Review by Gillian Cooper who spent an inspiring day amongst the quilts in Edinburgh 2006.
The Spring Quilt Festivals are the first main group of quilt shows of the year. Travelling around the country, they give inspiration to quilters after the long winter nights. I do not know if this is good or bad, as long winter nights should be good for quilting, without the distractions of wanting to be outside in the warm, light evenings of summer. However, it is always fun to see good quilts and from the chatter of visitors at Edinburgh, these quilts were certainly appreciated.
The Show tours the country, starting in Ardlingly before progressing to Edinburgh, Exeter, Chilford and Harrogate, finally ending up at Sandown for the National Quilt Championship. As I caught the show at an early stage, there were not many quilts responding to the festival challenge as the closing date was still to come. That said, the selection of other quilts on show was varied, so there was something for everyone.
The first group of quilts to catch my eye was the Richmond and Kew Round Robin. Round Robin quilts are made by groups following rules set at the beginning. For example, Hilary Robinson made the border for her quilt Seascape first and then asked the others to make the blocks for the central panel. This is quite clear guidance and the group responded well with shells, a turtle, a seahorse, jellyfish and even a gaudy mermaid being added to the angel fish border. The jellyfish had long tentacles hanging down made from polyorganza. This was a great idea as they were loose, floaty and transparent, just like the real thing.
Round Robins are often thought of as individual quilters making blocks, with the owner of the project putting them altogether into a pleasing design. The Gardening Year by Penny Bamber could not fall into this category. I spent ages looking at it, trying to see how it split into the individual blocks, before it dawned on me that the whole quilt had probably been passed on from maker to maker. The point of these quilt pass the parcels must be to have fun.
Susan Hedges Friendship Library certainly looked like the quilters had enjoyed themselves. Susan had asked for shelves of favourite books. Included among the quilt books, sewing basket and even a curled up cat, on the top right, was a selection of Arthur Ransome novels. The books didnt just have the titles sewn on, but were photo transfers of the covers of the old hardback editions of Swallows and Amazons series. This made me nostalgic as I used to borrow the same editions from our local library as a child.
Two quilt artists were honoured with solo displays. Jenny Lankesters group was entitled Mainly in the Wild - Painting with Fabric. This title neatly sums up what Jenny does. Jenny creates realistic flowers and animals in fabric, using machine appliqué and any other technique that she feels is appropriate. The lion is full of glorious red, browns and yellows. Jenny cleverly used the design on the fabric to get the red colouring around the lions ear. It is not a separate piece of fabric, but part of a pattern on brown cloth. To get the shading, she has appliquéd net over the base fabric. A stunning result of many hours of thought and sewing. Despite the virtuoso technical ability, Jennys work still has a sense of humour, with a caterpillar being added among some flowers and the stem of the sunflower being made from mixed colours of tapestry wool. I particularly liked the doe eyed baby giraffe, which, like the real thing, was too long to fit on one photo!
The other highlighted artist was Rose Epton-Peters. Rose bravely displayed her history of quilting from her earliest efforts to more recent pieces. Her first quilt drew a lot admiration as it was significantly better than most peoples first attempts. This early promise has developed into a full blown talent as some of the later quilts demonstrated. Cabin Fever Frenzy was a stunning quilt made entirely from log cabin blocks. The overall pattern was carefully constructed from over 100 small log cabin blocks, all using the same stark tonally different fabrics in varying proportions. This was complimented by the stripey border made from the same fabrics. Over the top of the quilt, a strong pattern had been quilted in variegated thread. Rose said this quilt was made just to use up scraps, but it is obvious that a lot of consideration and preparation went into it. I wonder whether Rose has recovered from her Log Cabin Fever or if she is still suffering and making more beautiful quilts like this.
Rose is clearly inspired by her local environment, as shown in her series of quilts based on local heathland. Grass I: Field highlights the beauty in something most people would not give a second glance. A field may initially appear uniform, but closer study reveals a rich variance in species and colour of grass. These fabrics have all been hand dyed and then pieced into a grass block designed by Rose herself. This passion of Roses continues in the quartet Canford Heath Dawn, Midday, Evening and Night. The simple piecing of only 1/2in horizontal strips lets you focus on the beautiful colour arrangement as the day progresses, highlighting the nuances in colour as the light changes. These were skilfully made and apparently have pride of place in Roses living room.
Twenty five quilts from the 2005 Wealden Challenge were displayed. The challenge fabric was bright and cheerful, resulting in lots of fun quilts, mostly aimed at children. Linus by Eileen Peters was amusing, featuring the famous friend of Snoopy. I dont know if this was a deliberate reference to Project Linus, for which many quilters make comfort blankets for needy children, but it certainly illustrated the benefits of it. Eileen has really caught the expression of a child sucking its thumb, without using many stitches. Part of the joy of a fabric challenge is spotting the challenge fabric in the quilt. In some, like Linus, it is very obvious. In others, like Paul Carters Rose Stained Glass Window, it is used more sparingly and is therefore harder to spot. Can you see it? It is used in the centre and the four corners. This is Pauls first quilt, using a reverse appliqué technique and fabric that his wife had dyed on a workshop. It is great effort, hopefully his wife was happy to see her hand dyed fabric put to good use by her other half. Im not sure I would be so generous with my stash.
One final quilt which definitely deserves a mention is Ann Harpers Tropical Windmills, made for the Crafty Quilters 2004 Quiltette Challenge. The background has a feel of luxurious richness as it is constructed from equilateral triangles in two subtly different shades of blue. The sails of the windmills are double sided, only attached to the quilt along their long sides, giving them a sense of freedom. The binding uses the same fabric as the sails, giving the quiltette cohesion. The whole piece is finished by red hand quilted lines which complement the triangles. In all, this is a well thought out and constructed quilt.
There were other displays including a series of longarm quilted quilts, both large and small and the Spring Quilt Festivals own challenge of Rhythm and Blues. There were not many quilts in this section yet, which was a shame. I suppose most people are working towards the closing date of the challenge rather than getting them in early. So quilters, come on, for next year get your entries in early so there are more new quilts to be seen at earlier venues.
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