Amy Emms bursary

Laura – I was lucky enough to be awarded the Amy Emms bursary at this year’s Quilters’ Guild AGM. I thought it might be interesting to tell you a little about how I got here (I think …) and about what I’m doing with the bursary.

Any member of the Quilters’ Guild can apply for the Amy Emms bursary. It is named after Amy Emms MBE, who was an influential North Country (Durham/Sunderland area) quilter (you can find out more about Amy in this interview with her). It is awarded every other year at the AGM to ‘a Guild member who would like to further their knowledge of, or skills in, the traditional art of quilting’. As far as I can tell, this can be interpreted very broadly, but I applied for the bursary on the basis that I wanted to improve my skills in hand-quilting.

The requirements of the bursary are that you spend the money (£300) on what you said you were going to spend it on, and also that you show your resulting work (in progress) at the following year’s AGM. So this is really exciting, but also a bit daunting!


I’ve always enjoyed hand-quilting, as I find it relaxing. To be honest, I didn’t know how to do machine quilting until recently, so I quilted by hand instead, and enjoyed the fact that I could take projects with me without needing a sewing machine, and that I could quilt in front of the telly! However, I’d not really progressed beyond straight lines and I often would finish a patchwork and then not know how to quilt it effectively. So I thought it would be good to learn some basics before (hopefully) using those traditional methods in a modern way.


I had to submit a piece of work to support my application. I decided to submit the quilt I had made for last year’s Festival of Quilts, a 1920s themed quilt for the Guild challenge ‘Free’ (which for some reason is very hard to photograph properly!). I chose this piece because I have become interested in the idea of telling stories through quilts. I explained that I felt I’d got fairly adept at appliqué and fabric choice, but I did not have the ability to ‘speak’ with my quilting itself – as you can see, the quilting is fairly basic, though I tried to jazz it up with some bling.


In my application, I said:

‘I am interested in developing quilted, patchworked illustrations to accompany children’s literature. I’d like to produce a ‘quilted book’, a series of small quilts which tell a coherent story. Hopefully this may serve as a source of inspiration, to show that quilting can be used in unexpected ways.’ I am also interested in abstractifying my ideas instead of using ‘pictures’ like I did in this quilt.

With this bursary, I can dive right in and hopefully make these ambitions a reality! I will be back in future instalments to tell you more about how I’m getting on.



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