"I've been creative all my life. From a young age I was knitting scarves for my teddy bears, creating animals with modelling clay, cross stitching alphabet samplers on a large child-sized aida. I enjoyed textiles at school and at that time I was most certainly in the minority: all my friends were aces on the sports field and I most certainly wasn't. I was too busy making cushions, clothes, bunting, you name it. It was only later on that I really discovered the joy of patchwork. I saw some hand made quilts and I just knew that that was what I wanted to do. This tied in nicely with the opening of a brand new 'modern' fabric shop in the town that I was living in at the time, and so my patchwork journey began. I was hooked and I set about learning everything I could about this wonderful craft. Fortuitously this also coincided with the rising popularity of blogging, and through this medium I was able to connect with quilters and other creative people around the world and share my patchwork journey. Not only that, the internet and other quilters became a primary source of inspiration, as it continues to be today.
"I find inspiration for my quilts all around me: sometimes shapes will catch my eye, often in the form of architecture, tiles or railings. Or it might be that a particular colour palette or fabric collection will inspire me. I've also made a mini quilt based on a painting, developing my own improvisational technique to replicate the artwork. Other times it might be that I want to experiment with a new technique or try out traditions from other cultures such as Japanese Sashiko or Indian Kantha quilting. I love learning about the history of quilting and how quilting transcends cultures and time. We have so much to learn from the past and there is so much to draw from in historic pieces. I love how quilts can be put in a historical context that tells us something about the time, events and people who made them. I'm so thrilled that modern quilting is continuing to thrive and that we will be able to leave our legacy behind in the same way.
"My personal quilting aesthetic is without doubt modern in style: I'm drawn to bright colours, geometric designs and improvisational piecing. But I don't like to put myself in a 'box'. I love pastels and florals just as much as I love bright solid colours and it very much depends on the project as to what fabric I use. I also appreciate traditional quilt blocks and enjoy creating modern interpretations of them. When working on a project, sometimes the fabric is the star of the show; sometimes it's the design. It's getting the balance and interplay between the two that's most important, ensuring that they complement one another and create a cohesive finished piece.
"Working with good quality fabric is very important. I put many hours into my work and I want it to be the best it can be. In order for me to do that, I need to have the best materials. I stitch on my beloved Bernina 550 Quilter's Edition machine, I use Aurifil thread which in my opinion is the best thread on the market, and I always use 100% cotton fabric for quilting. I love working with Oakshott fabrics because they have such a wonderful sheen and they almost appear to change colour in the light. They really are incredible and I'm proud to support the Oakshott brand.
"I hope to continue quilting for many years to come. I still have so much more to learn: new techniques to try, designs to create, fabrics to stitch into heirlooms for my family as well as for publications. Quilting is such a huge part of who I am and it's such a joy to share a little piece of my passion with others, whether it be through teaching, sharing my work or gifting my quilts. I hope that I'm able to inspire others to learn to quilt too and that the joy of quilting is spread that little bit further."
Sarah's designs for Oakshott - some of which are illustrated above - include:
Sarah has produced a number of mini projects to inspire you and for you to make your own:
Sarah and her Great British Quilter group have also curated their Great British Quilter Fat 8ths Pack - the perfect complement to their collection of Auriful threads.
Alternatively, search on Sarah Ashford.
All imagery courtesy of Sarah Ashford.