Friday, 18 August 2017

Festival of Quilts 2017 + Tiny Piecing



Firstly, before moving on to the comfort of quilts, if you're reading from America, I just wanted to say how much I've been thinking of you after the awfulness that took place in Charlottesville last weekend and then Trump sinking to new lows in his response to it. I'm sending so much love your way if you've been left reeling from this. x

I hadn't been so sure whether I'd get to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this year, but I ended up going over the weekend with the unexpected company of my daughter, who is keen to absorb all the inspiration she can while in the midst of her Textiles GCSE. I usually find the hours of connecting train journeys, the walk through the strange dystopia that is the Birmingham NEC building, and then the sudden joyful overload of inspiration inside the Festival of Quilts to be both thrilling and surreal in equal measure, but it all felt more lovely and less surreal in my daughter's company and we giggled and chatted our way through the day and the journeys seemed too quickly over.

My daughter was more interested in the exhibition side of things than the shops (and I am too, but it's so easy to get side-tracked by the consumeristic imp that lives inside when it comes to sewing supplies!), so we devoted an hour to them at the end of the day and spent the rest of the day carefully combing through the aisles and stands of quilts, trying hard not to miss anything. We'd been so conscientious in this mission that I felt sure we'd left having hoovered up every little bit of inspiration that was there to be had, but on returning home and looking on Instagram, I saw that we'd actually still somehow missed many things. One of which was this portrait by Jenni Dutton. Jenni's work focused on exploring dementia through mixed media pieces and I still feel full of regret that I somehow missed seeing her work in person.

 

But to the bits that we did see: this princess-cut diamond quilt by Katherine Jones was one of the most extraordinary quilts I've ever seen. It was even more dazzling in real life.


One of the other highlights for both of us was The Egg, which was pieced by Hillary Goodwin and quilted by Rachael Dorr. The texture was fascinating and we found it hard not to touch it. It was difficult to grasp where the piecing ended and the quilting began - they seemed to have morphed deliciously into one.


Kumiko Frydl had a stand all to herself for her miniature quilts and they were so inspiring. All of the samples shared here were less than 30cm/12" square. 


Somehow the machine quilting on these mini quilts feels harder to comprehend that the piecing itself for me. It is just at such a minuscule scale, especially the seaweed quilting that lies in between the main design. I was left feeling fascinated by how Kumiko works and whether she has a vast magnifying glass attached to her machine.


Each year's festival has a slightly different feel, determined by the work that's been submitted and this year felt more weighted toward art quilts and modern quilts. Although the area I'm most drawn to in my quilts is traditional, there's something inspiring about viewing so much work that's not necessarily in my own comfort zone. The thing I took from it was that there's so much potential to make a quilt more wonderful with the quilting and that my own vision often stops when the piecing is completed. It was a slightly uncomfortable realisation to see that in doing so, I'm probably allowing a whole layer of extra interest to go unexplored. I'm slightly frustrated with myself that I didn't take any images to share with you that represent this, but I really loved it when people had envisioned a quilting design that worked like a jigsaw with the piecing - accentuating, complementing or contrasting with it, but never settling for an all-over-design that offered little conversation with the piecing.

I was left feeling it's an area I'd love to explore, but also with an awareness that I lack a natural vision for it - quilting is just never part of what I conjure up in my mind when creating a quilt. My fabric choices and relatively traditional piecing tend to mean that there's very little negative space to fill, but even if there was, I'm not sure I'd see the potential for what could go there. I wonder if you know of any books that you'd be happy to recommend for quilting inspiration? Or maybe a particular quilter's work that it would be good to study? I've been pondering this book by Angela Walters, but I'd love to hear if you have any recommendations. 

Throughout the day, my daughter spotted both Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably (I think she's absorbed their faces from the piles of quilting books around the house and perhaps Kaffe's exhibition of quilts at Standen earlier in the year, if there was a photo of him there). We didn't speak to either, but we were looking at some fabric near Kaffe while he was having a conversation with someone else and we heard an anecdote that made us laugh and that we shall keep in our pockets and which feels somehow more lovely than having spoken to him ourselves. I did have a brief chat with Anna Maria Horner, who was just as lovely as I'd imagined she might be. Seeing the crowds of people around her, my daughter asked me later if Anna Maria was the Beyonce of the quilting world. Pretty much :)


