A 'labour of love' saw volunteers making a presentation to Hardy's Cottage.

Two years ago, National Trust volunteers who help out at the writer's birthplace at Higher Bockhampton were invited to Dorset County Museum in Dorchester to view two quilts in storage which had been made by Thomas Hardy’s younger sisters, Mary and Kate.

Six volunteers were so inspired by the quilts they decided they would make their own for Hardy’s Cottage following a similar design to Kate’s quilt.

Kate’s quilt is made with hexagon and diamond shaped patchwork pieces in very colourful fabrics. The volunteers decided to simplify the design by only using hexagons, and they donated their own fabric from old curtains and clothes. This is the same concept that would have been used in Hardy’s day.

Volunteer Sue Bonnar said: “Nothing would have been wasted; fabric would have been recycled into patchwork pieces and rag rugs.”

There are 750 hexagons in the new quilt, and it was sewn entirely by hand, just as it would have been by Hardy’s sisters. The volunteers started the project in July 2017 and it was completed this February, so it has been a true labour of love to get the quilt finished.

The quilt was made using the traditional ‘English paper piecing’ technique. This involves folding fabric over paper templates and hand-sewing these together. The paper template ensures the blocks are accurate and makes it easier to piece angles together.

Sue said: “When we looked at the quilts made by the Hardy sisters, it was interesting to find that the papers used for their templates were music scores and what seems to be school essays, possibly from their pupils as they were both teachers.”

Not all the volunteers had attempted patchwork or even quilting before, but they learned from each other and online videos.

As is tradition, the volunteers have given the quilt a name.

Sue added: “We decided on ‘Serendipity’ during one particular session, where we discovered that the fact of finding interesting and valuable things can be by chance. Sewing as a group is very therapeutic and we all bonded well. We are now called the “Quirky Quilters” and intend to carry on sewing together as a group.”

The quilt is now on display in a bedroom at Hardy’s Cottage.