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.
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.
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).
Wishing you a happy weekend,