FOR the past three years Uttoxeter has been home to a quilt class. What people may not know is the fascinating story behind the classes and how teacher Angie Whiston has left her stamp on cities across the world. Reporter JAMES BRINDLE and photographer MARK DUDLEY went along to meet her at her Uttoxeter class and talk about her plans to open a shop dedicated to her lifelong passion.
ANGIE Whiston’s quilt classes have been enjoyed by many Uttoxeter residents since she first set them up in 2009.
Using the back room of the Bank House Hotel in Church Street her sociable classes have become much cherished days for her loyal members.
Before starting the classes Mrs Whiston lived in cities across the world as she moved from the area with her husband who works for Rocester-based digger firm JCB.
Spain, Mexico and Brazil are among the countries she has called home, with the latter where she first learned the skills which she has now passed on to countless others.
The 48-year-old, from Cheadle, had long held an interest in sewing and creating things from scratch before she was able to get in to the world of patchwork and quilts when her husband was moved to Brazil.
Taking up the story, Mrs Whiston said: “My husband works for JCB and with his job we moved to Spain in the mid 1990s. After two years in Spain we moved to Brazil and I joined am ex-pat group in Sao Paulo and they offered a patchwork and quilting group which I joined.
“I had always loved playing with sewing machines and always had an interest in making stuff.
“I was really happy to find a group that would show me how to do it. There were a lot of American ladies in the group who would go home on leave and they would bring the materials back we needed.
“I eventually began running that group in Brazil and we were there about five-and-a-half years before we moved to Mexico where I joined the Mexico City quilt guild and I ended up being one of the teachers there.
“We only stayed there for two years before we then moved to Portugal and there was no patchwork clubs there so I joined an ex-pat group and worked with the craft group.
“One day I brought my quilts in and the ladies said they were interested in doing it so I set up a group there and it grew every week. I also started to work in a quilt shop in Portugal.
“We then moved back here in July 2009 I left all my equipment and materials with the lady in Portugal who was taking over thinking I would just join another group in England as there would be lots.
“But there were no groups here so it was hard for me to meet people. So I came down to the Bank House Hotel and hired the room at the front and put posters all over Uttoxeter saying I was showing my quilts.
“In all, 17 people came and six people signed up to come for patchwork and quilting lessons so that is how it got started.” Uttoxeter is not the only place to benefit from Mrs Whiston’s fascinating class as demand has seen her spread her quilted wings elsewhere.
She said: “We can only fit six in here so I decided to start another group in Forsbrook which soon outgrew the building it was in so we are now at Caverswall Village Hall where we now have about 17 people.
“Now I teach three days a week. It is such a social, enjoyable class and we have a wonderful day.
“Once they made a few quilts I thought people would move on but they kept coming back because they enjoy the social aspect of it.” Mrs Whiston’s teaching methods shy away from the traditional ‘do what I do method’ she likes members of her groups to feel free to express themselves.
She said: “We don’t have themes or tasks or anything like that. As a beginner I may get them to make a sample patch to learn the basics but after that they can make whatever they want and any size they want.
“A lot of classes just teach you how to make the patchworks but not put them altogether which is what we do.
“It is not just for women as well we used to have a couple who came and he really enjoyed it.” Uttoxeter Racecourse is now home to the country’s premier quilt show which takes place this year between April 13 and April 15.
Mrs Whiston said that is great for the town and is an interesting event for residents to visit.
She said: “In Uttoxeter now we have the biggest quilt show in the country which used to be at Trentham before they came to Uttoxeter Racecourse and it is going to be there every year now.
“It gets larger every year and there is more embroidery this year as well. It’s a brilliant thing for the town.
“I usually go as a ‘quilt angel’ as they call it to help set up and put things away and make sure people aren’t touching the quilts as they can mean a lot to the owners.” This spring Mrs Whiston will be making her passion her business by opening her own store which she hopes will fill a void in the area.
It will sadly mean the end of the Uttoxeter classes as they are moved to the Cheadle shop but Mrs Whiston said the class are excited about the move.
She said: “There is nowhere in the area that sells patchworking threads and fabrics — you have to go a long way to find it.
“There was a quilting shop in Lichfield which shut down and then the Craft Locker in Uttoxeter closed so people have to go to Nantwich or Eccleshall and places like that “So I started to supply it in class and got more and more fabrics and called it a ‘table top shop’.
“I now have so much stuff to lug around so I have taken on a lease for a shop in Cheadle which will open in April.
“I’m excited because so many people are excited about it. The shop will be for patchwork and quilting and I will be running lots of classes there as well with the same format I do now of people doing what they want.
“The Uttoxeter class will have to move to Cheadle when the shop opens as I can’t keep going back and forth.
“The ladies are excited about that as the problem here is that the fabrics are in my van so if they need something I have to root it out but it will be far more accessible in the shop.” Work is currently being carried out internally on the shop at 3 Queen Street in Cheadle and Mrs Whiston says she is looking to open up in April. It will be called Angie Quilts.
There are currently two places available in the Uttoxeter class and anyone interested in finding out more can read Mrs Whiston’s online blog at angiequilts.blogspot.com or ring 01538 755220 or 07807 530441.