Monday, 10 August 2015

Festival of Quilts 2015 – Learning, Listening, Looking (and Lots of Liberty)

This year’s trip to Festival of Quilts is over and I don’t really know how to sum it up. There were some good bits (such as learning new skills, meeting up with friends and attending a Kaffe Fassett talk) but overall I just feel a bit meh about it and I’m not sure why. 

My trip was over two days and each morning was spent in a half day workshop. The first one was New York Beauty with Judi Mendelssohn and covered foundation paper piecing and curved piecing. This was my only third attempt at foundation paper piecing and was the first one where I have managed to get neat ¼" seams thanks to Judi’s excellent teaching. The majority of the time in the class was spent doing the foundation piecing, but the latter part was learning how to piece curves. Whilst I don’t know if I will make a New York Beauty pattern, I can see how the techniques would be transferable to other designs such as mini flying geese, Drunkard’s Path or apple cores.

The second workshop was with Sarah Humphreys and was free motion quilting. I could have spent much longer in this class and was just starting to get into the swing of it when it was time to pack up. We started off trying various patterns and it soon became apparent that each of us found some patterns easier than others. I think I tend to favour variations on straight line free motion quilting – I was happier with "square spirals" than with curves and my pebbles/bubbles (in the bottom right of the piece) soon turned into bricks/boulders and looked more like wall than a pebbly beach. 

One advantage of having to be in the NEC for workshops at 9.30am was being able to get a last minute ticket for the Kaffe Fassett talk "Past & Present: Colour in Design". This was supposed to be for 45 minutes, but lasted for nearly an hour. The talk was most interesting and covered the background to the Kaffe Fassett Collective, an insight into where he finds inspiration and a bit about his exhibition at the York Quilt Museum. It was illustrated with plenty of slides including many gloriously colourful scenes.

As to be expected at Festival of Quilts, there were some stunning quilts on display but I took no photos this year as there were either too many people or I had too many bags. There were some quilts that just took my breath away with the detail in their piecing or quilting and there were some items that just left me asking "Why?". I was hoping to come away full of inspiration from the quilts, but instead I came away with the realisation of my own limitations in terms of time, space or skill to produce such quilts. Another blogger has described it as being "intimidated by perfection" and I think this is an excellent description of how I feel.

Of course, no trip to Festival of Quilts would be complete without a bit of shopping. This year I didn’t browse the stands and instead focused on a few key stands. First up was some Liberty for my stash – lots of Liberty in fact. There were some quarter metres of sale designs (£8/m) from Fabrics Galore, some £1 scrap pieces from Alice Caroline and some further small pieces from Worn and Washed (who were a new-to-me supplier).

Other purchases (most of which were on my shopping list) were some Bosal R-form, Oakshott charm packs, Kaffe Fassett shot cotton scraps, a couple of reels of Aurifil, a bobbin ring, fine glue dispensers (for if I try glue basting when piecing) and a really sweet pair of Ernest Wright scissors.

My bargain of the trip had to be the first issue of Simply Moderne magazine as it came with a free pack of Aurifil thread (I think I was one of the last to get the offer as there were only five thread packs left). The magazine has some lovely photos for inspiration, but this issue has very few UK-specific features, so I’m not sure if I will be tempted to get future issues.

There were also a few freebies to be had – Fusible Warm Fleece and Steam-a-Seam from the Warm Company and a couple of mini charm packs from the Moda Bakeshop.

All in all, I enjoyed the workshops and lectures at this year's trip to Festival of Quilts and am pleased with the additions to my Liberty stash. By not taking photos of the quilts and not browsing all of the stands, I wonder if I feel guilty that I have not made the most of my trip, even though it probably would have resulted in me buying more fabric I don't really need.

Festival of Quilts seems very keen to put quilts into different categories – contemporary, modern, art, miniature, traditional, etc – and has made me think about what type of quilter I want to be. After some contemplating on the train home, I think I want to produce “useful” quilts; quilts that will be used and not ones to be admired from a distance accompanied by do not touch signs. At the moment I can't see myself spending many months trying to produce just one quilt to show standards and would rather use that time making several quilts that will be used and loved. With that in mind, it was serendipitous to come home to news that I have new great niece and will finally (after several great nephews) be able to use some of the girly colours in my stash.


  1. Brilliant post. I went to FoQ last year for the first time ( Ive only been quilting since 2012) and I felt a bit intimidated as well. I left feeling that my quilting had a long way to go to get to those standards. However, myh quilts are made specifically for their recipients and made with lots of thought and love, so they tend to overlook the imperfections.
    Its certainly worth going tho .

  2. Great write up and I'm very jealous of your Liberty haul! I agree with you about making useful quilts, art quilts just don't do it for me, and as I get more confident I'm making bigger quilts so they're more useful!

  3. very interesting reading what you thought about the show and can see the classes were well worth attending, wish I could get my head around paper piecing. Good buys too. Thinking about the Leah Day new class on craftsy, half price at the moment, she is meant to be very good. I seem to have a wide range of quilt likes, the miniature are very clever but would not appeal to me to do but all the other categories I enjoyed and took lots of photos. Maybe I will find my space soon when I have been quilting a bit longer. It was lovely to meet up with you

  4. A good post as it questions your motives, rather than thinking that you have to love all of the Festival. You don't have to. It's not for everyone. But there are still things you like about it though such as the socialising and workshops. I wonder if you plan on going next year and be specific about what you do again?
    Progress not perfection is always my motto :-) That's one of the reasons why I dropped the City & Guilds course.


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