At The Festival of Quilts 2013, I got chatting to Jana Štěrbová from Prague about their lovely exhibition and how I would love to visit their beautiful city. Jana then asked me if I would like to take some quilts by Contemporary Quilt (CQ) members to their Patchwork Meeting in Prague in April 2014. I put it to Mandy Hague, CQ Coordinator, and our committee and they were all in agreement, and that Mandy and I would accompany the quilts on their travels. When I told Jana that we would love to be part of their Meeting, she asked if it would also be possible for us to take some work from the other Specialist Groups. Mandy and I approached the Traditional and Miniature Quilt Groups and they were both happy for us to do so. Then Jana Lálová, manager of the show, asked if I could do a workshop for them and also take some of my own quilts to exhibit separately. I felt very honoured, and was able to take five of my quilts.

Getting there

The organising committee for the Prague exhibition comprised just Mandy and me; fortunately there was no theme, which made life easier. We also had email support from the CQ committee – lots of emails were sent to and fro – and The Guild helped us with the insurance. Mandy contacted Rosalind Orlowska, then Lead Trustee for Communications, and Tanja Burlison, International Officer, for advice about taking quilts to Prague, and I asked several people who had been there in previous years for tips. Having considered the problems, the cost of sending the quilts, and the responsibilities we had in taking work from different groups, I booked to travel by business class and asked my husband, Mick, to accompany me, both for moral support and for the extra luggage allowance – we were allowed two check-in suitcases each. Mandy did the same, accompanied by her husband Ian. All the quilts were sent to Mandy’s home address. When she looked through the quilts it was soon apparent that some did not have sleeves, or the sleeves were too small. I agreed to help with sewing on sleeves, but we ran out of time and Mandy and I were still sewing them on in the business class lounge at the airport and on the plane.

The day before we left, Mandy collected CQ’s ‘Horizons’ quilts – the group’s challenge quilts for 2013 – from Amanda Wright, CQ’s Exhibitions Officer , and also made the labels for the Traditional Group’s quilts and the folder to go with the Miniature Group’s display. She did a fantastic job.

Setting up

We arrived at the Exhibition Centre in Prague at around 4.30pm and the four of us got to work hanging the quilts. It wasn’t an easy task and we were eventually locked in as we were still hanging quilts past closing time, but we did finally comple te the job and find our way out. The quilts from all three Specialist Groups looked lovely; in total, 98 quilts were on show. The 42 quilts from the ‘Horizons’ challenge were displayed all the way round one stand, with a table in front – from here we had a very clear view of the 21 Miniature Group quilts, the 30 Traditional Group ‘Suffragette’ challenge quilts, and my five quilts. I think this must be the first time all three groups have been exhibited together outside the UK and we felt proud to be there presenting the work.

On show

After checking the displays first thing next morning we went to the opening ceremony. It was lovely to be able to sit and listen to the speakers, as the speeches were translated into English. The exhibition had quilts from Denmark, Germany and Sweden as well as from the UK. After this, I went off to prepare for the workshop I was teaching. With the help of Anna, my translator, I enjoyed showing those attending how to make fabric postcards. Everyone had fun and the finished cards looked great. Mandy stayed with the stand to welcome the visitors.

We had fliers for all four Specialist Groups (the three with quilts on show and the British Quilt Study Group) as well as from The Guild and the Quilt Museum and Gallery. Although we don’t speak Czech, it was a delight to see how interested the visitors were in all our quilts and in the work The Guild does. Most tried to express their appreciation by signing, and some did so speaking in English. The exhibition was visited by people from other European countries and also by two of our own Guild members who were on holiday in the area and had a quilt in the exhibition.

Mandy and I did manage to take two half-days off each so that we could see the city, one looking after the exhibition while the other went off exploring. We were also taken out to dinner, and had an evening boat trip provided by the organisers – an experience not to be missed. The whole event was hard work but we thoroughly enjoyed it, although it was a fast learning curve at times. We would like to thank everyone who helped us to make this exhibition such a success. In particular, we would like to thank all the quilters who trusted us to take care of their beautiful quilts.

This article first appeared in Summer 2014 issue (no. 139) of The Quilter, the quarterly membership magazine of The Quilters' Guild of the British Isles: