At our May 2022 meeting, the guest speaker was Nicola Walton from Daisy and Grace. In addition to her talk on how she started out, Nicola brought along a pop-up shop which included a beautiful range of fabrics and a wide variety of her templates for 'quilt as you go' hexagons and other designs. As always, our members loved combing through the materials and I'm sure many new projects will be borne out of Nicola's extensive offerings.

Nicola's love of sewing started at the very early age of five, with a plastic sewing machine that never worked properly. Frustrated by this, she saved all her money so that by the age of seven she was able to purchase her very own hand-operated machine from Greenwich Market. She made clothes for her dolls and soon progressed to clothes for herself. As a teenager she knew she wanted to be a fashion designer but her initial attempts to enrol at the London School of Fashion were thwarted by a lack of O-level English. However, Nicola persevered and on the 5th time of trying, she finally passed her O-level and joined her chosen course. After graduating, her first job was making evening wear for Harrods, lots of lovely posh frocks. She then moved to high street retail, working for well-known shops such as Miss Selfridge, Top Shop, etc. By the time she reached her late 20s, she was running a whole design room, managing a staff of twelve workers.

Then Nicola met and married the hugely supportive Dave. Having settled into married life, a sad turn in their personal circumstances left Nicola feeling very low. Knowing of her love of sewing, a friend gave her a big bag of scrap material and during this period of depression, Nicola made a beautifully hand-quilted cushion, her first foray into the quilting world. This was quickly followed by a hexagon quilt, and her love of all things hexagon was born.

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Nicola really enjoyed working on these projects so she joined a quilting group, but she was still feeling a little lost a little and aimless. Fortunately Dave was on hand to encourage her out of the blues, suggesting that maybe she start a little business doing the quilting she enjoyed so much. However, she couldn't decide on what form this would take, but they did agree on a name for the possible enterprise, Daisy and Grace, after Nicola's grandmothers. She started making her own quilting patterns and working out fabric co-ordinations. Barbara, a fellow group member, really liked what Nicola was doing and suggested they start up a business together and Daisy and Grace became became operational.

Their first exhibition was the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, where they set up a stall with six products, including a sewing book, tidy pouch and a pencil case.

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To her complete surprise, at this exhibition Nicola was invited to appear on TV's "Create and Craft" program. She went to a ,meeting, not realising that it was to be a screen test, for which she was totally unprepared., Regardless, she worked with what she had and apparently passed the test. Unfortunately, at that time Daisy and Grace was still a fledgling enterprise and they soon realised that they would not be able to meet any public demand that a TV show might generate.

Back to concentrating on what she loved best, Nicola searched for 'quilt as you go' templates but nobody was doing them. Having spotted a gap in the market, she decided to develop them herself.

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The great thing about this technique is that each block is a finished piece, back and front, and joining several of these blocks together makes the complete item. With clever planning it is possible to create a completely different design on the reverse.

Nicola's use of different shapes and colour matching makes for some wonderful quilts. Below are some more fine examples.

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In 2019 Daisy and Grace had a stall at the Lullingstone Castle quilt show. This event turned out to be a significant moment in the life of Nicola and Daisy and Grace. Jenny Doan, from the Missouri Star Quilt Company, was also there and being a great fan of this author and You Tube personality, Nicola approached Jenny to thank her. Videos of Nicola's demonstrations were being shown on You Tube after Jenny's, resulting in an increase of traffic for Nicola's on-screen presence. Jenny liked the template ideas and, having seen a demonstration, asked if Daisy and Grace could produce them in the thousands as she was sure they would be a big hit in the US. Again, this was beyond their capability at that time so nothing came of this first meeting. Or so they thought. Once back in the States, Jenny contacted Nicola to say she would like to collaborate with Daisy and Grace and so Nicola went into partnership with the Missouri Star Quilt Company, which apparently has the biggest quilting channel on You Tube.

This relationship with the Missouri Star Quilt Company has meant many exciting trips to Missouri for the Daisy and Grace team. Nicola's demonstrations are featured on their website www.missouriquiltco.com. The partnership continues to grow and today saw the launch of five new templates in the US.

In addition to all of this work, Nicola continues to create amazing quilted pieces. Clever use of different shapes and colours produces the most wonderful creations. The pictures below are just a few excellent examples of the wide variety of quilting that Nicola has achieved.

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Front...........

                             ...........Reverse

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Bags made from 'quilt as you go' hexagons.

The front and back of a variation on Tumbling Blocks.

Beautiful combination of embroidered hexagons and diamonds.

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Front and reverse of a tumblers design.

Front and detail of a hexagon quilt.

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Above are the front, detail and reverse of a  triangle design, which shows clever use of backing fabric to make an entirely different pattern on the back.

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Nicola gave a really interesting talk and showed us some fantastic quilts. Her website is well worth a visit at www.daisyandgrace.co.uk