New York Garden by Anja Townrow
New York Garden by Anja Townrow

It is always a delight to go to any quilt show. A new show on the calendar is, therefore, cause for great excitement. I dropped in on Margaret McQuillan and her team in Stoke a few weeks ago. The gardens at Trentham have been redeveloped and regenerated over many years and what better way for local quilters to celebrate than to attend a show in the grounds. Based in a permanent marquee, the exhibition was buzzing with excitement the morning I was there. Margaret and I chatted, and sold programmes to visitors who thronged through the doors as they opened on the first morning.

New York Garden by Anja Townrow
Awakening by Lesley Brankin

Quilts

The four categories were Bed Quilts, Wall hangings, Innovative and the Special Category. The latter had a particular fabric that had to be included which featured the Trentham fern and the theme was Quilts in the Garden. There was a panel of four judges, three of whom were accredited judges under the scheme run by the Quilters Guild of the British Isles, Gilly Meeks, Nikki Tinkler and Annette Morgan, and they were joined by Janice Gunner, current President of the Quilters Guild. They had the difficult task of choosing a first second and third in each category as well as an overall champion quilt.

East meets West by Sandra Allen
East meets West by Sandra Allen

Bed Quilts

The bed quilt category was well supported with nearly 40 entries. They ranged in size from huge double bed quilts to smaller bed toppers and throws. Many of the quilts were from quilters in the Midlands and nearby, which is no surprise with it being a new local show to support. I expect many had chosen to deliver and collect the quilts themselves. But one was from as far afield as Sweden. The sponsor of this competition was White Cottage Country Crafts, which I noticed offered a discount to Quilters Guild members and those studying C&G. In third place was East meets West by Sandra Allen, made on a block of the month program and utilizing lots of different techniques. Sandra had chosen to arrange the blocks in an asymmetrical design rather than the original planned strippy formation. If you look carefully you should be able to see the individual blocks in the different areas. The colours in rich oranges and browns also added impact to the quilt as a whole. In second place was Bali goes to Baltimore II by Christine Dobson. Some of the blocks and the border were her own design and the rest were by Elly Sienkiewicz, a wellknown Baltimore expert. The appliqué was all by hand and it was hand quilted too. The use of Bali batik fabrics added a modern touch to a traditional style quilt. In first place was New York Garden by Anja Townrow. It showed masterful skill in foundation piecing, curved piecing, appliqué and machine quilting. The sewing was perfect, with no points out of line and the design was fresh and bright, again with the use of batiks in some of the pieces. The New York Beauty block was cleverly used as flowers and the appliqué breaks up the blocks too. Anja Townrow explained to me that she only entered as she wanted to support the show organisers and had no thought of winning. She was booked to teach in Southampton on the Sunday, so wouldnt be able to collect her prize in person. However, I managed to get a photo of her with her winning quilt on the Friday. This was also the championship quilt and overall winner.

Here comes the Sun by Ineke Berlyn
Here comes the Sun by Ineke Berlyn

Wall Hangings

As is usual, this was the largest category, with 64 entries. Many of us can manage to finish a small wall hanging whereas a big bed quilt is another matter entirely. They varied in size from miniatures to extra large. One of the largest was in third place, Thistles, again, by Sandra Allen. Sandra said it used an American pattern (I think I recognise it as one of the Piece O Cake ones). Her use of colours made this quilt really glow, as she says Thistles in the sunshine. It is a useful idea to copy having pieced backgrounds behind the appliqué as it adds a depth and interest to the quilt. These were big blocks and this quilt was almost as big as some of the bed quilts. In second place was an unnamed quilt by Sarah Bradney. Sarah is studying C&G and this is her final quilt towards her certificate. The inspiration was ice flows and the technique is faux chenille with appliqué circles. Again, this showed good use of colour and the movement of the chenille strips really added to the design of the quilt as a whole. In first place was Here Comes the Sun by Ineke Berlyn. You wont find it hard to guess which one it is. The sun practically glowed out of it. Ineke says Inspired by Sunshine, Happiness and Yellow, the words of George Harrison are very appropriate. Freely machine pieced and quilted, it comprised solely of hand dyed fabrics with cotton, linen, satin and silk all included.

Cock-eyed Malkin by Bobby Britnell
Cock-eyed Malkin by Bobby Britnell

Innovative and Special

These two were smaller categories. Perhaps, as this is a new show, less people had heard of it in time to start making a quilt for the special category and maybe there are less innovative quilters around than there are traditionalists. Having said that, many of the entries in the wall hanging category would have been classed as innovative too, another case of which category shall I enter. In third place in the innovative category was Laura Kemshall with Self Sown. Laura has been working on pieces inspired by poppies for many years and although there are similarities between them, they show a gradual movement away from the realistic to the more abstract. I particularly liked the writing on this one, saying self sown over and over. It looked like satin stitch and as someone whose hand writing is not legible at the best of times, I found it hard to imagine using the machine to write in satin stitch. Bobby Britnell did well in this category with two entries and first and second place. They were both the same shape, about twice as wide as they were high, I always find this an arresting quilt shape to view as the eye has time to travel across it and absorb the impact before falling off the edge. In Purple Haze, which came second, there was a pattern of overlapping rectangles. The incredible machine quilting created the shadows and depth in the image. In contrast, her winning quilt The Cock-eyed Maulkin was a jaunty fellow. Set at a rakish angle, I liked the way the scarecrows hat broke out the boundaries of the quilt into the space surrounding it. The quilting, again, added depth and movement to the quilt creating the 3D ribbons, which you could really see, moving in the breeze. I wonder which one Bobby likes best, would she agree with the judges?

Self Sown (detail) by Laura Kemshall
Self Sown (detail) by Laura Kemshall

In the Special category there was one particular fabric that had to be included. On looking at all the quilts, I think if the quilter liked the fabric then it was clearly apparent in the quilt top. Otherwise, it was so distorted with stitching and other embellishments that it almost disappeared completely (but I may be wrong)! Anja Townrow received another prize in third place with Endangered Species, a sampler style quilt based on butterflies, incorporating machine embroidery, quilting and appliqué. The detail was incredible. In second place was Natalia Manley with The Speech of Flowers Excels the Flowers of Speech. Natalia comments that it celebrates the beauty of flowers. It was computer printed and over painted with acrylic paints. Natalia used Broderie Perse, appliqué, machine and hand quilting and beading and embroidery. It was inspired by a line from a song. Natalias work, as always, glows with vivid colours and life. In first place was Lesley Brankin with her delightful study of the Italian gardens at Trentham. Lesley also managed to get some garden jargon into her description talking about hard landscaping softened by sympathetic planting. Maybe this show just proves that gardening and quilting are truly linked and all quilters would make good gardeners, even if all they plant are fat quarters and thread.

The Speech of Flowers Excels the Flowers of Speech by Natalia Manley
The Speech of Flowers Excels the
Flowers of Speech by Natalia Manley

Planning Ahead

Plans for next years show are already well underway with the dates set for 4th, 5th, 6th April 2008. The special category next year will be Water. There is plenty to do to entertain the family at Trentham itself with Monkey Walks and childrens play areas, as well as the gardens, of course. If none of this appeals, then the men of the house can rest in the Crèche with newspapers, comfy chairs and a TV it was just a bit too close to the bar for my liking!

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 14 Number 7 - July 2006