Festival of Quilts 2019 – Entry 1, Birds Of A Feather

Douglas Adams famously noted, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Me? I’m with ol’ Douglas part of the way – I do love a deadline. They help me focus and give me a specific framework to manage my time around, and as such they’re pretty important in my day job. I’ve also learned that I like a deadline in my crafts, too. Without a date or an event to aim for, I am quite capable of meandering off and being distracted by something else that’s caught my fickle attention. All hail, then, the imposition of Crafting Deadlines!

Consequently, last year I pulled on my Big Girl Undies and decided to enter the Festival of Quilts show for the first time. My reasons? 1) Getting something FINISHED (yay deadline!) and 2) getting some impartial feedback. Of my many UFOs, I selected the Paper Crane blocks from a Craftster block swap as my target project. I’d made the extra Cranes and filler blocks, everything was layered up ready to go, and I’d even made a start on the quilting, so really all (ha!) I had to do was quilt each block and assemble them into the finished quilt. Additionally, as a project that has involved other peoples’ effort, I felt it had greater priority than some of my other WIPs.

Having entered it into the Group category, I squared up to the quilting; matchstick quilting and dot-to-dot designs on the Flying Geese blocks and four different “elemental” inspired designs (water, air, fire, earth) for the background around the Cranes, which had already been ditch-quilted. I also had three slightly smaller Cranes made in error by one of my swap partners; she made me three more the right size, but the “wrong” ones were so pretty that I wanted them to be part of the quilt as well, so I used them on the back of three of the Flying Geese blocks and also quilted around them so that their shadows appeared on the front of the quilt.

Once all the main blocks were quilted, I turned my attention to the setting triangles needed to square it up. To enhance the Japanese/Oriental feel of the quilt, I decided to use a bamboo leaf motif, and spent quite a lot of time hand-appliqué-ing an awful lot of green leaves onto cream backgrounds!

How good is that fabric? It was a very fortunate find at Calico Kate in Lampeter, just perfect for my bamboo leaves.

You may notice that I cheated a bit with my setting triangles, which perhaps wasn’t the best decision ever made, but by this point the end of July was bearing down upon me with speed and I was just determined not to hear that “WHOOSH” sound. Each block was quilted with an overall pattern of elongated leaves, then the triangles were cut apart, trimmed to size and arranged around the quilted blocks.

Finally, to assemble the quilt, I used a modified version of the sashing tutorial by Leah Day on Youtube. On the back, I used narrow strips of cream Sevenberry fabric, which has the most fascinating woven texture, and on the front I used a lighter colourway of the leaf fabric, to really bump up the bamboo look. To maximise the effect, I even used Markal Paintsticks to stencil joint lines on each strip.

To make them really stand out against the background, I also fused a narrow strip of wadding down the centre of each strip, then hand-appliquéd each strip into place over the joins in a basket-weave arrangement. The quilt’s binding was more of the textured cream Sevenberry fabric. I should note that my Uncle had his 60th birthday party in the middle of July, and as I was the only person from my corner of the family even remotely able to go, I had to get my quilt into a “hand sewing only” state and then take it to the south of England to help him celebrate. I was not too proud to pull out the quilt and do more hand-stitching on it while chatting to the other guests! Luckily, as generations of stitchers before me have found, hand-sewing can be pretty sociable and everyone was charmingly interested in what I was doing and why. Finally, the last stitch was made and the hanging sleeve attached, then I rollered off as much dog hair and lint as I could find and parcelled it up carefully, ready for hand delivery to the NEC.

After a few days pottering around Birmingham’s museums, I finally got to see my work hanging in the Festival of Quilts!

So, aim 1 achieved – quilt finished and entered! Huzzah! What about aim 2? Well, I have to say that I was nervous when I opened the envelope with the judges’ feedback in it, but in fact what I found therein was very fair and encouraging comments and scores that, based on the very high standard at the FoQ that year, seemed entirely reasonable. I did get dinged a little over those setting triangles being a bit wibbly! However, in truth I’m not sure how much was due to bias effects and how much was down to having folded the quilt for delivery. Now that it’s on my bed, keeping me cosy in all this rough weather, it’s impossible to notice any wobbles. For me, entering a quilt show is very much an opportunity to learn, both during the construction phase and from the feedback afterwards. I can say for sure that it was a really positive experience that I am looking forward to repeating this year!

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