Friday, 16 August 2013

The Ladies' Paradise aka Festival of Quilts NEC 2013

I went along this year armed with the usual list of fabric, measurements and notions but returned only with some 'machingers', those rubber tipped gloves for free motion quilting, and some cotton poplin sheets on which to print from the computer.

The problem was....there was just too much to see in one day!  Having explored most of the main exhibition categories and a few others besides, had some lunch and checked out the Janome sewing machine stand, I barely had the energy to do indulge in any retail therapy!

It made me think of  The Ladies' Paradise  by Emile Zola - the novel upon which the recent TV series 'The Paradise' was (very loosely) based - in which the book's male protagonist, Octave Mouret, expertly exploits his, mostly female, customers' obsession with fabric and fashion with magnificent displays of cloth and colour to which they flock to admire, touch and of course, cannot resist buying!  I recommend the book, which I have just finished: its is a fascinating portrayal of the rise of the department store in Paris in the nineteenth century and the beginnings of consumer culture. And it mentions fabric...a lot!

Anyway, back to the FoQs....I did take quite a few photos but took my small camera rather than my bigger digital SLR so the photos didn't do justice to many of the quilts. The crowds and lighting are also a challenge!  

It's so hard to choose, but one of my favourites, and it seems a favourite of many others too, was this one, called A Slight Murmur of Starlings by Janie Harvie-Douglas which won a 'highly commended'.

The scene is so beautifully atmospheric and perfectly captures that moment at dusk when the starlings begin to gather for their astonishing aerial displays. I have seen this phenomenon many times at the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss in Lancashire.

Otherwise, for some reason I was drawn this year to some of the beautifully crafted traditional quilts, both wholecloth and pieced, and machine and hand quilted.

Here are a couple of close-ups of  Grace  by Sandy Chandler which  won second prize in the Traditional Category

Worked on sateen cotton, the design was traced onto the fabric and long-arm quilted, guided by hand.

I also spent ages admiring this stunning hand quilted Sanderson Star by Elizabeth Nally,

Elizabeth's artist statement explains that she was inspired by an antique version of the quilt she had seen, and adapted the design to make a smaller quilt. Machine pieced with set in star and hand quilted. Fabulous!  And a perfect example of slow quilting!

I think I was attracted to this and other whole cloth quilts because I too have been thinking of making one and have been looking at the Sanderson Star pattern in Diane Lodge's lovely book, Patchwork where the patterns are all inspired by quilts made between the mid -19th century and the 1930s. I think it would be quite a challenge....but perhaps just a small one to begin with!


  1. It's a shame I didn't get to see you there, wasn't it wonderful! We did 2 days, which still wasn't nearly enough time, there was just so much to see wasn't there. So many, wonderful, inspirational quilts, not to mention far too many fabric temptations!

    1. Hi Sarah! Great to hear from you. There really is far too much to take in. Am thinking that next year I might do the exhibition bit one day and then the fabric and retail bits a second day!

  2. Hi Rose, lovely of you to comment on my blog, thought `I'd pop across and return the compliment! I gave NEC a miss this year - I knew I would be tempted to buy stuff I don't need! (Nothing wrong with that but I really can do without more fabric!! All that cloth I bought "for my retirement" has returned to bite me on the bum, it is overflowing!) But I might force myself to get along to the Knitting and Stitching Show .....
    Where abouts in Norfolk are you coming to? I love over in West Norfolk, completely the other way to Cathy. Lx

  3. Thanks, Lynne. Kind of you to drop by. I have just found out about and sorted the no reply blogger issue, and am making lots of lovely new friends! DH and I will be in Dereham where my brother and his wife live. There seems to be a very vibrant quilting scene in Norfolk. Can't wait to move that way.

  4. Lovely to see what was there this year - I went last year but not this time. Yours is the first blog post I've seen sharing the Quilt Fest - usually there are loads! Anyway, glad you have a good time, but it is tiring isn't it! xCathy

  5. Hello Rose, I'm thrilled that you liked my Sanderson Star Quilt! I did enjoy making it so do go for it if you fancy making one. I did cheat a bit as I didn't draw out my own pattern but used the patterns in Barbara Chainey's book at the size that most were printed at but changed some which I didn't think scaled down so well. The Star corners are square in this book but they should really be slightly 'squashed' as in Diana Lodge's book.
    Thanks again for your kind comments, Best wishes, Liz N