Lucy Boston, Author and Quilter

Kathy Timmons 03 144  All one shape! POTC sewn by Kathy Timmons

The dozens of Patchwork of the Crosses (POTC) blocks in the photo albums of the Inklingo Yahoo group have prompted some discussion about Lucy Boston’s wonderful Green Knowe books.

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The Children of Green Knowe is the first in the series. They are stories of a boy, his great-grandmother, and the children who lived in the house at Green Knowe hundreds of years ago. They were classified as children’s books because Lucy Boston asked her publisher to include illustrations by her son, Peter, but these stories have appeal for all ages.

The great-grandmother in the books is a quilter who learned patchwork when she was mending old quilts that she had bought to use as curtains, just like Lucy Boston.

From The Chimneys of Green Knowe:
“His great-grandmother was sitting by the fire mending one of the old patchwork quilts. Tolly had long been familiar with the quilts, some of which were used as curtains in the living room, hanging from ceiling to floor in bulgy folds against the stone walls. . . Mrs. Oldknow had a basket beside her full of pieces of paper all cut the same size and shape, over which she had neatly tacked bright cotton materials. These she was trying on over torn pieces in the quilt to see which looked best.”

The great-grandmother is Lucy Boston, and the old house is her ancient Manor at Hemingford Grey. The boy Tolly is her son (not her grandson in real life), Peter. Peter was a very talented artist and grew up to be an architect. This was an interest he shared with his mother, and he helped her in the restoration of her ancient Norman house near Cambridge, where she lived for over fifty years.

Peter married Diana, and Diana wrote her wonderful book The Patchworks of Lucy Boston before he died. This beautiful book includes photographs and descriptions of all 22 of Lucy Boston’s quilts.

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Diana Boston (Peter’s widow, Lucy’s daughter-in-law) still lives in the Manor at Hemingford Grey. Her book is written with love for Lucy Boston and includes wonderful stories about the inspiration for her patchworks, her fabric purchases in wartime England, references to the patchworks in her letters, historical background, and her life story. Diana’s descriptions of the patchworks are insightful and poetic. It is one of my all-time favorite quilt books, even though it does not include patterns.

Since all of Lucy Boston’s quilts were made with the method we call English Paper Piecing (EPP), most quilters do not need a pattern. A photograph and a few measurements (length of the side of a hexagon, etc.) are all they need. Diana’s book was first published in 1995, and was out of print for a long time. It is available again now.

The BBC adapted the books for television in the 1980s. All of Lucy Boston’s books are still in print, and Diana has shared some other exciting news with me which I will save for the appropriate time (at her request).

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Lucy Boston lived to be 98 years old (1892-1990). She published her first novels and children’s books when she was in her sixties. She continued to write, and sewed some of her most impressive patchworks when she was in her eighties. She sewed and worked in her famous garden in her nineties. She was an extraordinary person, who still inspires affection and admiration.

I think you will want to visit Diana’s web site for more about this fascinating quilter, her house and garden, her quilts, and her children’s books!

Since I have very little energy, I am tempted to prop myself up against the pillows and re-read The Chimneys of Green Knowe in bed. (I have not developed a fever, so I just have an annoying cold, not H1N1.)

Linda & Monkey

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