Sunday 23 August 2009

Quilt show report

Just back from a lovely trip to Birmingham. The fantastic Festival of Quilts at the NEC drew me there, but also had a nice visit with relatives and checked out the Warehouse Café and ate at Jyoti's (fantastic Indian vegetarian restaurant and sweet centre- 1045 Stratford Road). We’d been to the Jyoti's before, at the old premises, and the food is just wonderful. I recommend the pani puri, and the bhajiya selection is both many and varied as well as extremely tasty.

The Warehouse Café was new to us- how have we overlooked it for 15 years? The raspberry vegan milkshake is perfect on a hot day, and I love the mis-matched table and chair theme they’ve got going. And the wholefoods shop next door was convenient for travel snacks.

But for the main attraction: Festival of Quilts 2009 was exhausting, in a very good way. I’m not much of a quilter, but the stuff on show was so impressive. A friend in the Embroiderers Guild had told me about last year’s show, and this one more than lived up to my expectation. I arrived early, around 10:30, and before noon I was already suffering from inspiration overload. My pictures don’t do justice to everything there.

swag from trip to BirminghamBest thing at the show: Fair Trade Fabric Ltd stall! For years, I’ve been reluctant to buy non-fair trade fabric, but not been able to find fair trade fabrics for sale. It looks like things are changing for the better! The fabric is lovely to touch and I suspect it will be wonderful to work with. Now I need to find a project to make with it!

A confession: I was really bad and didn’t buy a catalog on the way in, and when I was leaving, my mind was too numb to remember to buy one then; so I’ve been unfortunately negligent in crediting the quilters whose work I photographed and put my flickr page, and I also can’t credit anyone on my blog. How embarrassing.

Quilting stuff to note:

  • Loads of ideas for yo-yos or Suffolk puffs, as flowers, berries, sea urchins and as yo-yos

  • Folding fabric, almost like origami, so a diagonal square stands out from the background square

  • Fabric manipulated so it doesn’t lay flat: peaks, folds, puffs, wrinkles, tassels, ribbons, etc.

  • Frayed edges- a stall was calling it ‘fake chenille’- a figurative quilt used it as a ploughed field, another had a frayed edge fringe

  • The best of show group quilt wonderfully put together, lovely soft colours (which I see as modern- not part of my traditional quilting lingo). Beautiful. I overhead a criticism that it was a great quilt, but not original, and so of course started thinking of the role of originality in art. And it strikes me that any quilt made here today is art, as in it isn’t simply a functional item. If you’re cold in bed, you buy a £20 duvet and cover set. Quilts are items people just want to make.

  • A book made of quilt squares- Flowers of Malaysia- I especially loved the bamboo, like the strip quilts, but representational and not static

  • There are so many ways to represent animals on quilts. I loved the Animal-tastic quilt, and another quilt with a snail with bead eyes

  • Morsbags were being made! They targeted the audience well, as I noticed several people with lovely quilted bags

  • Plenty of products and even a demonstration area on printing/dyeing/colouring fabric. Maybe I can make some of my horded fabrics more exciting

  • Embroidered patches integrated into larger quilts, as well as embroidery as an additional element in the quilting

The only bad point of the day is that I didn’t find any nylon embroidery ribbon. I did notice some silk embroidery ribbon, but I feel too sorry for the silk worms to buy that. Shall have to keep looking.

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