I’m still winding down from the Festival of Quilts and thought I’d tell you a little about it. I went to the Festival for the first time last year, at which point I had been quilting for less than a year, and it is safe to say that I was completely overwhelmed by what I saw. You can see my pictures of the quilts on display last year over here.

Last year, not knowing what to expect, I decided to spend two days at the show, which in retrospect was one day too many. This year I decided that one day would be more than enough, but I did head to Birmingham the night before to attend the Designer Dinner at the Hilton, headlined by Tula Pink. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have figured out that I LOVE Tula Pink. I adore just about everything she does. She was at the festival last year, but I felt really shy about approaching her so I just got her to sign my book, took a picture with her, and slunk awkwardly away. Well. Her talk this year was hilarious and interesting and I’m really glad I went. I’m less glad I spent money to stay at the Hilton Metropole at the NEC, where the event was held, because it was completely NAFF. The food was gross and the room they stuck me in had this for a view and this for a bathroom. Seriously, I’ve seen more atmospheric prisons. Anyway.


The talk was great and there were a few quilts on display that I was completely excited about. Also in attendance and sitting right in front of me was KAFFE FASSETT! So close I could touch him, were it not so utterly creepy to do so!

The quilts Tula had on display for the talk included three versions of the City Sampler: Gridlock, the one I’m working on; Skyline; and Trellis. The Anchors Aweigh quilt was also there, along with a couple of quilts featuring her newest fabric line, Acacia. She encouraged people to come up and touch the quilts after her talk, since she believes that quilts should be used, not just displayed (at one point, talking about someone else’s quilt, she said she wanted to just grab it and stomp on it). This was in contrast to all the Kaffe Fassett quilts on display, which all had “don’t touch” signs on them.

This is Gridlock, the version of the City Sampler that I am currently working on. I can stop talking about how I take crappy iPhone pictures at this point, right? Anyway. It took me some time to figure out how to describe this quilt and it finally dawned on me–it glowed! The colours as they come through in the book are very vibrant, which I love, but in person the quilt was ever so slightly more muted and it just glowed. It took my breath away.


For the Trellis version, Tula limited her palette to just three shades: yellows, blues, and greens. Unlike Gridlock and Skyline, this version has the blocks framed, which I quite like. Not sure how I feel about the colour scheme.


Since I’m going through a bit of a grey phase at the moment (well, in my head), I really liked Skyline. What I really liked about this quilt were some of the details in the quilting. The blocks are arranged like a city skyline, with each tower at a different height. The quilting (which I sadly didn’t capture well, though you can see the beginning of what I mean at the top of the third “building” from the left) is used to introduce the features of a typical skyline, like antennas at the top of the buildings, and the wind tunnels that tall skyscrapers create. Skyline 1

But possibly the coolest feature was this: In the skyline, the quilt included an airplane carrying a banner. Check out what makes up the banner!

Skyline 2

All of these were quilted by Angela Walters. On a funny tangent, read how Angela Walters came to quilt for Tula Pink.

The following morning I headed over to the hall quite early, armed with a list of things I wanted to get from the vendors. I skipped the quilt displays and headed straight for the shops, which were not very busy first thing in the morning, so I managed to do a quick recce before I started in again more slowly. I picked up a STUPID amount of fabric throughout the day, along with a few tools (that’s not all of it).

On my list of things to do was trying out some sewing machines. If I’m going to be serious about this quilting palaver, I really need a more advanced machine, since the one I have is about as basic as it gets, but then I saw a stand featuring the Handi Quilter, which is a movable platform on which you place your sewing machine to convert it into a long-arm sewing machine. Including a much more advanced Janome machine, the total price was around £1,800. Not chump change, but I was thinking of spending a few hundred pounds on a sewing machine only, so if I could combine that with a long-arm machine (they go for thousands), well HELLO! (Have I mentioned that my least favourite part of quilting is, well… quilting?). So I played with it for a bit and walked away, and then came back later for another go, and it was so much fun! I absolutely suck at it, but it was still fun! Obviously I wasn’t plonking down that kind of money right then and there (since I don’t actually have any to speak of), but the wheels were definitely churning. And then I found another stall that sells a similar platform, sans sewing machine, for as little as £355. Of course the size I’m after costs twice that, but still, I could use it with my own machine for a while while I save up to upgrade the machine. So that’s going to happen at some point soon, I think. This company is located in Wales and we’re headed down there in October, so I’ll see if I can get to properly test drive it while we’re there and will then hopefully buy it before we move back to Germany in the new year.

Guess who was sitting in the Pfaff booth, playing with the sewing machines just as I happened to be going by? ANN FROM GREAT BRITISH SEWING BEE! I KNOW! Stuart from the show was at the dinner the previous evening and I also saw him walking around the halls that morning, though I didn’t approach him because he was putting out an “I’m really super important” kind of vibe, but as soon as I saw Ann I just had to walk over and say hello. She was delightful! We talked for about five minutes, about sewing and quilting and the show, and she was just the loveliest person you could possibly imagine.

by early afternoon it started getting really busy in the vendors’ area, so I went over to look at the quilts. I took far fewer pictures this year and thinking about it, it’s probably because a lot of the quilts that were a complete mystery to me a year ago seemed quite straightforward this time around. Not because I’ve made something similar or plan to, but because I’ve managed to parse down the process and “get” how a lot of those quilts were pieced. I’m not much of an art quilter (read, not at all). I have neither the vision nor the inclination towards it, but I was completely awed and inspired by what I saw last year. I have a sense that there wasn’t quite as much of the arty stuff on display this year–it was a lot more patchwork–but there were some really astonishing pieces. You can see my pictures from this year’s festival here, but here are a few I was particularly taken with.

Last year I was absolutely in awe of this quilt. The same quilter had a small gallery on display and I was especially taken with this quilt. The image on the right is a zoom in on the details of the face. How amazing is that? And I was so focused on the facial features that I only later noticed (when I was looking at my pictures, actually) the birds quilted onto the white background.


The London Underground was some sort of theme and there were a few quilts that featured it, but I really liked this one. I think it captured perfectly how the tube can open up the city for you.

Mind the Gap

My hands-down favourite quilt of the entire festival was this one (detail on the right). The detail in the image and the intricacy of the applique and the stitching are absolutely mind boggling.


By 4pm I was pretty much done (mentally and physically). My train back home was at 7:20pm so I headed into Birmingham and grabbed an early dinner at Jamie’s Italian. I treated myself to a really delicious elderflower cocktail to congratulate myself on a day well played, and then headed back home. I really enjoyed the show again this year. Since I won’t be living in the UK at this time next year, I’ll have to decide whether to fly in next year, but my inclination is that I will.

Which was your favourite quilt in the show?

Comments (2)

  1. Pingback: In which I am a creepy stalker | Quilting Rainbows

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