Stuart Hillard credits Miss Jenkins, his primary school teacher, for inspiring his love of patchwork.He can’t recall whether he was six or seven when she taught him to sew little hexagons of material wrapped around paper templates before joining them together. But he remembers it being quick and easy to learn and he can still feel the thrill of being let loose on the fabric scraps kept in Miss Jenkins’ art cupboard.“That is where I learned the three simple truths of quilting,” says Yorkshire based Stuart, best known for starring on TV’s Sewing Bee, where his infectious enthusiasm gave added sparkle to the series.The truths are that the shapes are simple. A triangle, circle, square or hexagon are all it takes to make a quilt. The process is simple and easy to learn and, lastly, the results are extraordinary.
One of the quilts in Stuart's book
“Making a quilt is as easy as 1,2, 3. It’s not like dress making,” says Stuart who based his new book on this premise.“Simple Shapes Stunning Quilts” is published by Pavilion and shows how you can create 100 quilts.It’s perfect for beginners and for experts and has step-by-step instructions on everything from tools and techniques to creating a design wall where you can “audition” fabrics.The picture-packed book also reveals that quilts aren’t just for beds. They can be used as wall hangings, throws, picnic blankets, table cloths and cushions.The publication is one aspect of Stuart’s multi-faceted career in crafting, which is a dream come true for the former primary school teacher.His talent for design and craft was apparent early. His mum taught him to knit and by the age of seven he was following patterns and making his own jumpers.
Stuart's ice lolly quilt
Quilting and pattern designing came later and he put it to good use in the home he shares with his husband, Charles.His career change came when his talent for telly was discovered during the first series of the Great British Sewing Bee in 2013.He is now one of the most popular presenters on Create and Craft TV, where he puts his experience as a school teacher to good use. He’s also a magazine columnist and a fabric designer for the Craft Cotton Company.His following has been boosted by a quilting renaissance and he says: “The joy and satisfaction in making a quilt is therapeutic. It is very mindful and absorbing as you are focused on something beautiful and creative. It’s definitely good for the soul.”*Simple Shapes Stunning Quilts is £22.95 and is published by Pavilion. Pictures by Rachel Whiting
Be creative every day: Stuart Hillard advises doing something creative every day to improve wellbeing.“I am really busy but I try to make sure I make some time for being creative. It might be cooking, gardening or sewing.“I think of it like school playtime for children. It is important that we adults stop and play and be creative.”Craft has been prescribed to patients since occupational therapy, including basketry, was used to relieve anxiety in soldiers during the first world war.