Taking a stand at shows means that I often have complementary tickets to give away but recently I won a ticket to The Festival of Quilts in the NEC. I had been debating going as I am a bit of a show addict so when Maeri (of The Make & Do Studio) let me know I had won a ticket, I was thrilled!
It's been a while since I've been to a big show as a visitor and I felt a bit out of practise! I had a quick look at the exhibitor list - just to see which yarn folk were there – but I didn’t look that hard. Going to yarn shows I usually have a list as long as my arm (and way longer than my budget!) but for this I only had a tiny list - some fabric and zips for project bags for the shop and some treat yarn. I had a budget … which I *may* have gone over a little but at least I started out with good intentions.
Pictorial Quilt, first place
I like visiting the NEC as they know how to put on a show and as I got the train, there was no faffing with parking. It seemed quiet until I got to the halls where the show was being held and then Star Bucks was queueing around the corner! I joined the queue around 9:35am and while there was a queue it wasn’t anything like I’ve joined for The Knitting and Stitching Show at The Ally Pally ; ) I had my queueing sock so I was happy.
'The Kracken Awakes' ...Where would you even start?
Queuing for yarn shows, I like to look for particular knitted items (Lush cardigans, all kinds of West Knits .. I know a few folk who have Bingo cards for this!) but there was a lot less handmade clothing in the queue for this show. It may be that it's pretty difficult to wear a quilt - although there were some exquisite quilted bags on show.
As we stood waiting to enter, it dawned on me that I wasn’t just going to an excuse to shop but to a massive exhibition of quilts. No laughing as it might seem daft not to have realised it but I thought it might just be one or two and then lots of shops. It was while queueing that I saw mention of 1600 quilts on my ticket and even from the queue it was already apparent that there were some magnificent creations on display. Then entering the hall, there were just rows and rows of quilts, all individual hung, like some kind of magical art gallery!
My softspot for birds does apparently also run to quilts
The quilts! Oh the quilts! I had a brief flirtation with quilting a couple of years ago and it’s so enjoyable but when you see so many astonishing masterpieces at a show like this, it just silences you! I mean I love knitting, the magic of the different fabrics that you can make, but the size and scale of some of these works, made me appreciate knitting in a way that I don’t always. No matter how tricky or time consuming any of my knitting projects in the future are, I'll think of how much effort went into these quilts and be thankful! : )
I was so glad I had set a budget because this was for sale & it was a close run thing!
It was lovely to just wander without purpose. I planned to spend about 2 hours there but eventually spent more than 4 and thought I'd take a few photos but in the end took almost 200. I very nearly didn't see the winning quilts either - back to how little I knew about the show - I hadn't realised it was a competition either. Judging this must take so much skill because each and every one was just beautiful.
I think if I had to choose a favourite it would be this ... yep, it had me at 'birds'
The shopping was great, particularly if you love fabric. There was all and every fabric you could hope for. I found what I wanted and then some! There was also just enough yarn to keep me happy! Two lovely kits from Jane Desmond – I’m going to complete these and frame them as Christmas gifts … the hen and cockerel have a particular meaning for their intended recipients! A mix of fabrics including some beautiful denim from The Denim Company (I *might* make a skirt!), Tulip hooks for even more beading, fluffy mohair from the ever fab Belinda Harris Read, some Sari yarn from my show buddy Carol at feltcreative and a few more bits. Honestly, I'm glad I started with a budget and that fabric is not my weakness because it would be possible to melt a credit card at this show if it was!
A little picture for the knitters. I did not buy his new quilting book but fingers crossed for another knitting book ; )
Being at this also taught me some valuable things for my stand at the next big show! My Ally Pally leaflets will definitely have 'How to get back to me' details on as I had one stand that I really wanted to get back to but I just couldn't find it again.
I would definitely recommend this show – it was busy in the shopping areas after 11am but I felt like when you needed a break from that, you could just wander through the beautiful quilts. It is so great to see items at the pinnacle of a craft. I’m going to spend a lot more time in the galleries at the Ally Pally this year, that is for sure.
First place in 'Miniture Quilts' and winner of Best in Show. The little circles are about half the size of a woman's thumb nail!
The only not-positive thing I could say is that there wasn't a zip in the place! All that fabric and not a zip. I know, I know, quilts don't have zips. An excuse to go to my local haberdashery shop I feel! : )
A huge thank you to Maeri for the ticket! Maeri attended the show on behalf of The Craft Industry Alliance in the US and will be sharing her experience of the show on their website in the next few days. You can see a condensed set of my pics over on Flickr. The lighting in some of them is quite poor but hopefully it'll give you an idea of the masterpieces that were on display.
Happy knitting (& quilting!)
There was one quilt to mention in particular, The Women's Quilt 2017. It is dedicated to the 598 women who were killed by their partners or ex-partners between 2009 and 2015 in England and Wales. It is one of the most tragic yet beautiful pieces of art that I have ever seen. Standing there reading the names, it was like the rest of the show faded away. I think a lot of people who paused there felt that way too. There aren't really adequate words to describe it so if you have an opportunity to go and see it, please do.
The Women's Quilt, 2017