Mary Mayne describes her life and work
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Mary Mayne

Mary Mayne in her own words

I enjoyed needlework at school where I was taught all the basic techniques of how to be a dressmaker. At school I was not taught any patchwork skills though.

I started patchwork in the very early 1960's after watching a friend sewing hexagons together. I made many mistakes in that first piece! With no books to guide me, no workshops to enrol in, and no one I knew that made patchwork apart from the friend that made the piece that set me on the path that I followed who only knew about hexagons.

Gradually I tried more simple things such as a log cabin and was helped along after I was given an American magazine to read - boy did that open my eyes! I am completely self taught but did take up the challenge of the City and Guilds course when I finally persuaded the college that it actually existed! I studied the City & Guilds course at Dunstable College between 1990 & 1992 under the tutalage of Dieuke Philpot, only taking part one of the course.

I only really played about with patchwork in the early years. I suppose the main breakthrough came when a friend saw an appliquéd waistcoat I made for my daughter in the 1970's. She liked it so much she asked if I would make her one, I hesitated until she said that she was prepared to pay me for the work! From this request, the word got around that I made these waistcoats and over a period of 3 or 4 years I made about 100 or so. The more I made the more efficient I got with my machine and with my designs. I did do a few craft fares and had a very small amount of success but they weren't worth all the time and trouble and I soon gave these up.

I found a craft shop and asked them if they would be interested in selling my small wall hangings on a sale or return basis. They did this for me for quite a few years and gradually my name got known. I entered my first quilt show entry in The National Patchwork Championships in 1986 along with a small wall hanging. Both won Merit Awards and the hanging sold! I was over the moon! The same quilt, The Eaton Bray Village Quilt was chosen by the Quilters Guild to go into their exhibition in the Royal Institute of British Architects in London in 1987 and from there it was chosen to be shown on the TV programme 'Pieced Pictures' in 1987-88 (not quite sure which).


  • 1986
    • 2 Merit Awards, National Patchwork Championship
  • 1987
    • 3rd Prize, GBQF
  • 1988
    • 3rd Prize, National Patchwork Championship
  • 1989
    • Special Award, Quilts UK
  • 1990
    • 1st Prize, Quilts UK
    • 2nd Prize, GBQF
    • 2nd Prize, National Patchwork Championship
    • 3rd Prize, GBQF
  • 1991
    • 2nd Prize, Quilts UK
    • 2nd Prize, National Patchwork Championship
    • 2nd Prize, GBQF
  • 1992
    • 2nd Prize, GBQF
  • 1999
    • Special Award, British Quilt Festival Machine Appliqué Trophy

Other Exhibitions

  • Invitation to Exhibit: The Fabric of The Family, Powys, 1991
  • The Quilters Guild Exhibition. 1986 Royal Institute of British Architects (Selected Quilts Only)
  • Invitation of Exhibit: National Patchwork Champs. Quilt Fairs.1995
  • 1st Personal Exhibition, The Gallery, Luton Central Library, 1993
  • 2nd Personal Exhibition, Bromham Mill, Bedford, 1994
  • 3rd Personal Exhibition, Bromham Mill, Bedford, 1997

Commissioned Pieces

  • Bonsai Trees, Large wall hanging for Mr & Mrs Nash, Luton
  • Large Pictorial wall hanging for Mr & Mrs Hawk, Chattanooga, USA
  • Large wall hanging, Willow Pattern, Dunstable lady
  • Tablecloth, Luton family
  • Single Quilt, Mrs Potton, Bedfordshire
  • Banner, Ladies Circle, Harpenden
  • Small wall hanging, Ms. M. Thomas, Yorkshire
  • Banner, Ladies Circle, Luton
  • Small wall hanging, Mrs. E. Davies, Staffordshire
  • Refurbish Church Banner, Luton
  • Large wall hanging, Mrs. E. Davies, Staffordshire
  • Table runner, Whipsnade Park Golf Club
  • Small reproduction of Winston Churchill's Garter Banner for The Churchill Collection, Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, Bucks

I have made many pieces for many people over the years, including quilts and cushions, baby quilts and bags, and many more things. Unfortunately, I haven't kept a record of them all and the above pieces I have recorded are only a short list. I have sold lots of the pieces made for the Bromham Mill Exhibitions.

