Gillian Cooper experiences the fun of the major textile event in Harrogate, November 2005
The Knitting and Stitching Show is an annual event aimed at anyone interested in textiles. To appeal to everyone it is a curious mixture of stands selling the latest fabrics, threads and tools and exhibitions of the best textile work in the country (I have to say that as I had a piece there this year!). However, this mixture makes it essential viewing. It takes place in London, Dublin and Harrogate every autumn and from 2006 in Birmingham too.
Having been a regular visitor to the London version, last year I decided to see what Harrogate was like. Most of the exhibitions are the same between the two events, but the trade stands are often different, giving a northern flavour to the show.
The Show is a useful barometer for trends in crafts and textiles. Ten years ago cross stitch was the favoured technique, then it was patchwork and now knitting is the new vogue. I have never seen so many attractive knitting and fancy yarns for sale under one roof before. I look forward to seeing how these are used to embellish quilts in the near future as they were quite irresistible.
The main concentration of quilts was in the Quilt 2005 gallery. These were originally shown at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham in August, but for those of us who were not able to make it, this was a chance to see the best of British (and other) quilting. It was a modest exhibition of 21 quilts. Sometimes I enjoy small displays better because I can concentrate on the individual quilts rather than trying to see everything.
Several of the quilts were in sombre colours. Leslie Morgans Barriers and Boundaries was primarily in grey tones. This would suggest a rather serious, quiet quilt, but, in fact, it was just the opposite. It felt very alive with a real zing to it. design was lively giving a sense of movement. Annette Morgans Serendipity also contained a lot of black. It reminded me of two things. Firstly, it evoked the paintings of the German artist, Anselm Kiefer with the heavy uneven black lines and sense of texture. Secondly, I was reminded of being taught cross hatching in school art classes, using a simple square format and varying the directions of the lines. I also thought the cut out and moved circles were effective. It was one of those quilts that look deceptively simple, which, in itself, tells of the mastery involved.
Some quilts repay a closer look. Another quilt in greys, C June Barnes Convolutions X Raining in my Heart, is a good example. On first glance, you can admire the clever texturing of the fabric and the use of zips to edge sections, with zippers acting as beads embellishing the bottom edge of the quilt. It is only when you concentrate that you see the hints of a face appearing on some of the blocks. This is all the more touching when you read the simple description A memorial to my father in the Quilt 2005 catalogue.
Continuing on the thoughtful vein, Jennifer Vickerss quilt Yesterdays News raises issues of the value of news in todays society, where newspapers are disposable and news headlines are important for a day then entirely forgotten. The quilt is constructed entirely of newspaper in a log cabin pattern. In her statement, she contrasts the throwaway nature of newspapers with the labour intensive and often loving activity of creating a quilt.
Beryl Tucker obviously had a great holiday in Thailand in 2001. Im sure lots of other people did too, but that no one else created a full cloth quilt in the style of a Kantha as a result of it. Entirely hand stitched as is the custom of Kanthas, it transports the concept from India to Thailand successfully. It is filled with the holiday highlights and a great way to remember rather than endless photos in albums that never get looked at. There is nothing throw-away about this quilt.
The overall winner was another study in dark colours: Diana Harrisons Turmoil and Change. As often is the case with quilts, it is hard to get a feel for the quilt from only photos. Again, it has an amazing sense of movement and was a striking design from a distance. The quilt also shimmers as it has been over printed with metallic pigments. Diana said, in her statement, that the quilt is about changes in her working life and the turmoil this causes. The tension of such events can be felt in this quilt, whilst also being a piece of art that anyone would love to have on their wall (at least I would).
Finally, to prove that it wasnt just an exhibition of grey quilts, Alison Bramley used 205 different coloured squares of silk in her quilt Two Hundred and Five for Two Thousand and Five. Each square had the same design in different colour combinations. Originally Alison had planned to make these into one solid quilt. The final piece, however, kept each square separate attached only by one or two stitches to the others. I liked the irregularity this gave to the quilt and the small areas of white wall appearing in between the squares helped me focus on the pattern in a way I couldnt have managed had it been a traditional piece.
In addition to Quilt 2005, there were other quilts to be found at the show if you looked carefully. Pauline Burbidge was included in 21 British Embroiderers as well as Quilt 2005. The Poetry in Stitches gallery included many quilts in its 100+ pieces and Fashions Memory: from peasant art to wearable art had many pieced and quilted clothes. In addition, there were some lovely indigo and white quilts by Janice Gunner in the Odyssey display, which were featured in the August 2005 edition of Popular Patchwork. As President of the Quilters Guild, she had been involved in the judging of Quilt 2005 so it was interesting to see the high standard of her own work. Also exhibiting with Odyssey was Pennie Marsden. Pennies grounding in patchwork was evident in her pieced paper vases and vessels. They looked like real vases, although using water would not be desirable. However, I find that flowers often spoil the best vases and these were definitely beautiful enough without the flowers.
Although the Show in Harrogate did not quite have the buzz of the Show in Ally Pally, London, it felt more civilised and relaxing to wander around. Of course, the difference could be that I didn't have to walk up the big hill to get there. In any case, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Show in either venue as a great day out for any quilter. This year for me though, maybe I should try out the Shows third venue in Dublin or the newest venue the NEC.
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