Thursday, 16 April 2015

Le Challenge #21 Tradition

For the second consecutive month I reckon I have linked into Le Challenge by the skin of my teeth. Lucy and Nat once said a completed quilt top was acceptable, well I hope a completed mini quilt top is acceptable. The quilting is underway, and will be finished in a day or two, well HAS to be. I don't like being so close to the wire, I have to improve on this.

This month's Le Challenge was tradition, and coincided with my making my #ukminiswap quilt for IG. I don't want to give away too much just yet, but I know my swappee likes threads. And conveniently enough there is a tradition of threads in both N Ireland and our family.

 Tradition is a delicate subject in N Ireland. One person's tradition is another person's imposition, not all traditions are welcomed. You may hate my tradition and feel it impinges on your culture, and I may hate your tradition and feel it impinges on my culture - flags, emblems, songs, anthems, even sports. Except, in my case this is hopefully not true. I do have my traditions but I try to embrace and respect other's traditions too and learn from them.

N Ireland was big into linen back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Ulster linen was famous the world over. In the early 19th century it was very much a cottage industry, caught up in the ways of farming and folklore and indeed there was a whole movement known as the weaver poets back in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Come the Victorian days the cottage industry was gone to be replaced by larger mills, run by a number of wealthy families. These mills don't have the reputation of the Manchester cotton mills, the satanic mills of desperation and poverty. The Ulster mills have a reputation of hard work, yes, but close community bonds and work for the workers. Or maybe that is a rose painted picture. My husband's four times great grandfather was a weaver in and around the Ballymena area , or so he says on his daughter's marriage certificate in 1849. My husband's own grandmother, who he remembers well, worked as a "half timer" in Jennymount Cotton Mill in Belfast. A half timer was a child who worked half day in the mill and went to school half day. Gran was born in 1900 so this would have been before the 1st world war anyhow. My own ancestor, my own three times great grandfather lived in Salford, England. He dropped dead in the street in 1846 in Bury necessitating his own young children to work in the Manchester mills as a doffer at the ages of 8 and upwards.

Anyhow, back to my mini quilt with the tradition of threads and linen, the background is Essex linen and the contrast fabrics are from the Carolyn Friedlander "doe" range. I started quilting last night and have backed it with a black fabric with white circles, like cotton reels, and am going with a matchstick quilting. Don't want to say too much, as this will all be repeated in my blog when I finish it!

Helen x
linking up with Le Challenge #21 Tradition
ps too late to link up, let that be a lesson!!


  1. This is very interesting. Do they still make linen in your area?
    Your mini quilt is looking great. I really like the design and will look forward to seeing your quilting.

  2. I love the background on the linen industry in N Ireland and especially how it relates to your own family! Sorry you missed the link up, but I am glad you posted all these details anyway.

  3. Love the fabric in your mini quilt and interesting history behind it.

  4. As always, you are spot on about traditions! I think, like me, you appreciate how rich and varied our traditions are on this island of ours and how it is a shame to miss out on our shared culture. The quilt looks great x

  5. Its a lovely mini .... I had to resist th IG swap! My grandad worked in a Lancashire mill as a young boy too. Irish linen is lovely and such a great link into tradition.

  6. Your peak is looking good!

  7. Fantastic you know so much about your family history. Love the richness it brings to your project. I'm sure your swap partner will appreciate your mini all the more!


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