Friday, 11 August 2017

Things I have enjoyed at Festival of Quilts

As I have already said, there are lots of things to do at FoQ if you are there for long enough.  As the years wore on, I enjoyed the individual galleries more than the open competition quilts.  I am sure there are many visitors who are like me and want to spend a lot of time looking at these.  If you are lucky you get to talk to the person whose art it is but sometimes there is no-one on the stand.  I also tended to buy the catalogues which means I now have a couple of shelves in my bookcase which are full of these things.  Among those I really enjoyed were the European Art Quilts and as you can see I bought the books.  If allowed, I always took photographs but I see I have deleted most of them because if I am honest I do not really look at them and this down-sizing has meant clearing out a lot of photographs.  I had boxes of twentieth century photograhs as well as the more recent stuff on the computer!

As a member of Contemporary Quilt I used to do my turn on the stand.  This was a great way of seeing old friends, especially after we moved to Cornwall.  Until recently I also belonged to SAQA and used to do a turn on their stand too.

One of the perks from this was getting a free copy of the catalogue as SAQA used to say they could not afford to transport them all back to the USA.  However, I think they have stopped giving them away.

And a lot of professional people had stands even if they were tucked away at the back of the Hall.  There were people whom I always made a point of visiting, usually because our paths had crossed at quilting events.  Sometimes I had studied with them.  One such was Committed to Cloth who have a wonderful working open studio.  I had bought treated myself to a week long course with them as a sixtieth birthday present to myself.  It was always good to catch up with what they were doing.

There are also meetings of various groups which are open to their members.  I used to attend the SAQA tea as it was the only time during the year when I could participate in their activities because of living too far away.  And Contemporary Quilt also had meetings.

And then there is the programme of workshops and lectures.  Most years I would attend two or three lectures and often do a half-day workshop.  I know I have recently thrown away the little stuffed brooches I made at one workshop – a pity as I could have included one in this post.  The workshops put huge demands on the tutors because of the time constraints.  I never did one of the masterclasses because they were very expensive.  I was lucky to have access first to Bramble Patch in Weedon and then to Cowslip Workshops near Launceston where the same tutors offered things much cheaper!  And of course Bramble Patch was only ten minutes’ drive from home when we lived in Northants.  

So all in all I really enjoyed Festival of Quilts in the years when I went.  A shame that I can no longer go but I am impressed with the number of posts about it on Facebook and this enables me to get a flavour of the whole thing.  Congratulations to all this year's winnere!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Shopping at the Festival of Quilts

What stage of your quilting career are you at?  Do you buy a lot of stuff at FOQ and if so, what?  Or have you reached the point where you try very hard not to buy things.  Going through my stash with a view to disposing of a lot of it, I have found fabric and other items that trace my thirty plus years of quilting, many of them bought at FoQ.   And that does not include all the 'wet work' supplies I bought over the years as I have already disposed of most of those.

I can remember in the twentieth century buying traditional fat quarters to make into quilts.  However, by the time FoQ started I had moved on to more exotic fare.  Here are some of the things I bought which I still have.  Many of them will probably not get used now but when I pressed them in order to photograph them I was quite surprised how many pieces I had cut into.  I think quite a few have ended up in Journal Quilts such as this one of pine trees.

This includes pieces of hand-dyed fine cotton which I think were sold by a Dutch or German maker.

I will not deny that I have bought those packs of fat quarters already chosen by the sellers. I have hunted for ones that go together and remember that yellow used to be a difficult colour to find.   I used to like the batiks that Kalaidescope sold and would buy them without knowing what I would make from them..  I have a lap quilt that I use every evening in the sitting room which is made from them.

I did once buy a small sewing machine at a show but it was too simple, even as a back-up, so I sold it.  I have never bought a machine at FoQ although my sister bought herself a new Bernina one year.  I used to go and badger the Bernina people with questions, especially about using the needle threader which in twenty years of owning my machine, I have never learnt how to do!

