Quilting was not something that I ever thought I would get into. It was something my mom and grandma did. Literally. I watched them make a quilt when I was a kid; it looked like a whole lot of fiddly, snippy, stitchie stuff; it looked tedious and boring. That quilt seemed to take forever! Sewing didn’t appeal to me, at all. Welding and using power tools in Industrial Arts class were trumped sewing some stupid skirt I would never wear (sorry Home Ec. teachers).
How did I get into quilting, then? I moved.
That’s pretty much it. We’ve moved a lot, and each relocation requires effort to build a social network. You can’t just unpack the boxes, sit in your house, and wait for the neighbours to pop over & invite you out to play. It takes work.
On our most recent move, I searched for a social connection and found a very active community of quilters. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this has become the backbone of my social life in our little village. I’m now hooked! It took some digging, but look what I found!
We hopped in the car and went to Llangollen*! Quiltfest 2016, the annual show of The Quilters Guild, which has over 7,000 members across the UK. There were two shows for the price of one: free! On a pissy, misty, rainy day, this is an excellent indoor, budget-friendly form of entertainment.
When I say these aren’t your grandma’s quilts, I mean no offence. Some of you grandmas truly rock, and your quilts are cool, too. I’m saying that we didn’t see any of the traditional Flying Geese, Log Cabin, or Nine Block patterns. The quilts on display were contemporary art quilts.
Members of the Wrexham Quilting Circle, a smaller, regional group, had a separate exhibit at the Llangollen Museum and Art Gallery. Having a good time chatting with the host who showed me around took precedence over pictures. Good chatter, bad blogger.
Jenny Hewer’s free style scrappy piece grew from the off-centre star (left) with just a touch of the classic Flying Geese pattern.
The main event was at the very impressive Pafiliwn Llangollen Pavilion. Each day, exhibition attendees were provided the opportunity to Meet The Makers. Judith Barker was warm and friendly, and quick to discuss inspiration, technique, tricks, and tools. In a brief time, I picked up some advice for embellishing with metallic thread, the importance of squaring up a piece, and the value of the mere suggestion of a storm of swallows or the movement of water. Her work has been shown internationally, including this piece, which was part of a suitcase collection, and travelled to Canada.
The Nineties Collection featured quilts commissioned from Quilters’ Guild Members during the 1990s. Several quilters had more recent quilts displayed with their earlier work. Fabrics, composition, piecing, embellishments, and stitching styles have all changed so much. The differences jumped out, even to this untrained eye.
Apologies to Judith and the other quilters; all wonkiness of quilts is due to the angle of my camera. I’m still learning!
These quilts are a perfect example of the changes in quilting, Judith now enjoys the modern heavily quilted look for her art quilts. This technique doesn’t make for a soft, fluffy bed quilt, but for pieces that hang on walls or lay on tables, it adds dimension and texture.
Another artist whose work caught my eye was Sheena Norquay, of Scotland. Her award winning quilts have also been shown internationally. I was stopped in my tracks by her seascapes.
Two beautiful pieces with very different styles. The water in Seascape With Selkies is much more detailed, with great texture and movement. The quilting, once again, is tighter and more intricate than her 90s piece. Waves, clouds, and pebbles are all added to the piece with thread.
There was an incredible diversity of styles and techniques on display. While I’m drawn to certain subject matter and colour palettes, it’s also the individuality in these contemporary quilts that amazes to me.
If you’ve ever been to a quilt show, you can appreciate that there are far too many entries for me to possibly do all of the artists justice. If you haven’t been to a show, even if you’ve never thought of trying out this artform/craft, yourself, I really recommend it. I’m quite certain you’ll be blown away.
*We’re having a great time trying to pronounce the place names in Wales. A woman at the Llangollen Visitor’s Centre told us Google Translate will provide reasonable facsimiles. Click on the Google Translate link and push the little speaker button a few times. See how easy that was? We’ll be speaking Welsh in no time. Or not.
Here’s where we went for the day: