• Nicola Cummins

Shop more sustainably - Bespoke quilts

Transforming a bedroom, could be simpler than you think. I recently discovered these beautiful quilts by maker Victoria Nowell behind Summerhouse Quilts They are so incredibly detailed and beautiful. I knew, I had to share with you!


Image credit: Victoria Nowell - 2019 class sampler


I was having a little mooch around the new Dyson Place in Sheffield - if you haven't been I recommend a little trip down the narrow cobbled street, where it opens into a courtyard of fabulous indies, eateries and shops. I instantly was drawn to these wonderful quilts, and it got me thinking...


If you're looking for a way to transform a bedroom, you could consider a few things; Giving the walls a quick update, adding a wallpaper, updating a light fitting or perhaps something as simple as changing the bedding is often the quickest way to instantly transform the feel of room.


You might not know that my background is textiles design, and can't resist the idea of adding unique touches to a room such a bespoke quilt - it's those little details that tell the story about you and your home! What's wonderful about Victoria's quilts is that each is unique, and made locally in South Yorkshire.

"Quilting is a method of stitching layers of material together. Although there are some variations, a quilt usually means a bed cover made of two layers of fabric with a layer of padding (wadding) in between, held together by lines of stitching. The stitches are usually based on a pattern or design.
The history of quilting can be traced back at least to medieval times" - V&A

What with the pandemic, forcing us to stay home and perhaps encouraging us to be a little bit more imaginative with materials over the past 18 months, it's no surprise to find out that quilting is becoming quite popular once again.


I asked Victoria if she'd share a bit more about her business, and asked for her thoughts on sustainability.


Tell me a little about your quilt making business + background

I have been sewing for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory was stealing my mum's (forbidden) sewing basket and playing with it. As a toddler I was also given a huge tin of buttons and allowed to sort them into bun tins - it kept me quiet for many hours but I suspect would be frowned upon now.

At 17 I left home (Lancashire at the time), moved to London and trained as a professional embroiderer at the Royal School of Needlework and then worked as a professional military embroider, specialising in gold work for uniforms.

Image credit: Victoria Nowell - Hawaiian Quil


What prompted you to start making quilts?

I took up making quilts during a house move 17 years ago and haven’t looked back since. I love the fact there are endless designs and possibilities and that I am creating something practical that brings warmth, comfort and pleasure to people. I still work full time so quilts are what keep me sane in my spare moments


I am equally happy with patchwork or wholecloth quilts and have made a number of hawaiian style applique quilts as well. I love the process of hand quilting but also use a machine - for speed but also because it creates different textures and finishing. Anything goes in my quilting world!


What is sustainability to you?

During the 2020 pandemic when shopping was difficult I began to think about the amount of fabric I buy (I am a quilter, I have a stash!). Fabric is resource heavy to produce, from the water that goes into growing the cotton plant, to the production of the fabric including dyeing and printing and then the transport. Fabric and clothing isn’t ecological or environmentally friendly. We waste so much of what we buy and although I have always tried to reuse and recycle as much as I could I realised I could do more - and have fun while I was at it. I began to trawl charity shops and online shopping auction sites for old shirts. There is a lot of fabric in a shirt. I have spent lockdown trying not to buy new fabric but recycling and reusing what was already at hand. The results have been fun and interesting (and mostly blue!).

Image credit: Victoria Nowell - class sampler 2021

"We waste so much of what we buy and although I have always tried to reuse and recycle as much as I could I realised I could do more" - Victoria

Is sustainability a trend?

I think that sustainability isn’t a fad - if we don’t change the way we live we are going to destroy our beautiful world. We need to become much more far sighted in how we treat our world.

Do you make custom designs? i.e if people had materials that were precious, would you consider taking those and turning them into a quilt?

I do and I have! My first memory quilt was made for a lady who had saved all her tablecloths from her wedding and wanted them made into a quilt. I have made memory quilts for all sorts of people and reasons. In some of my own quilts I have a little of my mums wedding dress and one of my dads ties. In the 2019 teaching quilt (I have begun making my class samples into quilts rather than just have a pile of samples hanging around!) I used some embroidery I had done back in the mists of time!

My favourite custom quilts are the ones where people choose the fabric but then let me get on with creating something unique for them


Image credit: Victoria Nowell - warm hearts


What single thing can people do to be more sustainable in their home?

Shop local! If you don’t use your lovely local shops they won’t be there when you need them. Local makers are accessible, often very flexible and help the circular economy.



I couldn't agree more with Victoria - shopping local, supporting small businesses and making use of some of the existing things we have around us, repurposing them into the hand-me downs of the future! Adding a beautiful quilt to your bedroom, is a lovely way to add a unique finishing touch to a space.



If you'd like a bespoke quilt, or you'd like to attend one of Victoria's workshops - you can get in touch with Victoria here vrnowell@gmail.com or head to www.summerhousequilts.co.uk




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