I think every visitor to FoQ has their favourite places to shop.  I learnt early on that the best way to tackle the crowds was to do one's shopping in the morning while everyone was busy examining the quilts and to then look at the displays later by which time people had often gravitated to the shopping. I also reached a point where I was buying fabrics other than cotton and I frequently spent money on silk fabric.

Then I decided it was the threads that I wanted.  I now have a large collection of threads of different weights which have been wonderful.  I need to think how to dispose of them because I am finding thread a hand sewing needle difficult, especially tying the knot.  I have a friend who has expressed interest in them but she has not seen them yet.

Several years ago using rusted fabrics was all the fashion.  I did some rust dyeing myself but then decided it was better to buy the fabric as I did not really have suitable objects to use and the method is also quite tricky and requires the weather to be right.

And finally, I was often tempted by what the exhibitors with their own galleries were showing.  Just one example.  This is Liz Hewitt who did wonderful things with African cloth she sourced herself.  I think she has moved on to other things now and I have to confess that I have not found a use for the three pieces I bought.

Still sitting and stroking fabric is what one of my mother's friends told me she used to do when she could no longer quilt.  I am wondering how many of you are sitting and stroking what you have bought, given I am writing this on the first day of this year's Festival.  And I hope that if you are you can find a use for it.  I will write a further post about the galleries of invited people as that is what I really came to like most.

The Festival of Quilts
Part 1

I love the Festival of Quilts, having been very involved in its early days.  Unfortunately my mobility issues meant I had to stop attending several years ago and I really miss it.  There came a point when I realised it was not a good idea to be driving round the countryside on my own and as I have always got sick on coaches, going with a group was not an option.  I used to say the event was like a school reunion!  So I am quite envious of those of you who are there this week.

I know the first Festival was held in 2003 which was when I was on QGBI’s PR committee.  Actually, I remember the first time I heard about it was when Andrew Salmon addressed the Guild AGM to tell us what was proposed.  I guess that was in 2002.  I suspect many people did not realise then what a major event it would become.  I had one great advantage in that I lived an hour’s drive away from the NEC so it was ‘commutable’, particularly early in the day.   As a committee member I got some perks including being able to view the exhibits in the hour before the punters were let in and a chance to get to know many of the stall holders.  I also learnt a great deal about how shows are run as I spent time on the Guild stand and was involved in setting up and breaking down.  The stand that was designed to attract members was situated at the front of the Hall so you could see everyone arriving.

I entered quilts in the competitions a few times although they were not particularly good ones.  In some cases they were very derivative and each time I had trouble wondering what class they should be going in.  Was my effort an ‘innovative’ quilt or just ‘contemporary’?  I used to dither about this but at that time so did lots of other people so I knew I was not alone.  I enjoyed the whole process of getting the entry to the NEC and of collecting it at the end of the Festival.  I always insisted on hand delivery and collection because I had heard so many stories about quilts getting lost.  This is At the Bay, my 2003 entry which was about the New Zealand landscape. As you can see, it is very much a product of a workshop, in this case an Alicia Merrett one at Bramble Patch.

I used to drive to the industrial estate somewhere on the edge of Birmingham where the couriers were, with my quilt in its approved wrappings.  I would try and do something else in the area to make the trip a day’s outing.  One year I found two National Trust properties on the edge of Warwick and visited both.   Collecting the quilt at the end was another interesting experience.  As I was on the main Guild stand at the front entrance I can remember standing there for hours being able to see my quilt but not collect it!  Later the collecting process was moved to one of the other halls which made things easier and a bit quieter.

In 2004 I entered Misty Morning which I had made in silk fabrics given to me after our house fire by a woman who ran a wedding dress business in our village.  It was a whole packer's box and I never managed to use all of the fabric although I almost ran out of some 'colourways'.  In the end I gave the remainder to Penwith College.

When we moved to Cornwall in 2006 I obviously had to rethink how I got to the NEC.  First I had to take my quilt to the carrier’s depot near Truro. As I remember it was quite difficult to find the depot and the firm who did the carrying turned out to be one whose lorries we were familiar with from driving up and down the motorway and which we had always associated with cauliflowers!

