by Communications Officer, Emma Chaplin
I went along to Watch Cottage, on Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, to meet with three friends, who are Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, as well as being Sussex Wildlife Trust volunteers.
They are coming to the end of a remarkable community quilt project. The idea arose last autumn as a fundraiser for the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, to coincide with 50th anniversary of the nature reserve. Jenny Willsher suggested the project and was joined by Anne Yates (wife of Reserve Manager Barry) and Amanda Martin as “co-conspirators”. Jenny and Amanda are experienced needle women, and all have made quilts as fundraisers before. Jenny for the 1066 Quilters, who raise money for their local hospice, Anne as a fundraiser for the reserve in 1985 (quilt pictured below, with her son standing in front of it), raising an astonishing £1800 for the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Wader Pool.
Anyone was welcome to join in, with the idea of creating a quilt that is inspired by the nature reserve. “We wanted enthusiasm, variety and a sense of community,” Amanda says.
They ended up with 30 volunteers, with an age range of 8-80+. One was Anne’s son Lewis. In fact, four generations of the Yates family pitched in. Everyone began with a neutral, calico base square. There was a list of possible topics, but “people could choose their own design,” Anne tells me. “It just had to have a connection with Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Not necessarily wildlife. It could be geology, natural history, buildings or views.”
The results are eclectic and terrific. Designs include a Common Blue butterfly, Oystercatcher, Yellow-horned Poppy, Tern, a yellow gravel truck, sheep, Goldfinch on a teasel, Seal, Crab, the wind turbines, the red-roofed hut, Camber Castle and Mary Stanford lifeboat house.
Everyone went for embroidery or applique as a technique, rather than patchwork.
Anne decided on the overall ‘attic window’ design, which uses different coloured sashes that cleverly give the impression of a 3D perspective through each square, looking like there are lots of individual pictures, so it’s “more like a cabinet of discoveries!” Anne says.
The three women then gathered all the squares, decided on a layout that worked best, sewed them together and added the sashing. There were a few panels left over, which will become cushions or bags, which will also be raffle prizes. “We had to make sure that they all worked together as a whole, which was only possible when we could see what everyone had done.”
The quilt comprises 30 panels and will comfortably cover a double bed.
The panels have just returned from professional ‘longarm quilters’ Curlytop and Honeybun in Lower Dicker, who sewed in the wadding (or batting) layer made of recycled cotton. The backing fabric is red. The outer edge will now be bound and a hanging strap added for a pole for display purposes.
The quilt will go ‘on tour’ from September, where raffle tickets will be sold for it and 49 other prizes (50 because of the 50th anniversary of the reserve). It will feature at the Friends AGM, the Sussex Wildlife Trust AGM on 9th November, and a number of other places, with a leaflet featuring the names of 30 contributors and the stories behind each square.
The raffle will be drawn on 15th March 2020, which is the date of the 50th anniversary of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Hopefully, the quilt and the terrific other donated prizes will raise a significant amount for the new Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, with the lucky winner taking home a beautiful memento of the reserve.
In September, Anne, Amanda and Jenny are putting on a tea party for all the contributors, to thank them. And what's grown out of this project, they tell me, is a desire to do something else.
“So we’re now pondering what that might be!”
More about the quilt, with photos of each square, and a list of who made each one.
Raffle tickets will be available for £1 each in books of five wherever the quilt is 'on tour' as well as from the Information Centre at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Other prizes (of the 50 that there will be in total) donated so far include: artwork by James Thomlinson, a box of wine from London Cru, dinner at the Brickwall Hotel, a champagne breakfast at Jeakes House, cocktails at Camber Castle, quilt square tote bags and cushions and hand made chocolates. Prizes are still being sought, so we'd really welcome any contributions
Anne Yates is happy to be contacted with questions about the quilt firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about supporting the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, see here