An Interview with Ruth Bourke, Part 1


At our June 11th meeting, we’ve invited Ruth Bourke to give a talk on modern quilting and to run a workshop after the meeting entitled “Traditional Blocks Made Modern.”

Ruth lives in Limerick and is a member of the Mid-Western Branch of the Irish Patchwork Society.  She serves on the committee of the branch as the Editorial Representative.


Ruth has been sewing since 2012, and was inspired to begin by her basset hound, Ben.  He loved chewing on a baby blanket of hers, and when repairs were getting impossible, she wanted to make her own quilt.   Now joined by her dogs Wilbur and Charly, they guard her stash and keep her company while she sews.

First Quilt-1
Ruth’s first quilt

Ruth is also a published designer!  She published “Storybook” in the September/October 2014 issue of Make Modern Magazine.  Also published is “Lost in London” in the May/June 2015 issue of Make Modern Magazine.

Storybook quilt images-1
“Storybook” Quilt available on Ruth’s website and in Make Modern Magazine
Lost in London-7091
Lost in London, available on Ruth’s website and in Make Modern Magazine.

Ruth has a fantastic blog entitled “Charly and Ben’s Crafty Corner” and can be found at   The archive goes all the way back to January of 2013 and is a treasure trove of posts.  You’ll find a page of tutorials Ruth has written about half square triangles, making an envelope backed cushion, finishing an embroidery hoop and exploring the Dutch Rose/Swoon block, just to name a few.  You’ll also find posts on designing quilts using Microsoft Word, Touchdraw and Inkscape.

Dutch Rose/Swoon Block

Ruth also has a pattern shop where you can purchase the instructions on how to make her quilts “Lost In London,” a fat quarter friendly project, “Not Boxed In,” which uses small scraps, and Storybook, which utilises precuts.  You’ll also find a patchwork drawstring bag pattern and “So Frosty Giant Block Quilt” which are free!

“Not Boxed In” available on Ruth’s website.

I had the opportunity to get to know Ruth a little better by asking her some questions.

What about the Modern aesthetic speaks to you?

I think overall the thing that draws me to modern quilts is the fun use of colour and space.  I like a bit of asymmetry.  I like to have my eye move around the quilt and be challenged in wondering how the quilter put it all together.  I love Jen Kingwell’s designs especially her My Small World that caused Quiltmania’s magazine to sell out.  Something like that with lots of design elements and fun way of putting it all together really makes me stop and take notice!

What is your favourite quilting notion?

I use my seam ripper more than I should but my favourite tool that makes quilting so much easier for me is my design wall – not sure you could call it a notion!  We have 2 dogs who have no sense of personal space and will walk right through blocks laid out on the floor, or jump on and roll over my blocks arranged on the spare bed, so I had to go vertical and keep my stuff off of the floor.

So, I used a flannel sheet strung between a wall fitting and a bookcase to arrange my pieces.  Small pieces would stick but whole blocks would have to be pinned to it but it did the trick.  My uncle saw me one day putting it back up after we had visitors leave (I sew at the kitchen table so when we have people over to dinner all my stuff gets moved to the spare box room!).

My uncle is brilliantly handy and decided we could do better than my flannel sheet so he made me a design wall from a thin sheet of chipboard on a frame.  I wrapped cotton wadding around it and stapled it in place and now have a 5ft wide by 7ft high wall to arrange pieces on.  Sometimes I’ll leave a project up there for a while and move a piece or two every time I walk past!  I take photographs to remind me as I often move them back again!

How do you squeeze in your sewing time during the day?

It’s really hard during the week to get much done.  I work full time and have to travel with work from time to time so most of my sewing gets done on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I’m the only one early out of bed at the weekends.  Our Basset Hound is epileptic so gets his tablets at 8am and 8pm every day so I do the morning shift!  I usually get a good 3 hours to myself to sew and design quilts and quilt blocks before anyone else is up.  I usually take a break from the computer at weekends and try to keep up with social media, blogs and Instagram during the week, especially on Friday evenings after work – that’s my favourite time of the week to chill out and catch up on what’s been happening.

What made you start blogging?

When I made my first quilt after watching Jenny Doan on Craftsy, I didn’t know anyone else who was into Patchwork.  My aunt is a brilliant and can make any item of clothing for you but doesn’t quilt. I turned to the online community to learn and share with.  At first I’d put my name in for a swap and not get picked and thinking about it I figured it was because they had no idea who I was.  So I started joining groups and sharing on Flickr and eventually got brave and started writing and sharing on the blog.  Putting myself out there like that was a bit nerve wracking but I braved up and kept making and writing and have made some really good friends through the online quilting community.  Now the blog acts as resource for me as well as those who read it.  It’s a place I can record my attempts at quilt design and techniques and settings I’ve tried.  Every now and again when I’m trying to remember how to do something I look it up on the blog so it works as a sharing space for myself too!

Do you have a sewing group you regularly meet up with?

Yes we have a great group in Limerick that meets up on most Thursdays.  When we made a group quilt together for the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham we had to come up with a name so we called ourselves Just Threads!  It’s brilliant to have people you can brainstorm with and get opinions on ideas you may have.  Sometimes just explaining your idea to someone else answers a question for you that you had been stuck on.  They are a great supportive group and some nights the sewing might not be very productive but the social chat and advice is well worth the time!  I try not to miss our Thursday nights if I can.


Stay tuned for Part 2!  We’ll find out more about Ruth and the June workshop!

All photographs courtesy of Ruth Bourke

One thought on “An Interview with Ruth Bourke, Part 1

  1. Pingback: May Letter from the Chair | Southern Branch of the Irish Patchwork Society

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