This is Colours of the Coromandel based on the trip I had made to New Zealand earlier that year.  It began as a Journal Quilt and then I did a bigger version.  I seem only to have a photo of the journal quilt version.

The week of the Festival I would drive up to visit my sister in Shropshire for a few days.  I needed the car for all the shopping! This would enable us to visit the exhibition at the Minerva Arts Centre in Llanidloes as well as exploring the Shropshire countryside.  In return I would run a session for her village craft group although that was quite a challenge as only one person was a quilter and people had different interests and levels of skill.  Rotary cutters were new to almost all, for example.  I had never taught quilting although I worked in adult education for many years and I quickly learnt some basic principles about how to deal with beginners who want something ‘finished’ at the end of two hours.  I would teach them how to make small objects such as book covers as this did not require you to be a quilter.

 My sister and I usually then went to Festival for the first day by train.  From where she lives this could involve three trains: one to Shrewsbury, a second to Wolverhampton and possibly a third from there to the NEC.  The trains were always full of people going to the Festival although as this was a very different part of the country I rarely knew anyone.  Of course, it also depended on the trains running smoothly.  There was one year when on the way home we broke down in the middle of the countryside for some considerable time.  I remember learning a lot about sewage systems because the young woman sitting opposite us worked for a waste management firm.   Once at the NEC we would join a very long queue even though we had bought tickets in advance but I always saw people I knew so it was very sociable.  After Day One I would spend another day with my sister and then drive back on Saturday morning to have two more days.  I developed strategies for dealing with the crowds.  Always do your shopping first and look at the quilts later as most people ‘do’ the quilts first and then the shopping.  With three days available rushing through things was not such an issue.

I would then have another day with my sister and first thing on Saturday morning I would drive back to the NEC for two days.  I know one year I stayed in Meriden and another in one of the hotels at the NEC.  That was better in a way as it meant I could meet up with other quilters and then get to and from the Halls by coach.

I plan another post on the activities I did in the years I went and I have recently found a lot of my 'shopping', some of which I have never used, so I will try to photograph thins.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

My life with the Quilters Guild 3: Cornwall


By 2006 when we moved to Cornwall, I had finished my turn on the committee.  I already knew that quilting in Cornwall was pretty traditional so I did not join a local group and I think I only ever went to one area meeting as it was held right at the other end of Cornwall.  Along with other people I made a few attempts to get the Guild to offer something more local for those of us in the far west. But the numbers were too small and travelling times difficult.

At this point I began to play an active role in Contemporary Quilt and enthusiastically did the Journal Quilt project for some years.   I photographed all the quilts as I made them so here are a few examples.  I even made a little book with photos and the explanations we had to supply and took this with me to New Zealand.  It was a really good way of showing people what I had been up to as well as giving me a good record.

In 2008 I made my last trip to New Zealand and this inspired two/  This one of Hahei Beach complete with shells I collected there, is of a beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.  And this one was inspired by the same area but by the colours rather than the forms.  I then did a large version of this and entered it into FOQ.

I have always found the Cornish landscape provides plenty of ideas. I used to walk a lot, take photographs and do some drawing.  Here are a couple of quilts that reflect this interest.

This one is of the bulb fields at the bottom of the hill near here.  Bulb growing was an important industry in these parts.

Other journal quilts had themes related to the coastal scenery

and fishing:

while I also did some inspired by the moors.

 I even had an exhibition with another St Ives person  I put a lot of  journal quilts in this and a couple of larger ones.. I had the journal quilts framed on the advice of a school friend who ran a craft gallery in New Zealand.  I made postcards of them and these sold very well but unfortunately I did not sell any quilts.  I think a lot of this was because English people do not buy textiles.  New Zealanders do.  I still have a number of these quilts and have been giving them away for 'big' birthday presents: fortieths, seventieths etc.

I also attended a couple of CQ summer schools where I did a lot of design work. They involved travelling which is why I did so few but I remember that on one occasion I stopped to buy lunch in, I think, Wolverhampton and got absolutely drowned getting from the car park to the bakery.  I had to change my clothes before I continued the journey and was glad I had a suitcase of stuff with me.  After a number of years these Summer School are becoming confused with workshops I did at Cowslip so I do not have any photographs.

