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Back from Birmingham, UK!

I got back recently from the Festival of Quilts, which is held at the National Exhibition Center every August in Birmingham, England.

This is not a juried show - anyone who enters will get their quilt in the show - but it IS judged. Since I have family in the UK, I entered my quilts, packed them up in a suitcase and took a trip to England to coincide with this lovely quilt show.

In addition to the quilt competition and a hall full of vendors, the Festival of Quilts presents galleries of work by featured artists, collectors and museums.

This year, the Americans were out in force! Roderick Kiracofe showed a collection of favorites from his book 'Unconventional and Unexpected'. He also presented a lecture about his life as a quilt collector.

My favorite quilt of his was this huge 'Unique Yo-Yo' quilt made in Fairview Park, Ohio by Laura Otto in 1964.

The International Quilt Museum brought African American quilts from the Robert and Helen Cargo Collection.

Left; Turkey Trails by Mary Martin, AL, c.1955

Right; Everybody Quilt by Nora Ezell, AL 1985

A contemporary African American quilt maker is Michael A Cummings. I have followed his work on Instagram and was thrilled to find him here, showing his quilts.

On the left, James Baldwin...Born Into a Lie

Center; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

Right; Nelson Mandela

The Quilters Guild of Great Britain presented a group of quilts under the title 'Text and Context' - often showing the back of the quilts with the papers still in each patch.

This Jockey Cap Patchwork was made between 1840 and 1903 by a maker once known.

(I wish I could have seen the front!)

I loved this quilt full of labels, made in the 1980s by Winifred Dodge. It was such a reminder of the long gone brands we used to buy and wear, back in the day when I was a kid growing up in England.

Sarah Hibbert is a British quilt artist whose work I have followed for a while. A modern quilter based in London, Sarah creates small collages which later become inspiration for her quilts. Here's an example of that process: A blue and white collage cut from a magazine advertisement for GAP. The resulting quilt is on the right.

In amongst the vendors I was excited to come across The Tent Makers of Cairo. Their appliqué work is stunning in its detail, and I loved watching a demonstration of their technique: Cut more fabric than you need and trim as you go. Also; sew like the wind!

Next time I find myself with a spare $750 I'll do a little shopping in their 'tent'!

In the Competitors Hall I found the usual wonderful range of work entered by quilters around Britain and abroad. The Festival of Quilts has slightly different entry categories than other shows I'm familiar with. If you have someone else long-arm quilt your entry, that means it must go in the 'Two Person' category. In addition to the expected categories like Modern, Traditional and Miniature, I was interested to find a grouping of works by Complete Beginners (those who started sewing in the last 12 months) and Novice Quilters (quilting for less than three years)

Here is a assortment of quilts that caught my eye in different ways. I was at the show three days running. Each time I saw something new. It was a feast for the eyes!

Left: Nicky Haron 'Thoroughly Modern Doiley' (@haronnicky)

Right: Linda Chevell 'Two is Sylvia'

Jo Westfoot "Glitter Ball'

Nicky Haron, 'Murasaki Saisei' (@haronnicky)

Rose Thorn 'Homebound 2020-21'

Here I am with my own entries

And finally, no report from The Festival of Quilts would be complete without a handful of Great British Quilts!

If you're thinking of making a trip to England, the The Festival of Quilts takes place next year at the same location from August 3rd to 6th, 2023. You can fly into Birmingham and find the NEC right there at the airport. This show is worth a visit!

304 views3 comments



Thanks for sharing all these, Julia!



Julia, thank you for giving us a glimpse into that fabulous show! Your quilts are beautiful! I've been quilting since the early 1980's and I remember designer labels in quilts. So weird to think of my starting decade of quilting as being collectible! I loved the wonderful variety of quilts you showed.

Judy McNeel


Dear Julia,

what a wonderful post! I'm so glad I read it and didn't dismiss because I'm busy.

I have a little bag of yo-yo's already made and the RK example is inspiration to keep making :D

LOVE the labels quilt. Most clothes don't have nice labels anymore, unless you're paying top dollar.

Are you going to Quiltcon? The reason I bring it up is that it takes me several 'looks' to see everything, like you said. You don't see it all the first time around. My favorite are the modern quilts you posted, but I must say, the Rose Thorn 'Homebound' shows an amazing amount of work and patience!

Now YOUR quilts. The one with yellow prairie points is…



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