Quilting Stories: And Breathe – Seaside Pinwheel Block

Although #The100DayProject only started yesterday, I actually started my #QuiltingStories project while doing Quilt Club with @zoemurphydesign from Margate Girl during January & February… and this is the first block I completed.

My #100DaysOfQuilting project Quilting Stories uses quilt blocks to explore & share the stories behind my fabric designs, my life and other stories of quilting and craft
connected to that through places, history, colour and more! It’s a quilt-as-you-go project that will eventually become a patchwork quilt – you can read more about the project over here and here.

My first block is created from my And Breathe seaside fabric, which is inspired by the beaches around The Mumbles in Swansea, South Wales. The block is a pinwheel, inspired by it’s connection to the quilters of South Wales. Read on for stories behind both. 

The story behind the fabric design…

My first trip to The Mumbles was for a weekend break with hubby back in March 2019, and I instantly fell in love with the beaches & coastal walks. We wanted to go back with littleun, so in summer 2020, when pandemic restrictions were reduced and we were allowed back into our beloved South Wales, we made a few long day trips back to the lovely beaches. After the first lockdown it felt amazing to breathe in the sea air once again.

Those trips were in the weeks after I’d decided to work towards a career in pattern design. I would spend some of my time at the beach sketching, taking lots of photos and making notes about patterns I’d like to create inspired by the place that brought me so much joy.

Design was a extremely slow process in the early days of my pattern adventures, and added to that I didn’t know how to capture those beaches in a way that honoured what I loved about it and felt like me. My style is bright, bold & fun, and at first it felt like there was zero overlap with the feel and colours of the beach. It took me nearly two years to get to the point of feeling I could create something that met in the middle.

In 2022 the monthly themes for my membership were chosen by my members, and the July theme was ‘Seaside Fun Postcards’ so that’s where I started with the design. 

I took the phrase ‘And Breathe…’ from my beloved mugs I’d had made in 2018 for the previous incarnation of The Unicorn Factory (when it was in coaching mode –  I never got to sell the mugs as my health & life went tits up for a while – but back in 2020 I gave away the few samples I had and still use my mug every day!) 

‘And Breathe…’ took me straight back to the beaches in Swansea in the summer of 2020. There was a lot happening for me at that time, it had been a couple of really tough years and was still affecting my daily life in a big way, so I felt the instant relief and relaxation of being by the sea more than ever.

What I find most interesting is that I can create a design that doesn’t on the surface look to have any connections to anywhere specific, but I can look at it and feel deeply connected to what inspired it. 

Despite initially feeling like there was no way to create a colour palette that felt like The Mumbles beaches AND felt like my style, the colour scheme ended up being the part of the design that instantly takes me back. The blues & green of the sea, the golden warmth of the sand, and the coral represents the colour pop from the random red pebbles in between all the grey.

I love that I can take one look at this pattern and be right back there at the beach, instantly back in all those happy and relaxing memories. This design is a reminder that even when life feelings relentlessly tough there are places we can go, stop and breathe for a moment or few, to help us recharge and keep going.

The story behind the quilting block…

When I started this block I’d decided to do a quilt-as-you-go patchwork project as a memory quilt of all my fabric designs. Initially my approach was just to look for blocks that had enough pieces to show all the colourways of a fabric, so I was looking for something that had at least eight pieces for the And Breathe seaside fabric. 

I came across some half square triangle blocks, so went with those combined in a way that could looked like an element from a bigger sawtooth or flying geese quilt

However our week four Quilt Club talk on “Quilts throughout time and from around the world” came along and took things to a whole other level.

It’s taken me a while to realise I’m a history geek. I always enjoyed history, but unfortunately in secondary school I had a teacher who somehow managed to make all so boring I struggled to stay awake in lessons, and I didn’t want to risk enduring another two years of being taught by him to take it for my GCSEs. However in recent years I’ve noticed that my favourite novels are timeslip or historical, inspired by real events and places. And I love a historical drama or documentary. Often both will end up with me being lost in a world of google searches exploring more about the real stories behind it all.

So when Zoe chatted to us about the history of quilting I knew I wanted to create a quilt that not only told my stories, but was also a way to explore the stories of other quilters, crafters and places too!

The talk came along when I’d assembled my eight triangles into four squares, but Zoe had mentioned the link between South Wales and the pinwheel block, and so it was an easy switch to switch them around and make them into that!

In Welsh Quilts (Jen Jones) there are examples of pinwheel quilts in black and red made in Cardiganshire (West Wales) from the late 1800s. There’s also a Pinwheel Quilt project in Making Welsh Quilts (Mary Jenkins, Clare Claridge) that is inspired by a Welsh Pin Wheel Frame Quilt from that same period, which is part of the The Quilters Guild Collection.

Now I’m a few weeks further into my adventures, and clearer on what I want to do with this project, it’s not necessarily a block I would’ve chosen as – so far – I’ve not uncovered that much history or many stories connected to the pinwheel, aside from it being a much loved and used block in South & West Wales for at least 150 years. However if I do find out more along the way I’ll definitely add it into the story of this block.

However, in my research so far I have found other blocks with more history & stories related to South Wales, so I will be telling more Quilting Stories related to this area through other blocks. In fact this week I found a block with a story related to Swansea, so I think I’ll probably make a second block from this fabric to share that story. And I have other designs, such as Welsh Windows & Rockpool Fun that have links to South Wales, so I can share more of the many welsh quilting stories through those.

And Breathe seaside pinwheel block

Fabric NameAnd Breathe Seaside (The Unicorn Factory)

Fabric Details – 1 pattern in 8 colour ways

Fabric inspiration – The beaches of The Mumbles, Swansea, South Wales

Block Name – Pinwheel

No. of pieces – 8

Block History – Late 1800s, South & West Wales

Embroidery details – Backstitch, 2 strands

Embroidery colours – Blue – DMC 798 & 799 / Green – DMC 3814 & 993 / Yellow – DMC 743 & 3078 / Coral DMC 3340 & 3825

Follow along with my Quilting Stories...

I’ll be sharing the quilting blocks and the stories behind them as I finish each one. If you’d like to come on this adventure with me then best ways to follow along for the 100 days and beyond is to get email updates and look out for Quilting Stories emails…

Alternatively you can sign up for a free Ko-Fi account and follow my Ko-Fi page (you don’t need to be a paid member to see my quilting story posts)

SHOP And Breathe Seaside

SHOP And Breathe Seaside fabric, home accessories & wallpaper – along with all my other designs – over on Spoonflower…

And Breathe Seaside. 2 designs in 4 colours. Small and medium scale for sewing, quilting and crafting. Shop now.
And Breathe Seaside shop fabric at Spoonflower