Mother of Pearl
Future Heirloom Quilts – Handmade in Dublin – 100% Irish Linen
Mother of Pearl is a collection of patchwork quilts made in collaboration between me and my mother Lisa Weir.
Estb. Lockdown 1 – Raheny Dublin 2020
As a student at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) Dublin, I had to choose between Fashion and Textiles and that was such a difficult decision. For me the two were deeply interlinked and that is why I was drawn to Knitwear. When you knit you are not only creating a garment, you are also creating the fabric for the garment. Knitting gave me full creative freedom, I could turn “string” into a jumper – it was magic. So, textiles have always played a role in my creative process and I am continually experimenting with different fibres and fabrics and textile techniques.
Like many people, lockdown turned my business upside down. Shop orders were cancelled or delayed indefinitely. The people I work with – knitters, dyers, yarn spinners were all affected and this had a knock on effect on my business. Production ground to a halt – all very worrying. On the plus side, no work gave me an opportunity to go back to the beginning and start afresh. Suddenly I had the time to follow all those creative urges I was free to pursue as a young art student; I painted, I sketched, I dyed fabric, I made paper flowers – for the first time in years, I was having fun with my art.
I have always loved blankets, making them and wearing them. My Final Degree show in NCAD featured wearable blankets and The Brata Series from my last collection were knitted blankets based on traditional patchwork quilt patterns.
When knitting blankets on a domestic machine you are limited to the scale of the machine. I’d always wanted to create bigger blankets and knitting them was proving difficult. I started to design blankets that could be made into fabric quilts. Using the same pattern as the knitted Brata blanket, I designed my first patchwork quilt. It was a partial success. I wasn’t thinking like a quilter or sewer. So I turned to my mother who has always been a sewer and comes from a family of seamstresses. I started designing quilts, thinking into the process and how it could be made piece by piece. I researched traditional patchwork designs and thought about how to bring my brand to these traditions and to move them on to become something more contemporary and relevant. Through a lot of experimentation, the designs got better and so did the results.
Each quilt starts as a rough pencil sketch which then gets filled in with colour. Watercolour is the perfect medium as the paints can be mixed to colour match the linen.
The watercolour sketch is useful to gauge colour balance but a more technical drawing is needed to translate the design into something workable as a patchwork quilt; this is where the collaboration with my mother usually begins. Once we are both happy with the design, the drawing is traced over onto graph paper and then drawn up on Adobe Illustrator. One millimetre on screen is equal to one centimetre of fabric. This gives us the exact measurements to calculate how many pieces of each colour to cut out.
Alongside the process of designing the quilts I also started to experiment with traditional techniques of dyeing fabrics, namely shibori and tie dyeing. Mostly, I was working with navy and blue and this tied in well with my brand colourways. During my research for Irish linen producers, one major challenge was sourcing my signature neon! It was the same situation I’d encountered when looking for neon wool: after much sampling from different linen mills I realised that dyeing my own was the only way. To get such a vibrant colour it took a lot of calculations and dye tests. I dyed unbleached white Irish linen to the desired neon yellow in a big bucket in our garden. The results were mixed to be honest, but I got enough to get working. Some of the quilts feature these indigo dye and shibori dye samples. Dyeing my own fabrics is something I want to develop further in the future as it is a hugely complex area, involving many advanced techniques that take years to perfect.
With the design complete and fabrics ready to go, we then switch to production mode. In brief, first we cut out the individual patches, then we piece together the quilt top. Next, we prepare the wadding and quilt back, then we stitch all the layers together, adding in quilting details like embroidery. Finally, we make and add the binding to complete the quilt. A few quick sentences cannot describe the slow, laborious process of making a patchwork quilt. But that is part of its beauty. There is no quick way to sew a patchwork quilt – it takes the time it takes and with lockdown continuing on throughout 2020 time was one thing we had in abundance. Traditionally, patchwork quilts evolved over a long time, often in a community setting with women working together – making these quilts with my mother felt like we were tapping into a part of that history.
Each quilt is hand made in a log cabin in our garden in Raheny.
Spun from 100% flax fibres, linen is one of the oldest and most natural fabrics. Irish linen is rightly famous and I particularly enjoyed researching different producers from around the country, looking for the correct colour match and quality. The linen I use for my quilts is from John England Irish Linen. Based in the historic Irish Linen village of Banbridge in County Down, the company has been producing the highest quality linen since 1964 and is a member of the Irish Linen Guild.
Made to Order
Each quilt is bespoke so please allow 4 weeks for completion. Due to the handmade nature of the process and materials, each quilt will vary slightly from the photograph and thus be unique to you.
As well as the made-to-order quilts listed here, we will also have one-of-a-kind quilts that will be sold as they become available. Keep an eye on our Instagram account!
Please contact us if you have any questions.