"I am an ardent admirer of the modern quilt movement that is taking the quilting world by storm but the quilts that I choose to make are very traditional. All the work involved in the creation of each quilt is by hand - the appliqué, embroidery and quilting. This means that each quilt often takes hundreds or thousands of hours to make. Almost without exception the first question people ask when they see one of my quilts is 'How long did it take to make?' Although I recognize it takes a long time I love the actual process from beginning to end, the excitement of an empty background fabric waiting to be filled with appliqué to the very last stitch of the binding. Furthermore my design process is very old fashioned too, relying on pencil and paper rather than computer wizardry.
"In the fast pace of today’s world I find people still appreciate the beauty of a quilt made entirely by hand. One of my favourite quilts, Spring Flower Heart (below) exists without the help of any machinery at all. Made entirely from Oakshott cottons, the fabrics used were hand-dyed and then hand-woven in India to be used by me for hand appliqué, hand embroidery and hand quilting. I love knowing that this sophisticated result exists independent of any machinery in its creation.
"My designs have evolved over the past years and now the motifs and design of the quilts are equally inspired by flora in nature and antique fabric designs. I have always been in love with the sumptuous old chintz fabrics, those that found their way to Europe from India in the 18th and 19th centuries. Studying these designs in turn led me to discover the work of 18th century British silk designers. I only have to flip through museum archives and books of designs of that period to want to make another appliqué quilt. My signature style of trailing stems, abundant flowers, fruits and leaves have all been inspired by the fabric designs of those before me. I love both replicating flowers just as they occur in nature and inventing wild and whimsical fantasy flowers. I’m crazy about colour, arabesques and curves. Along with those qualities I love order and symmetry too so some of my quilts have a central motif surrounded by borders. I love the mathematical challenge presented by designing borders. I love colour and know that I have learned so much about how to use it in the years I have been quilting. I say all colours are sensational, you just have to make them work with others to reveal their beauty.
"I am a fabric purist and will only appliqué with pure cotton and pure silk. I won’t use synthetics in my work. I need to be able to iron my fabric with a hot iron, often with steam too and both cotton and silk respond the best. I know one should pre-wash fabrics but I love the feel and handle of an unwashed Oakshott so never pre-wash my fabrics before use. I need a huge palette of colours and shades and am lucky enough to have a large stash with hundreds of shades collected over the past few years from present and past Oakshott collections. Furthermore I love to use shot cottons because their lustre adds life to my flowers and leaves. I have been using Oakshott cottons either exclusively in my work or in combination with silks for so many years now that I just can’t imagine using anything else."
To discover more about Deborah, her work and her books, go to DeborahKemball.com.