Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A Fine Festival

Hello readers.  It's been too long and I have so much to catch up on here.  So let's not waste time.  Today, I don't need to do much talking (that'll make a change), it's all about the photos.

So it's several weeks now, in fact probably a month, since my annual pilgrimage to the fabulous Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham.  This year was memorable for meeting up with my bloggy pal, Kate, again and also this year, the lovely Pat from Instagram.  How marvellous to be able to connect with these like minded folk.

So, off I set, obligatory patchworky bags at the ready.

I drove this year as we were carrying on after the festival and going on our week long jaunt to the Peak District.  There were upsides to this, of course.  No need to worry about having to get all my shopping in my suitcases and lugging it on the train!  It was an early start in lovely sunshine, and with Chris Evans and Ken Bruce on the radio for company, I enjoyed the trip, feeling those butterflies of excitement.

If you have never been to the Festival, it's probably hard to imagine the scale of it.  It's truly huge (maybe not to my American friends) and takes over three halls in the NEC.  There's a massive area for the display of quilts, a lot are competition entries of all levels but there are also displays from museums, authors and so on.

As you can see, there is a lot of space around the exhibits (it doesn't feel so spacious when rammed with people!) and the quilts vary from tiny to huge.  Spot that one in the corner?

It is this beautiful hand-pieced quilt made from thousands of tiny pieces.  It is actually made in two pieces and they are displayed on either side of the corner.

I appreciate that a static photo on a blog won't convey the true size of the piece so to give you an idea of just how tiny each piece was, here's my finger nail!

Wow!  There's a huge area for the display of competition quilts in grouped categories.  Having purchased the catalogue to be able to read about each quilt and its maker, I actually couldn't track some of them down as the numbers didn't seem to run in sequence.  You can see, below, the scale of the exhibition.

So many quilts caught my eye but here's just a few to inspire.

Loved this one.  It was made up of many many of these little squares operating almost as a diary.  It was fun to read the entries.

My clever mate Kate, had three quilts in the exhibition this year.  I managed to track one down, "Swirl", based on Eighteenth Century buttons seen at Waddesdon Manor and alabaster carvings in the British Museum.  Kate is clever with bold colours, interesting shapes and fab hand quilting which unfortunately, you can't appreciate well enough from this photo.

This one caught my eye, a shrine to Tana Lawn fabric: Liberty of London and its infamous black and white timber framed building on Regent Street, of course.

(At the time, I didn't think to note down all the quilters, so my apologies for not adding names, there are so many of them in the catalogue that there's no way I'd track them down now.  Do feel free to add them in the comments should you recognise any of the work.)

The exhibition is not just about hanging wall quilts.  I always find the section for "quilt creations" interesting.  Here is the "Princess and the Pea" by Sue Trevor, it had many cute little quilts and a giant felted pea in between!

Here's a favourite, "The Mouse and the Cuckoo Clock" by Sally Snushall.

The winner was this one, "The Quilted Coracle".  You can't appreciate the detail from this photo but oh my, it must have taken its maker, Linzi Upton, all year to make!  (This exhibit is life sized.)

There's much shopping to be done at the Festival, of course, which usually takes up a large part of day one for me.

This year, I'd just been commissioned to make a quilt (I will be showing you that soon), so I had a good excuse to shop.  It was great actually, as it really gave me a purpose.  I was much more restrained this year! 

There were some splendid ribbons on this stall from France.  I could have gone crazy (I just bought two pieces), but it was pretty pricey.

This stall, also from France, had some absolutely fabulous printed fabric panels, bearing vintage fashion plates.  A few of those went in the bag for an (as yet) undecided project.

Hmm, the stash was growing...

Finally, I wanted to show you one of the special exhibits which was something new to me, the work of a lady named Mandy Pattullo, entitled "Thread and Thrift".  The guide tells me that Mandy "treasures the old and worn" (sounds like a lady after my own heart).  Don't you just need a patchwork skirt like this?

"She refashions, recycles and reuses very old and often disintegrating quilts into new patchworks."

"Her work relates to the thrift and  "make do and mend" culture of past times, in particular utility patchworks and quilts..."

"The viewer is forced to re-examine fabrics that have become flawed through wear and tear, to find in them a new beauty."

Oh I do!

Pat and I also bumped into the marvellous Julie Arkell, of whose work I am a great fan (if you are a long-term reader of this here blog you will know that, of course)and have enjoyed several of her courses.  As usual, Julie looked fabulous but it was her bag that really caught my eye!  

