Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kaffe Snowballs for an Archbishop's Wife - Beautiful Beginnings

This is the story of the creation of a very special quilt. I project managed it, but the heavy lifting was done by dozens of women working together, designing, shopping for fabric, stitching, and contributing financially towards the batting and backing fabric, the big ticket items. 

Then there's the most generous contribution of all, that of our amazingly gifted long arm quilter, Linda Billett (Artisan Quilting)who took our cobbled together collection of blocks and made them into a stunning quilt, fit for an Archbishop's wife.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

A little less than two years before our Anglican (Episcopal) Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, was due to retire, the Sydney ministry wives decided to make a quilt as a retirement gift for his wife, Christine.

Whether it was because I'd played a part in the making of farewell gifts from the ministry wives for the three previous Archbishops, or whether it was obvious that, when it comes to making quilts together, 'I'm just a gal who can't say no', I quickly found myself heading up a small but enthusiastic committee of women whose husbands, like mine, were Anglican ministers in Sydney.

We began by meeting for coffee at my home to toss around design ideas. 

Our quilt needed to -

* Reflect Christine's love of the colour blue, and her interests which range from children's literature to grandchildren, flowers and gardens, hospitality, travel, reading, and of course the friends she and Peter have made over the years in their various parishes. 

* Consist of parts that could be easily separated for many stitchers to work on independently.

* Be an easily achievable pattern for stitchers of any skill level.

Finally we agreed our inspiration would be the Wedding Snowball Quilt from Kaffe Fassett's V & A Quilts.

We bought a selection of navy fabrics for the corner triangles of our (6.5in unfinished) snowball blocks, cut them into 2.5in strips, and sent these to our volunteers with instructions to make the blocks. We asked them to use fabrics from their own stashes as the feature fabrics, only specifying that these should be predominantly blue.

What a wonderful assortment of blocks came back to us after 6 months! Butterflies, maps of the world, teacups and teapots, children, tiny footprints, lots of flowers, and a handful of these exquisitely hand embroidered blocks featuring churches where Peter and Christine served.

The real excitement came when we laid the blocks out and saw how well such a diverse collection played together.

Tweaking the layout, swapping and reswapping to get the balance just right, took some time, and this was where it was valuable having many eyes to spot the problem areas.

Finally we were happy with the layout.

Working on the assembly as a team, it was vital that we sewed the blocks together exactly as planned, so every block was labelled with a letter and a number on a tiny scrap of masking tape, and the blocks were stacked in rows ready for machining.

We made great progress.

And by the end of the day we had an almost-complete queen sized quilt top!

The paparazzi were keen to capture the moment.

Some were a tad keener than others 😊

Our top just needed a border, and we found the perfect French stripe in Les Olivades, but with life taking an unexpected turn it was to be a few months before I added a thin strip of navy and then the wide mitred border to finish our quilt in style.

Next time I'll show you our fabulous finish!


  1. What a beautiful blog post. It was such a wonderful privilege to see this finished quilt which is really fantastic and reflects Christine's life and loves so beautifully. They were so smart to get you to head this team and I am sure this quilt will give Christine & Peter a great deal of pleasure for many years to come. Well done ladies.

  2. beautiful blocks turned into a beautiful quilt -- your one quilter standing on the table was lucky she didn't fall off :)

  3. A stunning quilt Di. Your ladies are a talented bunch.

  4. What a beautiful quilt......well done to all the makers!

  5. The quilt is lovely and the embroidered blocks so very special. Well done. Looking forward to the "finish".

  6. This is really neat! The border fabric is absolutely perfect on it, too. And what a smart idea to lay the individual blocks out on a sheet like that. I always just lay them out on the floor, and then they tend to float around. It would be so much easier with the sheet clinging them!

  7. What a beautiful quilt!! An absolute treasure! The blues are so classic and the addition of applique and embroidered scenes is so gorgeous. Best of all I love that it was made by many hands, there is something extra special about a group making a quilt.

  8. I am developing a real appreciation for monochromatic scrappy quilts and this is a beautiful example.

  9. Oh wow! This is quite fabulous. What an effort, and so well done! If Christine isn't completely touched and overwhelmed with this gift, there's nothing that would move her to tears. The details, to make it personal, are the best. My, what a treasure. I sure hope she doesn't read your blog!

  10. I love this quilt and even better that you all worked on it together for a lovely cause! Thanks for sharing the story!!

  11. I have so many goose bumps, I don't know if I can type! It is absolutely stunning. I can't believe how perfectly the quilting completes the whole thing. You ladies are just amazing. So glad you shared this story.

  12. Beautiful quilt Di! I am an Anglican too, in South Australia. The minister that married my husband and I came from New South Wales and had worked in a number of diocese. I'm not sure if Sydney was one of them. Did your family move around to many different parishes with your husband being a minister?


I love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment.