lockdown Quilt” and after completing the binding and stitching the name into the quilt, sent it off to Gloucestershire to be raffled.

I have written up the pattern for sale with profits from sales adding to the funds as well. We have so much to be grateful for having an NHS to care for us when we are in need. Sometimes the extras that we benefit from in a hospital are from fundraising and charitable donation. If you would like a copy of this please contact me with a personal message via the UK Quitters Facebook group and I can explain what needs to be done – we make a small charge of £8 for the pattern.

I think it is rather appropriate to gift this to Gloucester Oncology Unit as my father benefitted from this unit when he was diagnosed with cancer, for the second time, in his mid-80s. He had to travel to Bristol when he had cancer the first time, more than 40 years earlier, in 1959. There were no facilities to treat him at Gloucester Hospital at that time. My siblings and I raised funds back then to help get the necessary equipment for them so other patients wouldn’t have the long journey to another hospital.

The quilt is a fitting memory of my father, who used to weave, draw and stitch, and on one occasion stitching canvas and leather to make rucksacks for us.

Posted on behalf of Lesley Coles, (Cert.Ed) – Patchowrk teacher, Writer and Pattern Designer.