April Cornell on Design and Decadent Victorian - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

April Cornell on Design and Decadent Victorian

Today, we have a special piece from April Cornell, a memoir of sorts that draws from the beginning of her textile love to her new line, Decadent Victorian.

I have a fabric addiction – I think it started when I was a teenager, when I first saw a tea shirt from India with embroidery on it. It was too beautiful; I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A lust, a true lust was born. So beautiful, so rich and actually – even I, at 16 could afford it. Then it was ‘bleeding madras’ I couldn’t get over – where could I get this stuff? And the bleeding madras was going to get more beautiful with every wash. Things from India were still far and few between, my sharp teenage eye was alert to them, but there was not a lot.

When I was a girl – I started fringing my denim shorts. I loved the faded color the fringes made, loved the combination of light and dark blue. I was on summer vacation in Nova Scotia, and in every way felt self conscious about myself, but I loved those fringes on my shorts. They were so cottony and long and blue and perfect. Then my best friend and I in Montreal I bought corduroy bell bottoms. They were so soft and brown, we knew all about ochre and we were whimpering with delight. We just knew it was the best stuff. I guess that’s how it got started, it was all about love, love of color, love of textiles, love of detail and embellishment, and the excitement of seeing things unexpected, of experimenting with things differently. It was inevitable that at some point I would be drawn to vintage textiles too. And folkloric Mexican embroideries, and Guatemalan blankets, and Moroccan rugs, and Afghan embroideries. Really, with a hobby like textiles, the whole world is a feast. It is true that it is an addiction, but relatively speaking, a very innocent one.

I never liked things only one way though – I always like to mix them up a bit. Nothing was ever one thing – if it was Victorian, it was Decadent Victorian, saturated Victorian, Victorian from the depth of its layers, to the chat of its salon, to the richness of its colors, Victorian that you could dribble your tea on and shake out your crumpets. Victorian that included Oscar Wilde and the Queen!

My brother taught me that when you write, your last thoughts must circle back to your first, and in design I think your last actions circle back and circle forward. As much as I carry yesterday in my design, I also want to carry tomorrow too. I want to show some of my future thoughts in my today. When you quilt – do not make a perfect piece – carry the tomorrow that you haven’t quite worked out as well. Add the memory pocket, the odd shaped signature square, the YOU thing. Make your work, not just work, but definably you.

When something is perfect, we can sit back and admire, that is true. But when something is beckoning, it will divert us from the perfect beauty; it will draw us to that new place. Spin it out, draw it out, and feed the future. Roots are where we grow from. But where do we grow to? Keep beauty living, make beauty you, the world wants to know you.

April Cornell
Burlington, Vermont


  1. How right April Cornell is about trying for perfection limiting you to the now – I find that all my quilts have some quirky little bit of me in them and that while I’m making the current quilt my mind soars into the future quilts I will make and anything is possible!
    April’s new line is so lovely.

  2. I just received your navy denim quilt from NM. Looking forward to the fading and the different shades that denim inevitably becomes. Love it. Thank you.