I think the quilt-related highlight of the day for me was seeing this framed tiny piecing. When I caught sight of it, I felt drawn to it with an almost magnetic force (that in retrospect, possible caused me to scuttle toward it, rather than maintaining a dignified walking pace). It was just as magical close up as it had looked from several metres away. The pieces were magnificently tiny and the fussy cutting and piecing quite stunning. The stars are pieced from beautiful silk ribbons, which were apparently popular for this use between 1880 - 1920. I don't feel I have adequate words to convey quite how breathtakingly lovely I find it and how ridiculously exciting it was to see it - giddy and heart-flippy don't quite capture it. I'm intending to have a go at recreating a few blocks at the same scale at some point soon - although probably not from ribbon as that's possibly one challenge too many! (FYI - the owner of this piece is Carolyn Gibbs - I'm so grateful she decided to share it at FoQ).


I've become more fascinated with miniature piecing projects recently (I have one appearing in a book I contributed to recently, that I'm looking forward to sharing with you soon) and when I was in the midst of writing my Eight Dials pattern, I had a go at creating a small version of the main block. This one uses Liberty Tana lawns and I quite like how three-dimensional the penultimate round of bulbous blooms makes it appear to be. I find it hard to show scale in photos, but here are a needle, thread and hand for an idea. There are 24 little pieces tucked into this rosette!


It always surprises me to find just how quickly tiny pieces come together - it's obvious because there are less stitches to be made, but I'd always thought that would be evened out by dealing with the tinier pieces, but somehow it's not, as it's never quite as fiddly as I imagine it to be (unlike making doll clothes, which make my fingers feel itchy with how fiddly it is).


I can't remember now how much I scaled down by, but here it is with the regular sized block. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this little piece, but I've enjoyed having it sitting on my desk for the last few months.


Did you go to FoQ? What was your favourite piece?

Wishing you a happy weekend,
Florence x

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for your comments about Charlottesville. I am looking forward to having a go at your 8 dials next spring, once life settles down. Last time we were in London, we took a wrong turn at the 7 dials and ended up walking down a street of very risque shops. My daughter said, "just close your eyes and keep moving, mom". It was certainly memorable! Love your work, Florence. I'm looking forward to visiting the Festival one day!!

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    1. That's so funny - I'm now thinking I must walk around with my eyes closed as I've never noticed anything risqué on any of the dials - just really lovely little boutiquey shops. But that would be going back to it's roots - I think when it was built the area wasn't entirely salubrious!

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  2. Such lovely images. Your mini quilting block is adorable. I demand you make more because they are so darn cute!!

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    1. I may answer that demand at some point in the future - thank you, Caroline :)

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  3. Thank you so much for sending your sympathies to us in America! It's a rough, scary time.

    As for the Festival of Quilts....wowwww, there are some amazingly talented people in the world!! (Including you in that!)

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  4. Thank you for sending love ... our current political climate in the U.S. is so disheartening. I've been sewing, quilting, and EPPing more than ever to try to escape, however briefly. I love your description of a "consumeristic imp" - I have one of those as well!

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    1. I'm so pleased you're finding a way to make it bearable on a day-to-day level. I did exactly that while processing the EU referendum and terrorist attacks on various places...it's such a good way of taking some time out, while also helping to absorb things, isn't it. I've currently stopped reading news relating to Brexit negotiations as I find them too cringe-inducing, so I now seem to be having a period of ostriching, rather than sewing...

      I'm reassured to read that the consumeristic imp is strong in others too - I think in some ways, it brings joy whichever way you look at it - I feel happy when I overcome it and buy nothing, but joy at my purchases when I give in to it!

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  5. I really enjoyed reading your blog post today, so interesting. Your miniature piece is simply gorgeous, I think I could look at it all day.

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    1. What a lovely thing to say - thank you so much, Judith. x

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  6. This was my second FOQ. I decided to do some workshops and I had a shopping list so I didn't spend as much time looking at the exhibitions as I did on my first awe inspiring visit and now regret it. I keep seeing photos on IG and thinking I didn't see that! I also think I would have got more from my visit I found it had been shared with someone.
    Interestingly I have become fascinated with tiny quilts, there is a lovely video on YouTube about the Talking quilts and one isn't a miniature quilt, quite beautiful.
    Finally I think you should frame your tiny piecing with some nice backing and a smart frame, after all it is a little piece of art

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    1. Ooh, thank you for mentioning that - I'll look it up later. Was the Talking Quilts bit part of last year's exhibition? I seem to remember that as a theme maybe?