I stopped doing Journal Quilts when one senior member of the group said I should work bigger.  It was true that I had explored a lot of techniques. and I did make one or two larger ones. Then I was diagnosed with a rare condition called Inclusion Body Myositis which has been called ‘Alzheimers of the muscles’.  It meant I had to stop driving about three years ago which meant I could not get to any Guild events nor to the Festival of Quilts. I also had to give up walking and that was what had inspired much of my work.  

However, I keep up my membership of the Guild as I regard it as a donation to charity.  It is good to read about new trends and general quilting activities but I have to agree with the statement in the latest issue of The Quilter about ageing volunteers as I have always been the 'median' age of the membership, i.e. it has got older as I have got older.  I know this is happening to a lot of organisations that rely on volunteers to run them.  People's ways of life change and these days with most women working and changing patterns of leisure I can see why people do not join organisations like they used to.  I know the Women's Institute has had a new lease of life and I was interested to read that the Guild is now questioning whether it should still have an AGM that runs over a complete weekend.  I am sure the Guild will continue and I think that the emergence of special interest groups is definitely the way to go.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

My life with the Quilters Guild 2: Northamptonshire


We moved to Northamptonshire from Oxfordshire in 1995 because I was working at the Open University in Milton Keynes and having us both commuting in opposite directions was too expensive.  (My husband always worked in London.)  The move was a bit complicated and we had to house mind for a few weeks.  While doing that there was an exhibition at Sulgrave Manor.  It was by a group called Danetree Quilters and the standard of work was extremely high.  This led to me joining a quilting group for the only time in my life.  I thought it would be a good way of meeting people.  It was, and as I quickly learned that several people were involved with City and Guilds, it gave me some support as I struggled to do Part 1, Patchwork and Quilting by distance learning.  As people in the group belonged to the Guild I began to attend regional events although I was quite passive.  Within a year of moving I was made redundant from the OU and had to return to working in London which meant four hours a day commuting.  Not good news and I had to give up on City and Guilds.  Then in 2001 I was made redundant again and decided not to get another full-time job.

That is when I really got involved with the Guild.  One of the members of Danetree Quilters was Sheila Acton who was the national PR person.  She had a committee for which she could choose the members and she persuaded me to join it.   It opened all sorts of doors for me.  I think I had a title of Exhibition Officer or similar.  A lot of the work was paperwork and telephoning but I also became involved with various shows. I met a lot of people who were involved at national level, some of whom became real friends.  I have memories of going to meetings in people’s houses including Margaret Armstrong, president when I began who had a National Collection of hellebores and Fay Alcock who took over from her.

I have a lot of catalogues for Guild exhibitions at this time although I know I did not attend them all.  Sheila and I drove up to Dean Clough one Saturday to the opening of 'Transforming Tradition' the Guild's exhibition in 2002.  It was interesting to see the inside of Dean Clough and to realise what limited space the Guild had there.

Looking at these catalogues again after more than ten years I remember who the 'big names' in quilting were at that time.  Fascinating to look back.

I also attended several Guild AGMs at this time. They were another good way of meeting people and of going to new places.  On one occasion someone hired a mini-bus and a husband drove a group of us from Region 7 to somewhere on the South Coast, possibly Eastbourne.   I remember that one of these conferences was the silver jubilee of the Guild so we were asked to wear something silver to the dinner.  I seem to remember I bought a silver-coloured top from a charity shop in Daventry. I also know I sat next to Linda Kemshall at one of the dinners.  I had already met her but this turned into a hilarious evening and she remained a friend within the quilting world.

My time in Northants was my most active time in the Guild because it was easy to get to events and I knew a lot of the people regionally.  Everything changed when we moved to Cornwall at the beginning of 2006 although I had expected it to because of geography and because about the time we moved I attended a local exhibition and realised that quilting down here had a very traditional approach.  As I was always more interested in 'slash and burn' as my husband calls it, I knew joining a group would not really be me and I soon found that the Guild had a very minor presence down here.