Festival of Quilts 2021

Amanda Jane Ogden at the entrance to the Festival of Quilts 2021

I hadn’t intended to go to the Festival of Quilts 2021. Covid infections are still high in the UK. Many official restrictions have been withdrawn, such as the mandatory wearing of masks. I felt nervous about going to a location where there would be lots of people gathered together. But I cracked! The Quilters’ Guild were offering a draw for tickets and I won two, to my surprise and delight.

Tokens for two free tickets to the Festival of Quilts 2021

We stayed nearby the night before, close to the airport. This is the first year for some time that I haven’t entered a quilt. This year I was able to concentrate on enjoying other people’s work. I did wear some of my own work, however. The skirt below is made with my fabric design ‘The work of my hands’.

Amanda Jane Ogden standing in a car park near Birmingham airport
white fabric printed with images of hands on a table full of creative activities including sewing, patchwork, drawing and painting; the design is called 'The work of my hands' by Amanda Jane Ogden
‘The work of my hands’ fabric design by Amanda Jane Textiles is available here

It was nice to be at the Festival of Quilts again after two years. (You can find posts on previous years: 2019 here, 2018 here, 2017 here, 2016 here and 2015 here).

Amanda Jane Ogden at the entrance to the Festival of Quilts 2021
Amanda Jane Ogden at the entrance to the Festival of Quilts 2021

Entry into the halls at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) was calm and well-managed. Our tickets and our documentation (to say we had received two vaccinations against Covid) were checked. There were far fewer visitors than usual, fewer stands and the show was laid out over a wider area. All visitors were asked to wear masks unless exempt and almost everyone seem to comply. Once in the show, I wore mine too.

Amanda at the Quilts for Care Leavers stand

I made sure to stop at the ‘Quilts for Care Leavers’ stand, to take part in their lucky dip (you can see in my hand the quilters’ clips and floral needle threader I won!) I have blogged about this charity before here. ‘Quilts for Care Leavers’ gathers donated quilts to give away at Christmas to young people (aged 18-25) leaving the care system. If you are a quilter with spare quilts, spare fabric or spare time to make new quilts, please consider getting in touch with them. The website is www.q4cl.org.uk

I just did a small amount of shopping, but had the great experience of looking for a specific piece of cloth (you can see the sample in my fingers) and actually finding it!

Thank you, Fabrics Galore (www.fabricsgalore.co.uk), who had just what I needed!

I was directed to them (generously) by Finstall Fabrics (www.finstallfabrics.com). So I went back to Finstall Fabrics and purchased some very pretty blue and white prints which you will see in action in due course!

So, now for the quilts… One major highlight of the show was an exhibition space dedicated to Amish quilts. It’s difficult to pick a single one out, but this was my favourite. It displays the characteristic deep-tone colours and fabulous hand-quilted patterns of quilts made by the Amish people.

'Center Diamond' quilt from the International Quilt Museum
‘Centre Diamond’ quilt, Maker unidentified, probably made in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, Circa 1920-1940,Wools, Machine-pieced, hand quilted, from the International Quilt Museum

There was an opportunity to see some items from The Quilters’ Guild collection. I loved this ‘housewife’ or ‘huswife’ designed to contain necessary items for sewing. The maker’s name and the date of making are included ( a reminder to date and name our own quilts – you never know how long they are going to last!)

Patchwork 'huswife' from The Quilters' Guild Collection
Patchwork ‘huswife’ from The Quilters’ Guild Collection

Always a fan of miniatures, I took a lot of pleasure from seeing this tiny patchwork quilt made by Barbara Bailey. You can see it placed on a small dolls’ bed in the second photograph. Such a vibrant collection of colours!

Miniature patchwork by Barbara Bailey, in The Quilters' Guild Collection
Miniature patchwork by Barbara Bailey, in The Quilters’ Guild Collection
Description of miniature patchwork by Barbara Bailey, in The Quilters' Guild Collection

Other pieces in the show were moving for all kinds of reasons. In the Janome Fine Art Textiles Award, this exquisitely embroidered ‘napkin’ (the stitches are tiny) appeared as part of an installation, including vintage objects, produced by Caren Garfen. The artwork makes reference to an incident recounted in ‘Blood and Banquets, A Berlin Social Diary’ by Bella Fromm in which a couple were refused service because they were Jewish.