Other Career Opportunities

I was invited to oversee a group of villages in Bedfordshire in making their village quilts by The Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity. I gave talks to 11 villages and encouraged them to have a go. I gave each village a one-day workshop to help them put their quilts together and the end results were amazing. They were judged and cash prizes were awarded to the winners, this was to be spent to aid a village project.

1999 - Bedfordshire Millennium Quilt. I was approached by The Bedfordshire Millennium Committee and asked if I would organise the planning and making of a quilt for the County. I managed to get 34 ladies and one gentleman from the County of Bedfordshire involved in the making of the quilt and it will hang permanently at Shuttleworth, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire from August 1999.

Hilton Hotels

I have been hosting the quilting weekends for this hotel group since the early 90s. I occasionally give the groups a slide lecture or workshop but my main job on these weekends is to look after the groups of ladies and gentlemen and make sure the weekends run smoothly. I really love doing this job and have made many special friends.

Special Commission for the Quilters Guild - 1997

In 1996 I was asked to prepare some design boards to go forward for possible selection for the Quilters Guild 90's Collection. I was one of 4 people approached in Region 7 (Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire). We were asked to prepare the design boards and present them at the Region 7 Area Day.

It was up to the members of Region 7 to vote for the piece that they felt they wanted the Guild to receive for The 90's Collection. I was thrilled to have mine chosen and Region 7 then commissioned me to make the hanging and it was presented to the Guild at their A.G.M. in Scotland in 1997. They also bought all the design material. The hanging measured 24" x 24" and was called 'Laces'.


I have written many articles for the British patchwork and quilting magazines and all that have been submitted have been printed. Some have been informative articles and some have been projects for the readers to make, these have always been my own original ideas.

I was asked by Jenni Dobson to make a quilt for her book 'Sweet and Simple Country Quilts'. This was so successful that the publisher used it as the front cover of the book and also published the instructions for making the quilt. Many pictures of my work have been published in various magazines.

[Mary's first book, Clever Banners, Panels and Postcards was published in September 2006.]


I have tutored workshops in Canada and also given slide lectures to a number of groups in British Columbia. In 1998 I was invited to give a lecture on my work by The Missouri State Guild at their retreat at the Lake of The Ozarks and also give a workshop.

An article about myself and my work was written by Varena Rybicki in the American magazine 'Quilting International' in 1991. Some of my more recent work has been exhibited in a group exhibition in Kamloops BC

Judging Experience

I have judged The Essex Handicraft Association Exhibitions; This is a huge organisation and my task is to judge all of the Patchwork, Quilted and Appliquéd items. It is a full day's work and very rewarding. I also judge the Tring Horticultural Society Show which is much smaller but just as enjoyable.

I judged Quilts UK 1999 along with Deidre Amsden and Helen Joseph. This is the largest and most successful exhibition in England and the invitation to judge it was an honour and a very rewarding experience.

Quilts on Permanent Display

In 1999 I won 1st Prize for my quilt 'Postage Paid - 1840-1990'. The quilt shows the postage stamps, uniforms and modes of delivery in the 1840's and 1990's. It was made to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the postage stamps. In 1995 the National Postal Museum bought the quilt from me for their collection. It is the first piece of it's kind to be bought for the museum.

I made a quilt called 'Winston Churchill' and this was also a prize winner. I presented this quilt to Bletchley Park in 1996 and it hangs in the Churchill rooms at Bletchley Park, the home of The Enigma Code Breakers during the war.

And Finally...

My main interest is to promote patchwork and quilting in all it's forms and I hold many workshops during the year. Some I hold locally and I also travel around the country to groups who invite me to teach a particular skill or design. I hold workshops in Fabric shops when invited. These include Sunflower Fabrics, Bedford, Inca Studios, Princes Risborough and The Bramble Patch in Weedon, Northants. I also give slide lectures on my work to groups including quilt groups, Women's Institutes, Co-op Guilds, Embroidery Guilds and many other ladies' groups.

I strive continually to do the very best in Patchwork and Quilting and hope to expand my design skill and teaching skills still further in the future. My aim at present is to produce work for another personal exhibition and to take some of my teaching skills to Australia in the year 2000. As I have already taught and lectured to quilt groups in Canada, I see no reason why I won't be able to fulfill these new ambitions.

Source:, 1999/2000

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