Pauline Burbidge: Tool kit

Pauline Burbidge: Tool kit

Pauline Burbidge has been running her textile practice for over 40 years, as a textile artist, designer and quiltmaker.

Recent one-person exhibitions include Quiltscapes & Quiltline showing at three wonderful venues, The Bowes Museum, Co Durham, 2015/16, and the Ruthin Craft Centre, North Wales, 2016. Quiltscapes by Pauline Burbidge is now showing at the International Quilt Study Centre & Museum, in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA., until March 2017.

Every year, Pauline and her husband, the sculptor Charlie Poulsen run an OPEN STUDIO exhibition, in their home and studios in The Scottish Borders, always open for 4 days at the beginning of August, this year from the 4th – 7th August 2017. They have run this event for 23 years!

In this article, Pauline chooses 5 tools from her kit and explains what she does with them and how important they are to making her quilt art creations. We also discover how a clear out of an old art gallery proved very fruitful indeed!

Pauline Burbidge, Handi Quilter, longarm

Pauline Burbidge, Handi Quilter, longarm

Item 1 – Long-Arm Quilting Machine

Brand: Handi Quilter
Model: HQ18
Year: 2011

How do you use this item in your practice?

I use my machine as a drawing tool. It is a free motion sewing machine, it will stitch wherever you guide it. It is wonderful to work with. These machines have only been developed over the last 15 or 20 years, they have revolutionised free stitching, instead of laboriously moving the fabric to stitch, the machine is moved around the stretched fabric. I operate it from a standing position.

There are many brands of this type of machine now on the market, but I consider this one to be the best! It is a very sophisticated machine and can be set up with computerised patterns of your own design, or ready-made, however, I do not choose to work with it like this, I prefer to use it as a drawing tool, and work intuitively.

Why do you use this specific item?

It is the best on the market, a beautiful precision piece of equipment, and just works magically!

And where did you buy it from?

I got it from the UK importers, (as it is an American product), who are a company called Cotton Patch.

The American manufacturer is called Handi Quilter.

Pauline Burbidge, Hand Quilting Frame

Pauline Burbidge, Hand Quilting Frame

Item 2 – Hand Quilting frame

Brand: Home made
Year: Part is probably 1955, and part is about 1996.

How do you use this item in your practice?

I tack the three layers of my quilt together, the top cloth, wadding and backing fabric. Then I stretch this onto the frame. I do this by tacking two edges of the quilt to the webbing, which is fixed onto the two long horizontal poles. Then I roll the quilt around one of these poles, until I have about 60 cm of the quilt showing.

Next, I attach the two vertical poles into place, using the slots in the wood and pegs, to keep it taught. Please see the photograph to help understand my description.

I use ‘G’ clamps to attach it to my table. The fabric is taught, and ready to hand stitch. I keep it on this frame until I have completed all of the hand stitching on the whole quilt. After completing the first 60 cm, I roll the quilt along and stitch the next section.

Why do you use this specific item?

It stretches all the layers of the fabric evenly, keeps it all flat, and makes it easy to stitch. I sometimes do some machine stitching first, on the quilt, then move onto other areas to quilt by hand.

And where did you buy it from?

I was given an old rug frame, used for rag rugs, by the Shipley Art Gallery, they were having a clear out!. This gave me a frame about 150 cm wide. And then, my husband Charlie, made two more horizontal poles that measure about 220 cm wide, using the old frame as a model.

My frame can now hold one of my large quilts. It is very similar to old fashioned quilting frames you may see in old photographs or paintings. They would have all been hand-made, like this one.

Pauline Burbidge, Bernina sewing machine, artista 180

Pauline Burbidge, Bernina sewing machine, artista 180

Item 3 – Sewing Machine

Item description: Domestic Sewing Machine
Brand: Bernina
Model: artista 180
Year: 2000

How do you use this item in your practice?

For piecing cloth, and binding and finishing a quilt. Stitching some smaller pieces, often using a free motion stitch, and making the signature and title labels for my quilts.

Why do you use this specific item?

It stitches wonderfully over many different thicknesses of fabric, and I enjoy using the Bernina computerised alphabet stitching for my labels. I have used Bernina, Swiss sewing machines, throughout my whole career, they are very reliable and stitch wonderfully.

And where did you buy it from?

The Bernina shop in London, and took the classes that they offer, with the purchase.

Pauline Burbidge, Selection of scissors

Pauline Burbidge, Selection of scissors

Item 4 – Scissors

Item description: A good selection of scissors.
Brand: Different brands and sizes.

How do you use this item in your practice?

For cutting fabric, the large and sharp ones. Others to use for paper and card, and smaller ones to use for threads & yarns, and clipping small pieces of cloth. I also use a pair of surgical scissors, to help me pull my needle and thick thread through thick layers of fabric, very useful.

Why do you use this specific item?

We can often take scissors for granted. A sharp pair of scissors is the best cutting tool for fabric.

And where did you buy it from?

Various places. Some have been gifts.

Pauline Burbidge, Pencils and sponge brushes

Pauline Burbidge, Pencils and sponge brushes

Item 5 – Pencils and sponge brushes

Brand: A good selection from HB through to 6B.

How do you use this item in your practice?

With the pencils, I make many drawings, for example, continuous line drawing recording things around me. Studies to begin my work process. Or, plan drawings, helping me visualise the various moves to make when completing a piece of work.

The sponge brushes I use to paint onto cloth, with fluid acrylic paint.

Why do you use this specific item?

Pencils are basic, by today’s standards, but so necessary and lovely to draw with.

The sponge brushes are ideal for applying fluid acrylic paint to cloth, without it being applied too thickly.

And where did you buy it from?

Art material suppliers, such as Art Van Go or general stationers.

For more information visit:

Let us know what’s in your Tool kit by leaving a comment below.

Tuesday 25th, February 2020 / 11:02

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3 comments on “Pauline Burbidge: Tool kit”

  1. Betty Lloyd says:

    I find your newsletters are great do not always read them all but please keep going . I have your mums book and would love to meet her one day and maybe go to one of her exhibitions. A workshop would be good too.

  2. Betty Lloyd says:

    This article by Pauline was ver interesting must also look out for her work.

  3. Cas Holmes says:

    Great article from one of The Greats. The I fear my toolkit is very reduced by comparison

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