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Talk by Tracy Chevalier

Brenda Thomas with author Tracy Chevalier

A Cream Tea with Tracy Chevalier and Mapping Topsham

On the afternoon of Sunday 26th October 2014 Clyst St Mary village hall was full to bursting, with 100 quilters and friends eager to hear Tracy Chevalier speak about her latest book, The Last Runaway.

Most people had read the book and were familiar with the story of Honor Bright, a Dorset quilterwho emigrated to Ohio.

Tracy explained how quilting had provided a starting point for the book, as it was something shared by British and American women. In her talks she usually had to explain quilting terminology but with our audience that was not necessary! She read extracts from the book, illustrated by photographs of quilts similar to those worked on by Honor and her new family in America.

As part of her research, Tracy joined a quilt group in London and made a quilt by hand, which she brought along to show us. She also showed us an antique quilt she had bought while undertaking the research in Ohio. She has continued her membership of the quilt group and finds working on patchwork and quilting a peaceful and relaxing activity. She doesn't own a sewing machine and although she could see piecing might be quicker, she is really drawn to hand piecing.

There was the opportunity for the audience to ask questions and one particularly interesting one was about the part of the book concerning slavery and how Honor and others helped slaves in theirescape to the North. It seems there is a story about messages and signs for slaves being contained in quilt blocks. This story has developed into something of a business, with a quilt design being sold along with the story. Tracy explained that she too was attracted by this story but her research revealed that there was no evidence to support it.

It was a most interesting talk. Afterwards Tracy joined us for a cream tea, signed copies of her book for audience members and featured in a number of "selfies".

The second part of the afternoon was no less interesting. This involved a presentation of the"Mapping Topsham" textile wall hangings made by the Perfect Circles group for an exhibition at Topsham Museum. Each one was A4 size and represented a view of Topham, mainly lovely representations of interesting houses.They were all intricate little works of art and greatly admired.

Having looked at them up close, audience members were treated to a description of how they were created, either by the artist herself or by Barbara Janssen, who leads the group. It was evident that the non quilters were fascinated by these hangings and it wouldn't surprise me to find we gainedsome new members as a result.

Brenda Thomas