      And thank you for the framing suggestion - I do need to find something to do with it and that may be it :)

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  7. Florence, that is you, ever so thoughtful. As an American, I find what is going on utterly depressing and infuriating. Living abroad, I at least have one layer of remove -- I don't know WHAT I'd do if I were back at home. Seeing Abraham Lincoln at the top of your post is sobering -- we seem not to have evolved at all from where we were when he was with us. Still, thanks to his extraordinary leadership, at least we're here at all!

    Thank you for relating your visit to the FoQ with your daughter. The pieces you showed us are indeed stunning, and I love hearing of your undignified scuttle to get close to the ribbon piece (as if you could ever do anything undignified!!!). And I just love your own miniature piece - I can't imagine , as it seems it WOULD have to be terribly fiddly. All i know is it is gorgeous.

    Happy weekend to you.

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    1. It feels like the world is moving backwards in many ways at the moment, doesn't it, and it's so disheartening.

      I can be totally undignified. Often! But that's lovely of you to say that you can't imagine it. I hope we'll meet in real life at some point and then I'm sure I'll inadvertently show you this side (possibly by scuttling towards you in greeting)! x

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  8. Thank you for sharing your mini's with us. They are simply wonderful and inspiring.Wishing you a nice EPP weekend.

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    1. Thank you :) I hope you had a lovely weekend too!

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    1. Just one is mine (although a few photos of it), so I hope I haven't misled you! But thank you :)

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  10. I've found that Philippa Naylor books are excellent for taking me to new places and challenges.

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    1. Thank you so much for the suggestion - her book looks excellent. It's now gone out of print (which always seems strange when a book has so many good reviews) and is selling for nearly £100, so I'll try and track it down at the library!

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  11. Thank you for your kind words for the US, Florence. Following the events in Virginia live on twitter last weekend was the worst 24 hours since the election - and that's really saying something since every single day since 20 Jan has brought some previously unimaginable and horrible news. But this...well. I am sometimes brought to tears by the kind words of people like you, sympathizing from afar, since most of the time I feel like apologizing to the entire world for the shambles that is the current US government.
    That said, thank you also for sharing your pictures and descriptions of this exhibit - wow! Did you have to back way up from that diamond quilt? It looks like it might overwhelm at close range. And the miniatures look stunning. I think I'd be carrying a big Holmes-style magnifying glass to examine them in great detail. Your own tiny block certainly does look three-dimensional! I was going to suggest a quilted coaster, but I don't know if I could bear to put a drink on it.

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    1. His ability to repeatedly shock with each new day is quite amazing, isn't it - it's now difficult to remember what papers covered before Trump, as he seems to generate daily front-page news. I feel so sad for you.

      You'd automatically think the diamond quilt would overwhelm up close, but somehow it didn't. In part because we were focusing on the quilting and also suddenly noticing some of the bright and extraordinary colours in the quilt. There are blues and corals in there that you don't register when looking from a distance, so it was fascinating to see them close-up and understand how the brilliance of the diamond had been achieved.

      Yes, something small like a drink's coaster could totally work. Oddly, with handmade, while I'm making something, I'll go to extraordinary lengths to protect things from spills/cat hair etc, but once something is finished, I don't mind it being used and aged, so a drink's coaster wouldn't be out of the question!

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  12. Thank you for your empathy for the current predicament we find ourselves in, in the USA. It is reassuring to hear a voice recognizing that not all of us voted for this man who continues to shame and embarrass us. More importantly, the danger he puts all of us in by his impulsive and dishonest actions, can not be overemphasized. So it was so lovely to turn my mind to something refreshingly different...these wonderful pictures from Birmingham! ... and ESPECIALLY your latest block from your Eight Dials pattern. I stand in awe! I am working on another block but it can't even begin to compare with this little tiny beauty! I am improving and learning though. Thanks again for another very interesting post.

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    1. It's so sad, isn't it. I really feel for you. I share your feelings of shame and embarrassment over the UK leaving the EU...although for now I've stopped watching how the negotiations are unfolding because it makes me cringe and there's so little we can do at the moment, which I guess is where our situation currently differs, as the voices attempting to be a counter-balance to Trump's lunacy feel like a really positive and necessary thing - I'm always so moved by the effort so many Americans are putting into trying to make their collective voice louder than Trump's.

      I can't wait to see your next block - I loved your last one, Rhonda (and I'm absolutely sure it can compare). x

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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