Festival of Quilts 2021

It was an eagerly anticipated event: lots of concern as to whether or not the organisers would be able to go ahead, due to the Covid-19 rules constantly changing in the months running up to July. I was so pleased that it went ahead in the end. It was the first real exhibition / event to happen in the UK post-coronavirus lockdowns and, as such, the organisers had an enormous task on their hands.

We all had to prove our C19 jab status or a recent negative test each morning.  We had to remain as distant as practical and where it was more crowded to wear masks.  The exhibition took on an extra hall and understandably some of the regular traders chose not to attend so there was increased space to move around and lots more places to stop and sit down.

So Festival of Quilts was my holiday this year. I was pleased to be able to offer my time to steward on all four days – which gave me ample opportunity to look at quilts and chat to visitors, but also had the added benefit of protecting my credit card from excessive use!  I have written previously about the benefits of Stewarding – do take a look at Steward at Festival of Quilts blog post. 

I am sure you will want to know more about the workshops I attended so here is a brief overview:

Day one – Jo Avery dandelion clock workshop

This workshop was first thing on day one and everyone was a little clueless, but Jo got us to wind a bobbin and set up the janome machines in the room. There was loads of space and it felt totally safe.  She explained the whole back to front piecing method of foundation piecing on fabric stabiliser, the sew in kind.  We freehand drew our curve and wedges, then pieced away. As always with this method, I got in a muddle. Jo was so kind as she told me to get the stitch ripper out!  We then went on to complete the block with improv curves. I was super pleased with the result, and have gone on to create four more blocks and combine them into a quilt with my Dads favourite saying in it.

Day two – Intro to quilt judging with Judy Kirk

I wanted to know a bit more about what is judged to be good, in order to improve my quilts.  This short workshop was great: we had a presentation and then as a group judged some of the Contemporary Quilt Groups suitcase collection.   It turns out that not everyone sees the same quilt as the best but, when the judging criteria lists appliqué and there is none, you might be at a disadvantage.  I enjoyed the session, but for now I am more than content to remain as a steward at the festival.

Day three – Jo Avery needle turned applique

This was a change of pace and something far more accurate and precise than my normal style.  Jo provided everything we needed, down to a pre-threaded needle (as 80wt thread is very difficult to see even with my reading glasses) and the cutest applique pins. I have already bought some more of them as they will be perfect for machine appliqué too.  Finger pressing and following the pattern allowed me to get a long way through the project on the day, but it was a joy to finish at home too. However, I think I need a little more practice with the sharp points!  If this style appeals to you, Jo has Bird Patterns on her website.

Day four – Canadian smocking with Molly Brown

This was a bit of a curve ball class but it’s a smocking technique I’ve never done, and I figured any new ways of developing texture will be useful in my work.  We worked on large-scale gingham following Molly’s clear instructions, which she showed us via a camera and projector so we didn’t need to crowd around (more covid compliance).

I created this:

When I wasn’t at workshops or shopping, I was gazing with awe at the competition quilts across all categories. I found the main trends were understandably around the C19 lockdown and the support and love for the NHS, with rainbows a major theme.

As you all know, I love to upcycle and recycle whereever I can in life and always in quilt-making.  One artist who had entered several quilts is Chris English. You can find him on Instagram as @afullenglish.  I had a few discussions with people about how different his quilts were from others in the sections – his use of up cycled fabric, hand quilting and crumb quilting, as well as use of reclaimed printed bedspreads, really does push boundaries.

Another quilt which really deserved a little longer to gaze at is Molly Brown’s woodland glade with the hidden falling astronaut through the clamshells in the sky area.

Two pieces of felt caught my eye, there was a pair of ‘Brilliant Breasts’ by felted by midwife and mum Jane Spedding, which unfortunately I didn’t photograph, and also the fabulous garden through window in pictorial quilt by Liz Jones. That one was inspired by a national trust property.

This year, we had the opportunity to steward some of the art quilt galleries, some of which are usually manned by artists from overseas who couldn’t come due to covid restrictions.  I was lucky to have a couple of sessions overseeing the Amish Quilts from International Quilt Museum in USA.  I particularly fell in love with this Gorilla who is from the collection of 15 quilts from international artists ‘For the Love of Gaia’.  She is a mountain Gorilla from Rwanda and at 40 years old and 7 months pregnant I felt a real affinity with this portrait.

On top of all the shopping and wonderful quilts, it was a real treat to have time to chat with people on the various trade stands and galleries.  I had a lovely chat with Alice Fox, who was exhibiting her woven fibres from nature as part of the Insights exhibition by The textile study group. Her work is meticulous.

I was introduced to Stuart Hillard who is just as lovely as he seems on TV! We talked quilts and step aerobics, and I am looking forward to receiving a copy of his new book early next month.

However, I was most star struck by meeting Katie from Arnolds attic: she is one of my favourite you tubers, is that how you say it?  You must follow her if you are into textile art, she has some amazing artist interviews which are inspirational – https://www.youtube.com/c/ArnoldsAttic

On reflection, I had an awesome time even with tooth ache (thank you to the lovely person who gave me some paracetamol on day one!).  I hope the excellent atmosphere and feedback makes up for the clear lack of revenue this year and keeps the festival safe for next year.

Put the dates in your calendar now 18th – 21st August 2022 – I hope to see you there!