Festival of Quilts

Having been bogged down with work for so long, I didn’t think there was any realistic chance of getting to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham. But I redoubled my efforts, worked my socks off on Friday and Saturday, and by Saturday evening got to the end of it. This freed up Sunday, and I decided to get up early and head for Birmingham. This plan worked well in that I thoroughly enjoyed my day out, but it had one major drawback which was the weather. It was atrocious. Apparently we are getting the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. And if this is the tail end I don’t like to think what the beginning and middle must have been like. Driving was really difficult and unpleasant, and it took me almost 3 hours each way. So that’s a lot of time just sitting in the car. Still, preferable to sitting at my computer working. I put the radio on and listened to Radio 3 (the BBC’s classical music channel) all the way there and back which no doubt did me a lot of good.

So, what was it like? Well, for starters, sparsely attended. I was at the FoQ two years ago and there was a vast crowd. One of the stallholders told me that the first three days of the show had been pretty busy, but Sunday was quiet. It’s quite possible that other people were more sensible that I was, and decided to stay indoors rather than experiencing the vile weather. ¬†Anyway, it made it a pretty nice experience as it was so easy to get about. I spent around five hours there in total, and there was lots to see. As on the previous occasion, I was fairly unimpressed with quite a lot of the exhibits. While the craft skill level is very high, I think the quality of design and composition left something to be desired in a lot of the contemporary quilts – although there were of course exceptions. On the whole I preferred the more traditional designs; this may simply reflect my love of geometric design.

What did I see that I liked? Well, there was an excellent example of Sara Impey’s text-based work, and I liked the Ester Bornemisza exhibition. Also, the work of Roberta Le Poidevin, a quilter from the Channel Islands. I spent quite a long time looking at the half-dozen or so pieces of Louise Baldwin’s work. Here’s a photo of one of them:Louise Baldwin Festival of Quilts 2014

And below a close up of the lower edge which I thought was beautiful:Louise Baldwin Festival of Quilts 2014









But the best piece I saw in the whole show was an antique piece on show on the Quilters’ Guild stand. It was a simple composition of squares (regular readers will understand immediately why I liked it), using velvet, cotton and silks. It was just gorgeous. There was a sign right beside it forbidding photography, so I obediently didn’t take a picture; I understand that you have to be careful with exposing old textiles to light and I’m happy to comply. I was annoyed, though, when a woman came up beside me and, ignoring the sign, photographed it anyway. However, virtue was rewarded because I found an image of the piece on the internet:Ann Howe 1890 - 1900

The black squares are velvet, and they serve to make a frame for, and to set off, the brighter colours. Very effective. The theme of the Quilters’ Guild exhibition of half a dozen items was ‘Mosaic patchwork’, which is another way of saying ‘English paper piecing’. I liked it very much.

Apart from the exhibitions, where I spent most of the time, there is of course a lot of shopping opportunities. There’s not that much I need or want, really, but I did buy some silk sari strips and some pieces of grey silk from The Silk Route. And I got one of the helpful ladies on the Bernina stand to give me a demonstration of how to thread up and use an overlocker, as I sometimes think about buying one. Does anyone have any views they’d like to share about overlockers? Have you got one? Can you recommend a particular brand? Please let me know either via comment or email.