Last week, I had a lovely day out. I went to the NEC in Birmingham to the Festival of Quilts. I am new to quilting and haven’t done that much sewing lately, but I had heard good things about the Quilt show, so I jumped at the chance to visit.
And my response? Wow.
There were hundreds of quilts on display, in several categories. There were ‘Art Quilts’, which used lots of interesting techniques, as well as the ‘Traditional’ quilts, which were meticulously stitched. There were contemporary quilts, group competitions, categories for under 16s, school competitions and a category for quilted ‘objects’. Many of these creations were just breathtaking – some because the finished result was so startling, others because of the sheer perfection of the work.
I took dozens of photos; what follows is just a small selection. Some of the quilts I couldn’t get good pictures of because the light wasn’t right, or, as in the case of the winning ‘Traditional’ quilt, there were about eighty people standing around it at all times.
This is the winning quilt in the ‘age 12-15’ category, which is pretty mind-blowing. The theme was ‘Cityscapes’ and there were some wonderful entries. I was so impressed.
In the ‘contemporary’ category, this phoenix was the second-prize winner. It’s so striking from a distance, and the level of detail when you get up close is incredible.
There was also this really colourful quilt, which I really liked – the photo doesn’t really do it justice. I loved the unashamed use of rainbow colours and how they ‘popped’ against the subdued backing, and I loved the range of techniques used.
This was a ‘postage stamp’ quilt, in which the pieces were, as the name suggests, no bigger than a postage stamp. I really loved the random placement of colours, which was then unified by the blue stripes and the patch of yellow. I also think the quilting in concentric circles worked really well with all the squares.
I loved the work on this dress – it looks like it could have come out of a museum.
This was probably my favourite of the ‘Art Quilts’. It’s called ‘Winter Reflections’. It was stunning – I love the way the impression of reflection has been conveyed, and the way it seems to radiate light.
It’s made with lots of little triangles:
This was really interesting in its construction – the three-dimensional element was really effective, and there were lots of little details.
The colours in this quilt were amazing – much more vivid than in the photograph. Again, the detail work was beautiful.
But then you get close and see these little hexagons, just like the ones on an old-fashioned quilt!
Unfortunately, the lighting at the end of the exhibition housing the ‘Traditional’ quilts was a bit dodgy and made everything look rather yellow. A shame, as there was some beautiful work. Some of my favourites were examples of quilting, rather than patchwork – i.e. intricate designs quilted onto single pieces of plain fabric. Still, here are a couple of the traditional quilts:
And this little box was rather intriguing in its construction:
So much beautiful work. This really was the barest fraction of what was there.
As well as the exhibitions, there were stalls upon stalls of fabric, threads, patterns and gizmos for the dedicated quilter and patchworker. Really, it was quite something. I was very restrained and bought a few skeins of discounted embroidery silk and three fat quarters.
In one of the shops, I had a chance encounter with one of my all time heroes. Yes, I had a long conversation (mainly about knitting) with Kaffe Fassett, who was charming. Really, what a totally lovely man. We talked about his latest project (and he showed me how he was doing it) and how he translates swatches into designs – all sorts of things. For someone who is such a legend, he’s very modest about his skills and gives real credit to the people who work with him, which is not something that everyone in his position does. It was so nice to meet someone I’ve admired for a long time and discover that he was so absolutely lovely. I came away quite starstruck!
I’m already making plans for going again next year…