Monday, 3 September 2018

Festival of Quilts 2018

Shizuko Kuroha quilt

This post now seems very belated and odd - akin to relaying the tale of an Easter egg hunt in June (the use of relaying wasn't actually intentional, but I'm now leaving it there for your delight...or maybe just my own) - but I somehow didn't find a chance to post about Festival of Quilts right away, but it was too lovely to bypass altogether.

My feeling about FoQ is that it represents a mid-year Christmas on my calendar; when my alarm went off at 6am, I'd had less than two hours sleep because I was so excited about all the quilts I was going to see. I wasn't entirely sure this was normal (I often wonder what the 'normal people' who are so often used as an imaginary yardstick in life might look like...and perhaps whether they exist at all), but when I chatted to others who'd been, it seems it's actually a common feeling - perhaps you have to go along at least once to believe it though - I don't think I had much anticipatory excitement the first year.

Due to my daughter and I both suffering with back pain (I'm unsure how that coincided when they were unrelated), it ended up being a much briefer day than either of us had been hoping for and we missed out a few chunks of the exhibition and the majority of the stalls, so I am looking forward to next year already, so what follows is a brief review from a brief viewing.

By far my favourite part of this year's festival was Shizuko Kuroha's exhibition. Her work appeared three-dimensional, highly textured and was simultaneously both simple and complex: simple in its restrained colour palette and repetitive use of shapes; complex in the sense of depth and movement her work produced.

Shizuko Kuroha quilt

Shizuko was on her stand and I got to see her, from the back of a crowd three-people deep, demonstrating her piecing technique. I wasn't quite tall enough to catch most of it, but the occasional glimpse when someone in front of me moved their head somehow made it even more captivating and special.

Shizuko Kuroha quilt

Shizuko Kuroha quilt

Here's a close up of some of her piecing below - you can see that the indigo fabrics she's working with are actually quite thick with a more coarse and open weave than regular quilting cotton - it added a delicious texture, which seems to have been lost in the photographs. I later bought her book from Kaleidoscope Books and, while I paid, my daughter delighted in rearranging their stand slightly to leave my own book (which was fun to see in stock, although it's not listed on their website for me to link to here) in a more prominent position while I looked the other way, my cheeks gently burning. I do the same with my sister's poetry books in every bookshop I visit, but it's somehow mortifying when it's your own book, although at the same time nice to have someone so proud of you that they want to do it.

Shizuko Kuroha quilt

My other favourites were the parade of quilts made from the 1718 Coverlet pattern (there's a post showing photos of the original when it was on display at the American Museum in Bath, here) - I think there were about a dozen versions at the festival and they'd been displayed so that you could look down the line of them and see them disappearing into the distance in all their different incarnations. 

1718 Coverlets

I enjoyed seeing my friend, Debs McGuire's, version in person, having watched it come together on Instagram. There were lovely little details that I hadn't appreciated in the photos - such as her inclusion of her golden retriever, which made me laugh (you can see it just beneath the large star on the right hand side). Debs later told me that it also has all their other pets in there too - I love that a historic pattern has been replicated, but also personalised and reinvented. Each maker was also able to put their own initials and the year on the front of the quilt, as that had been a feature of the original (you can see this three blocks above the central 8-pointed star block).

1718 Coverlet by Debs McGuire

I loved this version in vibrant silks too, this one featuring the original year and initials. From memory, I think it may have been pieced at a smaller scale than the other quilts. I'm really embarrassed not to have taken a photo of the maker's name for this one, so if you know it, please do let me know in the comments so that I can add it to the post.


I always love seeing quilts using Kaffe Fassett prints and this one, 'Moroccan Lattice' by Sharon Elliot, jumped out at me because the quilting had produced a lovely puffy effect.

Moroccan Lattice by Sharon Elliot


One of my favourite pieces was this patchwork quilt, maker unknown, made between 1800-1820, displayed in the Quilter's Guild exhibition. It features four different sizes of half-square triangle and I love the effect this gives - it's such a simple quilt, but it would be fairly high on my list of Quilts I'd Like to Make.

1800 patchwork quilt

As always, when I see them up close, I adore the dress fabrics that these quilts included. These little prints never seem readily available for dressmaking now - the only place I ever see anything coming close is at The Cloth House in London, many of which I think may be imported from India. The drape is often a bit stiffer than what I'd want for dressmaking though - I'm usually on the hunt for things more akin to rayon or silk de chine than cotton.

