Abigail Orridge tells us about her French quilting experience.
I have just returned from a lovely three-week break in Brittany. It's an area of France I've never been to before so was thrilled when my Grandparents offered to take me with them. The scenery is breathtakingly rugged along the coastlines, very reminiscent of the Cornish coastline. The weather was great – I even managed to get a tan, quite unusual for pale old me.
Our first week was spent on the Atlantic coast. This was somewhere none of us had been before so we made the most of it and explored most of the local towns.
Quimper is quite a large town and definitely worth the struggle to find a parking space when you see all the lovely old wooded buildings and quaint narrow streets. I was pleasantly surprised to find a sewing shop and couldn't resist having a good look around. It was mostly cross-stitch, tapestry and general sewing rather than patchwork but still nice to see and yes I did buy something! Their collection of buttons was fantastic so I purchased two large heart shaped shell buttons. I have no idea what I will use them for (yet) but they were just too lovely to resist!
Our second and third week were spent at St Cast, a popular coastal resort about an hour from the ferry port at St Malo.
Before my travels I had been scanning through back copies of magazines to find out if there were any shops worth visiting and had found an ad for "Quilting in Peace" – more about that later, but was most surprised at the amount of quilting magazines available in the super markets.
My French is reasonably good and so reading through the articles and projects is not too difficult, and anyway like all good magazines there are photos which make the instructions even easier. So I have to admit buying one or two of the magazines to see what our French quilting sisters are up to, well ok, the one or two turned into nine or ten, but that was over a three week period! It was while browsing one of these magazines during a "coffee stop" that I made a great find – an advert for a patchwork shop in Erquy. This was only a few minutes drive away so off we went.
We arrived before the siesta hours were over so had a bit of a wait but it was definitely worth it. "Le Jardin de Martine" is a lovely shop with so much to look at. Martine doesn't speak much English but between my smattering of French and her bit of English we managed to get by. Martine is a lovely lady and made me and my Grandma very welcome – even allowing us to go through to her workroom. Her work is by her own admission "crazy" - rather than traditional patchwork she prefers to be more creative and uses silks, satins and lots of lovely threads and ribbons to accentuate her work. Martine runs classes from her studio and often has a stall at important patchwork and stitching events in France. We were lucky to find her in as often she only opens the shop by appointment especially when busy with exhibitions and shows. It really inspired me to try something different and be a bit more adventurous with the fabrics I use. I dread to think how much I spent, but when I look at the lovely fabrics it was worth every penny (or Euro!) Martine's website, www.martine-patchwork.com, and even if you don't understand much French its worth having a look, especially at the page "exposition" where there are photos of some lovely creative pieces of work.
Now to "Quilting in Peace". I had seen this advert for quilting holidays in Brittany before my holiday and looking at the map it looked to be about an hours drive from St Cast. In other words somewhere we MUST visit. I had emailed Lucy Allen, who runs the classes, and arranged a visit before leaving England. As well as running workshops Lucy has a shop that is open Monday and Thursday and offers b&b for patchworkers and helps her husband look after several Gites in the village! All this and she still finds time for patchwork and quilting!
"Quilting in Peace" is just outside the small village of St Vran in a lovely peaceful area of French countryside. Lucy's house and workshop/shop is set in a beautiful old French building, a mini miracle when you see the photos how it was when her and husband Derek moved in. Two beautifully furnished bedrooms and a bathroom with the biggest shower I've ever seen are upstairs above the workshop area. The shop has everything any patchwork or quilter could ever want – fabrics, kits, patterns you name it. We all sat around the workshop table drinking coffee and chatting until some fabric caught my eye and that was it. My "ooh, look at this" and "isn’t this lovely" and "what about this, it's just wonderful" brought a smile to everyone's face. Once I get started that's it - each fabric has to be admired and looked at as a possible project - or should that be a possible UFO!! Some fabric with dogs on even caught my Grandma's eye. I think she's finally been bitten by the patchwork bug.
All in all it was a wonderful three weeks. I wonder how soon I can go back…..!
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