Ipsden Altar Frontal IS FINISHED!!!!

Well life is a conundrum. You spend nearly 18 months tucked away in your own home with just the daily hour of exercise to take you into the wide world and then suddenly there’s a rent in the fabric of life and it’s all stations go. Kind friends from Ipsden drove over the Cotswolds to Cheltenham, swooped us into their capacious vehicle and took us into the bosom of their home to complete work on the quilt. For most of our home confinement the altar frontal had lain on our spare bed carefully folded as in its entirety it would easily cover two double beds placed side to side. When daughter No 2 came to stay, an origami of further folding with bubblewrap between the layers to prevent creasing reduced the quilt’s bulk to a package which could fit on top of our wardrobe where, swathed in an old linen sheet it remained almost invisible. And where it almost stayed, so invisible it was. It was only when our gallant chauffeur was loading his car with our luggage that he paused, looked quizzically at a hand held steamer and set my thoughts in motion. The steamer was for the quilt … the quilt … the quilt …then where was the quilt? Still on top of the wardrobe!!!  Only now, a week later is it amusingly to look back on but it’s still dreadful to contemplate how very near we were to arriving at our friends’ house while the very raison d’être for our visit languished undisturbed in its domestic eyrie.

Strips of fabric for binding the quilt

The next few days were all a bit Rumpelstiltskinish, if you don’t count good company, fine food, a bed of unsurpassed comfort and a house with some of the finest views in South Oxfordshire. Settled in the Ping Pong Room rather than confined in a tower, at times my mission nevertheless felt not a million miles away from trying to spin gold out of base straw, especially where the straw was as long as a piece of string. The quilt is so huge, it was quite unwieldy to handle and even a comparatively simple task like binding the edge became a battle between woman and an object which though insentient clearly had a will of its own. Machining together 12 centimetre blocks for the border, then machining border to quilt and zig zagging the raw edge took three refillings of the bottom spool of my sewing machine and a heck of a lot of contemplating of that little machine needle as it bobbed up and down on what seemed an interminable path.  I was going to turn the binding and then stitch it by machine but I just couldn’t bear another session of pushing and shoving the fabric through the needle, especially as I wanted the stitches to be in the ditch between binding and quilt so as to be almost unseen. Instead I settled myself far more comfortably on a handy sofa  and sewed the turned edge by hand. We had been due to stay 2 days. It took 3. After 2 days, my husband went home by train. On the evening of the third day, my hosts had friends round for supper and to play Bridge. We ate together and I withdrew for the final push. The last stitch went in and weary but euphoric  I sought out the card players to share my triumph. And there they all sat not with a pack of cards in the middle, but spaced apart and each with an iPad in front of their faces – how their children would have laughed!

While I sewed, country life whirred round me. Lawns were mowed, bees were tended (disaster averted as a bee found a way into the beekeeper’s protective suit), eggs were collected, plants were put into the earth, people went off to ride horses and others came to play tennis. Dogs barked at the red Royal Mail van, muntjac barked their unmelodious cry somewhere nearby, while above the red kites circled and mewed (one having nested in an oak just up from the tennis court). Roses of every shade peeped in through windows and around doors while those most insignificant of blossoms on the 13 lollipop lime trees lining the drive worked overtime to scent the air with unbottleable perfection. I’ve never noticed whitebeam trees before and though past flowering, I’ve quite fallen in love with them. I shall  not forget finishing the quilt on such a splendid June day.

Having finished the quilt at night, I left the next morning, so as yet there are no photographs to mark a task completed. These will come later. Home and a few days to gather myself together and then I came to London. Daughter No 1 has torn her Achilles tendon playing tennis. It’s a problematic injury as there’s no plaster cast just a very large boot to hold the foot in a pointy toed position which is presumably the best way to help the severed fibres grow towards each other. After a few weeks as healing occurs the angle of the foot will be changed. She’s working from home for goodness knows how long but in the interest of getting mended as quickly as possible I want to be with her and help keep the leg rested as much as possible. It’s so easy to discover you’ve left your phone on the top floor of a 4 storey house when you’ve just settled with your leg comfortable in the kitchen, 3 floors below. Working as spokeswoman for the British Government who are hosting COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow later this year, she’s having Zoom meetings with people sitting in all sorts of elegant and glamorous places. (One of her fellow zoomers sat throughout a meeting with a jackdaw sitting on his shoulder! ) Slumped awkwardly on her kitchen sofa with a background of kettles boiling, water gushing from taps into a stainless steel sink and cats mewing to be fed or let out, she soldiers on.

Altar Frontal as seen at the quilters before binding added

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  1. Helen
    Posted June 24, 2021 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    The quilt is truly beautiful. You should be so proud of all you have achieved over it. I have been following along and know it has been quite a task. Well done for perseverance and fortitude! And determination. Ipsden is so lucky to have something so lovely for all to gaze at in the years and centuries to come.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted June 26, 2021 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      How lovely of you to say such kind things, Helen – all very much appreciated and warmly received. It’ll be lovely when I can show you a photo of it completed with border and in situ which I hope to have sometime soon.

  2. Ann Collins
    Posted June 24, 2021 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Your quilt is exquisite! This is the one where you embroidered a flower in each star? That feature is hard to see in the photo.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted June 26, 2021 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Well Ann, not quite in every star! I think it’s a flower in every 6th star – 40 flowers in all. Better photos of the quilt in situ to follow.

  3. Posted June 24, 2021 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    *cheers* *waves pompoms* Well done indeed! And what a lyrical description of your period of durance not-entirely-vile… Sending encouraging thoughts to Daughter No 1 – I never thought to say it, but thank goodness for Zoom!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted June 26, 2021 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      I’m saving the real euphoria of feelings for the time the quilt is in place – which should be a week tomorrow. Then I shall feel relief wash over me from head to toe as all the hiccoughs and setbacks stream out of me into the land of past worries and uncertainties where the will promptly sink forgotten.
      Many thanks for encouraging thoughts sent to Daughter No 1. It’s going to be a long haul and she needs all the encouragement she can get.
      Thanks too for all your encouragement to me during the voyage of the quilt.

  4. Louise Cattrell
    Posted June 25, 2021 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Many Hurrahs for the last stitch.
    A Triumph.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted June 26, 2021 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      I feel your Hurrahs and am warmed to the core by them. Many thanks, Louise.

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