1800 patchwork quilt

In the miniatures section, 'Mini Liberty Kantha' by Sorcha Torrens jumped out at me. You don't really get a sense of scale in this photo, although it certainly wasn't the smallest piecing by a long way - but the texture of those tiny kantha stitches was just lovely and I found myself studying it for a long time. Also, liberty prints...

Liberty Kantha by Sorcha Torrens

The turquoise stitches on this green patch just seem to make the print so much richer.


I loved 'Hundreds & Thousands of Scraps' by Ann Pill.

Hundreds and Thousands Anne Pill
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And I thought 'Starburst' by Elizabeth Wife was really impactful - it always fascinates me when people create a whole extra layer of interest and movement through the quilting. The quilting part just never even enters my head when I'm planning a quilt - I'm focused entirely on the piecing. Last year, I came away from Festival of Quilts determined to work on it...sadly, nothing actually came of having had that thought, but I'm re-inspired to try harder.


This is really just a sprinkling of what we saw and loved - there were so many more that I want to share here, but I realised afterwards that I didn't actually take many photos, even though at the time it felt like I had my camera out constantly.

I'd wanted to choose some fabrics for my next quilt while I was there, but felt overwhelmed by the vast number of beautiful Kaffe Fassett prints on the Cotton Patch stand and the lack of time for deliberation when my daughter's back was in pain, so I temporarily put my plan in storage and we headed home. This turned out to be no bad thing, as I've since bought a quilt's worth of Liberty's recent A Palace Garden range and feel very excited by the beautiful prints - they are quite traditional with big blousey flowers, but the background colours seem to make them feel contemporary. They remind me a little of Gertrude Made's Outback Wife collection, which I fell in love with (although I never quite fell in love with the feel of the barkcloth they were printed on, so I sold mine, but feel full of regret every time I see someone using them in a quilt).

Liberty A Palace Garden Tana Lawn

I'm quite a way into this project and will hopefully post about it next time, including stockists, as the above was all I got from Liberty (the cupboard was very, very bare!), so I've been on several other sites getting cuts of different prints from the range.

Did you go to FoQ this year? Which was your favourite quilt?

Florence x

10 comments:

  1. Wow these are all incredible! I’d love to visit the festival of quilts some day, but in the meantime thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures! I love the Kaffe Fasset fabrics.

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    1. I do too - the world feels a better place with his fabrics in it. I was very worried when Free Spirit ran into problems earlier in the year and it looked like they may go out of print!

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  2. I did go this year but have very few photos to show for it for some unknown reason! I have found over the last few years that going on a Sunday is so much quieter than the earlier days. Luckily we're quite close so I can get there as it opens too. I loved the Ann Pill quilt.

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    1. I think the first year I went was on a Sunday and it was blissfully quiet, although it's never quite so good for trains when coming from a long way. Lucky you being so close - I think I'd go twice if I was nearby. x

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  3. I have re- fallen in love with Shizuko's quilts. Thanks for the pictures and detail photos!

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  4. Lovely post and pictures as always. I sympathise with your back, mine was fine until this morning when I saw the usual old man and his dog who sits outside the Tabac. He was on his knees and trying to get up, he always buys a bottle of water for his dog. Anyway I tried to help him but couldn't manage, another lady joined in to no avail until a kindly road sweeper gave us a hand. In France there is a 'Good Samaritan' act wherein you should help others or risk a fine....I did my bit and now my back is letting me know! b.t.w. he is not an alcoholic.....just old. His dog is beautiful.

    Linda in France

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  5. I think that I look forward to the Festival of quilts more than Christmas and this year I went for two days. Quilty bliss!! Lovely post. Looking forward to seeing your next quilty project! :-)

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  6. Another Shizuko Kuroha fan here. I loved the complexity and really quite humble materials.

    I went on the Friday and found it busy in places but relatively quiet in others.

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  7. Thank you for the post and photos! We're making plans to go next year! I hope you're back is better and you are able to see everything! (I have occasional back problems, strained low back, etc. Regular yoga classes do wonders for me. And this may sound really weird, but I do a squat every day while I blow-dry my hair. It stretches out my hips and low back, and I never forget to do it. I haven't had a problem with my low back since I started doing it, several months now. A yoga teacher told us that people in cultures that squat as a resting posture rarely have back problems ...)

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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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