Thursday, 23 August 2018

My Festival of Quilts Experience: Part Two

Find part one of my Festival of Quilts experience here.  As well as the multitude of competition quilts at Festival of Quilts, there are galleries scattered throughout the exhibition space.  They were very varied and there was something for everyone from the historical tradition of the 1718 Silk Patchwork Coverlet through to the experimental work of the latest textile graduates from City Guilds level three where the quilting boundaries were challenged.  I didn't view them all, there isn't enough time in one day to see everything so what I saw was a mix of purposeful and random!

Echos of Lights

Shizuko Kuroha's quilt gallery, 'Indigo and Sarasa; Pieces of my Life', felt like a calm, quiet, self-contained space amidst the bustle of a busy show.  The limited colour palette and play with light and dark made it a very cohesive gallery and each quilt was an artwork that I could look at for a long time and still see more.  She uses lots of antique indigo dyed textiles and this was the first time her work had been shown in the UK.

Cosmos II

Cosmos (close up)

Wish for the Beautiful Earth

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Quilt Nihon gallery which showed quilts from a prestigious international contest hosted in Japan.  There are two categories: Innovated Traditional Quilt and Contemporary Quilt and one of the judges was Suzuko Koseki, a quilting legend for me.  My absolute favourite from the many incredible quilts was 366 Days by Yuko Eguchi:

I love the crazy, tumbled, organised nature of this quilt!  The mix of hand and machine piecing, applique, pen and hand quilting, plus the many favourite fabric prints that I recognised made this quilt call out to me!

Lots of elements appealed to me in this next quilt,  'Many Cherries in the Garden', by Takeko Sato.  It is a riot of beautifully executed colour and construction.

Techniques include: crochet, appliqué, embroidery, ruching flower, hand piecing, hand quilting.

There 1718 Silk Patchwork Coverlet was a must-see for everyone.  It was displayed flat and covered with a protective screen which did make it suitable for lots of people to view at a time, and it was surprisingly vibrant after so many years.

I felt like I had seen tonnes of quilts and inspiration, and then I looked on Instagram at what had other people shared, and then I realised how little I had seen!  I think next year, I will add an overnight stay and split my viewing across two days.  I saw a few other galleries, no more photos as I did take time to put my phone down. Ruth Singer's Criminal Quilts project was totally absorbing, I wish I'd spent longer there.  I would also like to have browsed a few more shops, there are so many specialists in one place, it seemed a shame not to see more. One thing that does require time is the socialising!  I saw so many people I knew- from  Fat Quarterly retreats, Threadhouse, South West Modern Quilt Guild,  Instagram.  I thought finding people would be like the proverbial needle and haystack but actually, I bumped into everyone who I even vaguely knew was going to be there on Thursday.  That's the 'festival' element, I felt truly with my tribe.  

An extra social event was taking part in the Great British Quilter/Aurifil Threadbox launch (a 'live' video of the event can be seen here).  You can find the box at Mybearpaw shop.

Picture used with kind permission of Sarah Ashford
This was huge fun and a chance for me to meet some of the GBQ talent in person for the first time: left to right, Jenni Smith, Karen Lewis, Charlie Mankin, Jo Avery, Sarah Ashford, me, Carolyn Foster and Lucy Brennan.  Thank you to Sarah and Charlie for doing an amazing super job organising and coordinating this.  I also met Sarah/Sariditty who will be the fourth teacher at the January 2019 Threadhouse retreat, she was really lovely!

So as a first timer, here are my top tips for Festival of Quilts;
  • Buy an advance ticket and a show plan.
  • Plan your shopping. The Festival of Quilts website includes an alphabetical shop inventory and their stand number. I made a list on my phone, it focuses your mind!
  • Workshops usually need pre booking but there are on the day places to take part in mini makes or talks to listen to.
  • It is busy, but not unmanageable - I'm not a lover of crowds.  The busiest point is in the middle of the day.  I was there until closing time at 5.30pm, much quieter then, ditto for the start of the day.
  • Check the gallery info before you come so you can make sure you don't miss your favourite.  But also be prepared to go rogue into an unknown gallery, you never know what you might find.
  • Competition category winners weren't revealed until after 2pm on Thursday, those quilts were covered until then.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing, it's warm and there's a lot of time walking and standing.  There were some areas to sit, especially in the NEC area, but I didn't want to miss anything and I was on my feet all day.
  • Don't plan anything for the day after.  I was so tired!
  • Take plenty of snacks and water, especially if you are on a restricted diet (veggie/vegan/gluten free). Popular eating times create long queues and there is a limited choice. There was a coffee bar in the FOQ hall on the Lewis and Irene stand (great idea!) and in the VIP ticketed area.
  • If sitting and a moment of quiet is a big factor for you, consider a VIP ticket, less queuing, cafe/seating area.  It is a lot more expensive but it may well be worth it.
I didn't even think about the workshops this year, but with a two-day visit (I'm planning a two-day ticket for next year) I think I will.  Quilter's Guild members get first pick of workshops (some are very quick to sell out) and discount on tickets too.  I found the show so much more than the shopping experience.  I went to the Knitting and Stitching show at Ally Pall last summer and whilst I enjoyed it, there was no social element.  I am going to view Festival of Quilts more as a specialist holiday where I get reunited with my people, admire wonderful creations, marvel at the galleries and leave inspired by the talent and excited to create.


  1. Loved your post, and all the beautiful sharing of quilt - and friend pics! Sounded like a lot of fun! Enjoy resting up!

    1. It was such a positive experience, thank you Sigi!

  2. Warning: I did two days last year and could still have done with more time.

    1. Ha ha! I did think that, but my hotel budget is probably limited to one night!

  3. I miss this show so much! Thank you for sharing photos.


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