‘A Taste of Things to Come’ by Caren Garfen’
'A taste of things to come' (detail) by Caren Garfen, at the Festival of Quilts 2021

I enjoyed Ann Wheeler’s ‘Formative Pattern’ which used 1930s tray cloths (always a favourite with me) which she cut, re-joined and embroidered. I noticed the inclusion of school report type comments from teachers. Ann’s work was clearly worthy of a B+. However, this which reminded me of my own less than perfect marks for ‘Needlework’ at school!

I loved this expressive piece by Rosie James, called ‘Waiting for this meeting to start’. The artist asked people to send her a photo of themselves during lockdown and she would stitch them.

'Waiting for this meeting to start' by Rosie James - a composite embroidery of many individuals doing different activities in lockdown
‘Waiting for this meeting to start’ by Rosie James

She refers to the piece like this: ‘This whole piece is a version of a Zoom/Teams meeting, you are all invited, and I am the one doing the talking’. Rosie herself is depicted in a square with a green frame (shown below).

'Waiting for this meeting to start' by Rosie James (detail) depicting Rosie herself in embroidery
‘Waiting for this meeting to start’ by Rosie James (detail)

Another piece using applique and machine embroidery was this installation by Amanda McCavour, entitled ‘Floating Garden’, entered in the Vlieseline Fine Art Textile Award. The flowers were suspended on fine threads and they moved gently with the flow of air from the air-conditioning system

‘Floating garden’ by Amanda McCavour

Several quilts referenced the environment and highlighted concerns about damage to the environment. One whole stand at the event ‘For the love of Gaia’ showcased quilts by 15 international artists who describe themselves as ‘a group of artists who feel our hearts beating to the rhythm of the Earth.’ It included this striking piece by Kathy Nida ‘You pollute me’.

'You pollute me' by Kathy Nida
‘You pollute me’ by Kathy Nida

This competition quilt ‘Meldown’ by Rosemary Clarke and Sandy Chandler was particularly effective in its design, with the central polar bear standing on its diminishing area of ice.

Rosemary Clarke and Sandy Chandler

The piecing was particularly well executed.

Rosemary Clarke and Sandy Chandler (detail)

This quilt by Eliza Rose Watson (age 7) called ‘The World Crying’ also packed quite a punch.

It was pleasurable to see a whole collection of children’s work in a three-dimensional installation called ‘Patchville’ from the Atelier de Couture Magique, Brussels, Belgium.

‘Patchville’ from the Atelier de Couture Magique, Brussels, Belgium

This wasn’t the only item to have traveled from overseas to Birmingham. This homage to the common man, entitled ‘The Common Man – The Hero’ was made by Paramjeet Bawa, in Gurgaon, India.

This stunning quilt, which demonstrates traditional kantha stitching across the entire surface was made by Mahamaya Sikdar in Kolkotta, India.

‘Sahabhava’ by Mahamaya Sikdar

Very sadly, this quilt was not entered in the correct category. so could not win a prize, but I was delighted to see that it was awarded a ‘Judge’s Choice’ accolade.

Another piece by Rosie James (mentioned above) was part of ‘Found’ an exhibition from ‘Art Textiles: Made in Britain’. It included stitched figures among a collection of cloth badges.

Alongside it were some larger textile ‘badges’ celebrating smaller towns and villages in Kent – my new home!

Published by Amanda Jane Textiles

I am an artist, designer and maker living in Ramsgate, UK

10 thoughts on “Festival of Quilts 2021

  1. Looks like a very inspiring experience! I just moved to England this year for work, already joined a little quilting bee block swap. Maybe next year I can check out the Festival of Quilts. Thanks for sharing and I’m glad to hear people were taking masking and distancing seriously.

    1. Dear Claudia, thank you for your comment. Welcome to England. Yes, it was a most enjoyable day. I thoroughly recommend that you visit next year. Glad to hear that you are making quilty connections in your new location.

  2. Wonderful selection, thank you. Like many others, I didn’t manage to FOQ this year and it is grand to see some glimpses of what was on offer, I especially liked the kantha stitched quilt. Greetings from the remote West of Scotland

  3. I’ve enjoyed your photos & your comments. Couldn’t go to FoQ myself

  4. A lovely personal report on the show. So pleased you won the tickets and went ! I really enjoyed your choice of quilts, different again from all the others I’ve seen. All good wishes Barbara from far south of western Australia

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