As always, the festival did not fail to delight and inspire.  How long is my "to make" list now?!

(P.S.  I couldn't bear to lug my giant and heavy camera round with me this year, lots of fabric to carry after all, so opted for some simple 'phone snaps, which I know are not brilliant, but I hope they are good enough.)


  1. A wonderful day out for you I can tell! I love the 'Liberty' quilt. M x

  2. I would love to go but fear of getting lost on my own, but is looks like an amazing event. That cuckoo clock is amazing and so is the Thread & Thrift exhibit. How lucky to see Julie Arkell again, she it one of my favourites too xx

  3. Oh, what a wonderful event! I would really enjoy going someday. I love so many of those quilts but I think the "diary" one might be my favorite of all, how interesting!

  4. looks a wonderful quilt show, soooo many amazingly talented people- love the bags (think they're your ones)- beautiful...and julie's looked lovely too ;0)...i have some skirts that id love to jazz up with patchworky pieces and embroidery this has really inspired me ;0)x kazzy x

  5. Dear Hen, you've done it again! Your post is such a joy - and I think your photos are very good. Love the Mandy Pattullo work - it is wonderful to see something created out of the worn/well loved quilts. An artist surely! As are you.
    Thanks for taking us along to the exhibit,

  6. Loved to read your review of the quilt show and to see some of my favourites. Loved the skirt and the Liberty quilt. Can't wait for next year now.

  7. I love all the quilts they are beautiful, but the recycled where my favorites. I so enjoy these trips you take us on.

  8. Looks like you had a great time. Quilts are so spectacular. Every one is different.
    Have you seen this post?
    Julie xxxxxxxx

  9. I wouldn't have know they were phone snaps... the photos are great! I bet you were like a kid in a candy store! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  10. It waa a terrific show this year, wasn't it. I really enjoyed it but could have done with another day - though I would only have spent more! Your phone photos are more successfu than mine.

  11. Hen what a wonderful time you had, I have never been to the show but would like to now after seeing your fabulous photographs. I especially loved the 'diary' quilt and the bird house, the princess and the pea (gorgeous) and the Liberty quilt. I am sure we only saw a tiny portion of the show so it will be a must for me next year. Thank you for sharing this Hen, I always look forward to your posts.
    Lots of love as always

  12. On day one I was in a looooong sandwich queue with Ms Pattullo, who was lovely to chat to- it was only when going on into the exhibition I realised why she was wearing a name tag...loved her stuff.The more I looked around the show the more I found myself thinking 'that would be so much nicer hand quilted' -I'm just an old fashioned girl!

  13. Thank you, Hen, for being my proxy at this fabulous show. Yes, the huge size of the show is apparent from your photos and comments. I think that I also would have been paying particular attention to the "creations." The ones that you show us are superb. Beautifully made, witty, and fine additions to the quilting tradition.

    It must have been fun to renew acquaintances with Julie A. She really is a one of a kind. Perhaps I'll one day be fortunate enough to meet her myself...or even better attend one of her workshops.

    What wonderful projects must now be percolating in your creative head. I look forward to see what you'll soon be making.

    Happy September! xo

  14. Thanks for the wonderful and informative post. I will definitely be on the look out for this in the years to come. Looking forward to seeing what you're going to do with all that lovely fabric you bought. Xo

  15. Hi There Hen,Amazing!!!So many talented people!!!Love the Story quilt!!!Unique and very personal!!!You are such a lucky girl and must be so incredibly inspired!!!Have a great day!!!

  16. Oh so much to see and what fun! I get lost in fabric shopping ....there can never be too much fabric! And I am amazed at the quilts. When I go to these shows I always wish the makers would do a class. Of course some do give classes and I have taken a couple.

  17. It never ceases to amaze me how beautifully creative other people are! So much inspiration!

  18. Ah - very lovely indeed - particularly like the use of old quilts. There was a huge one in the charity shop (I was actually delivering supplies from my own clearout!) and I did not buy it for FIVE POUNDS - I am quite sure it will no longer be there if I go back on Monday.....
    Perhaps it is for the best....
    Best wishes

  19. Great photos of some amazing quilts, I don't think we'd have known they were from your phone if you hadn't said. I'm a big fan of Mandy Pattullo's work, it's usually displayed at the knitting and stitching show as well. (Still very very envious of your patchwork bag with the leather straps!)


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