Jelly rolls and Suffolk puffs – the diet of Mill Quilters

Traditional English piecing, as demonstrated by Hennelore Nunn. Photo: SG020611-125TW
Traditional English piecing, as demonstrated by Hennelore Nunn. Photo: SG020611-125TW
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JELLY rolls and layer cakes sound like something that would come out of the kitchen, but they, along with Suffolk puffs, log cabins and manipulated fabric, are all techniques employed by quilters.

And they are all being put to use by more than 30 women who make up the Mill Quilters, so called because they meet each week at Moulton Mill under the guiding eye of co-ordinator Norma Munton from Saracen’s Head.

There were just half a dozen of them when they started off three years ago, but now Norma runs separate groups on Thursdays and Fridays to accommodate all those who want to take part.

It must be good because the quilters are prepared to travel some distance to join in the friendly sessions, and on my visit to them Hannelore Nunn had come from the other side of Newark to take part, having being invited to join in after meeting some of the quilters at one of their exhibitions.

Hannelore was doing something recognisable to me as quilting – joining hexagonal patchwork shapes, or traditional English piecing, according to Norma. She was also using vintage Laura Ashley fabrics, a great find from a house clearance because Norma says the cost of fabrics has increased this year, along with the price of cotton.

The joined patchwork shapes can be turned into quilts or table runners or simply used as decoration for a top or jacket.

The women in the group were making all kinds of items, from cushion covers and wall hangings to quilts, using a variety of different techniques, such as Jean Purdue’s more modern method of quilting involving layering fabrics and cutting away the front to reveal colours beneath, something the Downham Market resident had learned in one of the monthly workshops Norma organises for the group.

The name ‘jelly roll quilt’ is unusual but refers to a design that is fairly common, where strips of material are sewn together, cut into trapezoid or chevron shapes, before being joined up by machine in the chosen design.

Maureen Humphries, of Holbeach St Johns, was using the technique to make a big quilt for her granddaughter and expects it to be finished by Christmas – the last one, her first, took three years, and Maureen has four other granddaughters who will all end up with a quilt each, eventually!

Other methods being used by quilters involved layering and cutting fake chenille, something Lesley Blackmore, of Weston, was doing to create a bag, while Sandra Lee, of Long Sutton, was making a decorative cup cake, with a Suffolk puff at the top, ribbon for the cream, and she was planning a cherry for the top.

Norma was bitten by the quilting bug eight or nine years ago and started meeting other quilters in a different location but since they have been at the mill the group has “snowballed”, with new members attracted each time they hold their annual exhibition.

This year’s Easter exhibition, with a raffle, sales table and tombola, raised £1,100 towards the mill’s refurbishment fund, a rather nice way of contributing to the building that makes such a pleasant environment for their meetings. The only downfall is they have to be careful that dropped pins don’t disappear down the gaps between the floorboards and end up in the mill’s cafe below!

Contact Norma on 01406 422888 for more information.