The Festival of Quilts at Birmingham NEC

compass quiltOh. My. WORD.  I’ve just been to Patchwork Heaven!!  And it’s in Birmingham – who knew??

Last weekend me and my lovely craftsy friends took ourselves for a Grand Day Out to the annual Festival of Quilts at the NEC.  The show is organised by The Quilter’s Guild, and it’s the biggest in Europe.  And, people, I can tell you – it was HUGE!!  I mean, just VAST!  We were there pretty much all day and I don’t think we even got round half of it.

Our initial strategy of working forwards from the back of the hall was soon foiled by the Kaffe Fassett Quilt Collection.  As we paused to admire the vintage and modern handiwork on display, who should appear but the man himself!  And THEN, the curator came over to us and said, ‘Kaffe will be giving a guided talk about the quilts in a minute ladies, if you’d like to join us?’.  WOULD WE?!?Kaffe1I must apologise in advance for the quality of photos in this post: not sure if it was me or my ancient, failing camera, but many of them came out very blurry.  BUT – the gorgeousness of the quilts shines through, I think!  This is my fave of Kaffe’s own quilts, with some details of the beautiful machine quilting (though he admitted to us that he doesn’t do much of the actual quilting himself these days!)Kaffe2Kaffequiltdetail1Kaffequiltdetail2Colour-tastic or what?

Next we were drawn to the City & Guilds students’ showcase, and this display really caught my eye.  The giant orange opens up and holds a cook-pot, but it’s quilted into ‘orange segments’ inside as well – wonderful!orangecookbagThe Quilter’s Guild competiton quilts, numbering into the hundreds, formed the main part of the display. There were stunning examples of every technique imaginable, from traditionally pieced blocks and hand-applique to very modern free-form machine quilting.  I  personally love quilts that use a mixture of piecing, applique and hand and machine work.  Here are a few I found particularly inspiring, especially the beautifully worked details:colourpanelscolourpanelsdetailblockquiltblockquiltdetail1blockquiltdetail2AnniversaryQuiltdetail2AnniversaryQuiltdetail1The theme for this year’s Guild Challenge was ‘On the Beach’ and it was great to see all the different interpretations and designs people had come up with, and such a huge variety of quilt styles:165BeachExtravaganza184GoldFootOntheBeach1153PebblesontheBeachNow, let’s talk about COLOUR, shall we??  Here are some eye-poppers for you (the last one is entitled ‘Pretty Hippy’ – it’s my kinda quilt!):83PainttheTownAnyColourMiniquilt259PrettyHippySo of course as with any competition, there has to be a Best in Show.  However, I’m not going to give you the actual quilt that won Best in Show.  Nope.  We decided we’d each choose our own!  So, this one came close second for me.  We all loved the design and the details, especially the really original use of silhouttes as a border.  Sadly after so many quilts, I’ve forgotten the maker/title – sorry!  But here’s me and H. admiring it (sewists note, H. is wearing her fab self-made Washi dress!):Me&HelenBut the hands-down winner for me, was the spectacular Magical Mermaid’s Caslte quilt by Claudia Pfeil.  I absolutely adored this quilt – the design, the colours, the exquisite hand-stitched and painted details.  Apparently she used 30,000 Swarovski crystals in it!  mermaidcastledetailMy pics of this quilt were some of the last taken on the day, and by this time both me and the camera were past our best.  When I uploaded them I was distraught to find all were blurry and out of focus.  But I SO wanted to show it to you, that I emailed Claudia hereself and she very kindly sent me these two lovely photos to share with you – craftsy folk really are the loveliest!  So here it is in its entirety, plus a super sharp detail shot.  My personal Best in Show:Magical Mermaids Castle by Claudia PfeilMagical Mermaids Castle CP detailIt was a very magical day indeed, and there was a lot of picnicking, browsing, fabric shopping, and laughing in there as well!  We saw so much creativity and met such lovely people, and came away with bags of fabric and inspiration.  A HUGE big hug and thanks to my friends A. & H. for making it happen and for sharing it with me.  Can’t wait til next year!Wishing you all a very Magical Mermaidy week! 🙂

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