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The Quilted and the Non-Quilted Feast

The first day of our tour we spent sightseeing in Moscow, and in the afternoon we ended up inside the Novospassky Monastery, where a delicious meal had been prepared for our international group.

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We were to dine in one of the towers that sit on every corner of the wall surrounding the monastery.

The entrance was through a low door in the inside wall, up some long and narrow steps to the gallery, and again ducking through low doors and into the tower room.

It was a lovely sight: tables already set with lots of delicious food, old cupboards against the walls holding beautiful pots and crockery, traditional costumes on display, along with various crafted items, – and everything lit only by candles and the natural light coming through the small windows, filtered through blue and white glass.

Many old and newer samovars were displayed around the room and on the steps to the upper room:

We were told that we were going to have a traditional Russian meal, – as in a feast, – and our guide inside the monastery described each course as they were served: what they were, a little about tradition and production, how they should be eaten, etc.

I think there were more than ten different courses, – I lost count somewhere during the meal, – and all of it was delicious; the pumpkin soup, chicken and mushroom pie, pancakes with caviar, fish, pork, cucumber rolls and everything else.

We had sweetened mint flavoured juice to drink, – very good after a long and warm day out in the streets. Then there was cake and desserts along with hot tea made from lots of different sour fruits and berries, and sweetened with comb honey.

What a treat!


 

A week later we went into another monastery, in Suzdal, and inside one of the churches there, we laid eyes on another feast.

22 year old Xenia Shlyakova had single-handedly provided a full table of yummy food, – all made from fabric and set onto a large, handmade, table cloth.

There were all kinds of food:  fish with both red and black caviar, mushrooms, and chicken…..

……. pelmeni, cucumbers, roasted pig with vegetables, goose and apples, prawns with lemon and strands of dill……

….. breads in a basket with an embroidered napkin, and decorated bread or cake.

Bearing in mind the topic of the festival was Love, and Wedding, this would probably be the kind of decorated bread made especially for weddings. Note the poppy seeds on the braided loaf, – they are all tiny french knots.

Of course there were desserts too, – fruit, berries, cake, and cookies.

No feast is complete without something to drink.  In the bottle there is moonshine, and my guess is tea in the teapots and the samovar.

I wondered a bit about the boot on the top of the samovar, but Mr. Google informs me that it is used instead of a bellow to fan the fire inside the samovar.

And then the tea is sweetened with comb honey, – everything so neatly made, down to the last detail.

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One the artist’s beautiful quilts was overlooking the table.

 

Both feasts were amazing experiences, and even though the last one was for the eyes only, it is remembered just as well as the one which we could also taste and smell.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

 

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Dolls, – Tradition and Art

 

Dolls were a prominent part of the Quilt Festival in Suzdal. There was a separate competition category for dolls, and there were also several doll making classes during the week.

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The dolls exhibition and classes took place in the library building, an interesting sight in itself.

I loved the two quilts fitted into the arcs in the upstairs room. The large angel wings, put together from lots of individual wings made by children, was a popular selfie spot.

 

Old doll making traditions seem to have survived and are very much alive and kicking in this country, – maybe because dolls were not seen only as toys for little children, but were also part of traditions connected with adult life. Linda Walsh has an interesting article on her blog about Russian folk art dolls and their use.

According to tradition, rag dolls should be without facial features so that evil spirits would not mistakenly recognize them as humans and inhabit the dolls, – thus it would be safe for little children to play with. This old belief implies that dolls at some time must have been regarded as something more than just the sum of the fabric scraps they were made of.

There were a few faceless dolls in the exhibition, but most had facial features of some kind.

Anyway, regardless of face or not, the dolls were highly individual creations, – not two of them were alike.

The amount of work and attention to details were impressive.

People could enter works related to the terms “Urban Fashionista”, and also “Birds”, “Fish”, “Bears”, and “Bunnies”. Hence, there was a collection of imaginative, stuffed, animals, and, not surprising perhaps, – also cats.

 

“Angels Everywhere” was another subcategory of the dolls competition. And there were lots of angels and angel wings in many variations. One could also see the main theme for the festival, “Love”, reflected in many of the creations.

And even more angels:

The artist Nata Shulepina had created a special project called “Pray for me”:

Svetlana Minina taught classes on doll making at the festival. What she can express through a plain piece of cloth is truly amazing. Her small sculptures are really works of art.

I also loved the bird-woman sculptures, also made by Nata Shulepina  .   According to Wikipedia, these are mythical creatures, some telling the future, and some akin to the Greek sirens.

Not all dolls were as esoteric as the ones above, though. Some were engaged in down-to-earth, practical, activities:

Dolls could also be seen in other venues.  In the vendors’ area there were two life size dolls:

I loved the doll with three pairs of arms and hands. That could sure come in handy on many occasions.

Linda Walsh writes in her article about dolls with many arms:

“Ten-handed doll is a ceremonial multihanded doll. This doll was a common gift for weddings or for young hostess wishing everything to be well. It was considered the doll to help a woman to do all the housework , needlework, weaving, sewing, embroidery, knitting. The doll was made of bast fiber or straw. The doll can be put in the place, where woman spends her time working.”

The tradition of giving dolls as gifts with accompanying good wishes, has certainly not been abandoned. I have received such gifts on previous visits to Russia, and again on this trip.

This lovely doll was thrust into my hands by a fellow quilter on the opening night of the festival. Just like that, for no reason I can think of, other than that we had just been introduced. She is an amazing quilt artist, and the doll now sits right next to my sewing machine.

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I bought this colourful, small, mat from a lady in a stall on one of the first days. On our last day we ran into each other at the Apple Festival inside one of the monasteries, and she gave me this small doll. We had no language in common other than body and facial expressions, but I understood this was meant for good luck.

According to this site, it seems this kind of doll is for wishing good health to the receiver.

Thank you! 🙂

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

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Skarvsöm in Sweden and Yakutia

When visiting quilty events in foreign places, especially abroad, I hope, and expect, to see something different, – something we do not have at home, something new and exciting, – even exotic perhaps. But I also notice things that are familiar and similar to things I have seen before. Some times I know right away what the object reminds me of, and at other times it is just a feeling that I have seen it before, but cannot quite pinpoint what, where or when.

When walking the Quilted Field in Suzdal I came across a couple of quilts made in a technique I thought looked familiar. When studying the photos after I got home, I recognized the sewing technique as “Skarvsöm”.

I remembered reading about this technique many years ago in “Norsk Quilteblad”, the newsletter of the Norwegian Quilter’s Association. It was then described as a traditional patchwork technique in Sweden, well documented as far back as the 1700s, and mainly used for ceremonial cushions for weddings.

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“Skarvsöm” is made with woolen fabric which is felted so it will not unravel. It is often traditional patterns formed with squares, rectangles and triangles, but in between each and every patch or design element, a narrow strip, most often in a contrasting colour, is inserted, like a passepoil or piping. When the seam is finished, the strip is cut even with the surface on the right side of the work.

Here and here are examples of how it is made, and in Sweden’s Digital Museum you can see many examples of old items made in this technique, so it  is well documented. Here is a blog post with a short article on the history of this kind of quilting in Sweden.

Åsa Wettre also dedicated a whole chapter to this technique in her book “Old Swedish Quilts”.

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Since I could see no names on the quilts above, I wondered at first if someone from Sweden had entered their work in the Quilted Field project, but dismissed this idea as I thought our Swedish travel companion, Anita Fors, would have mentioned it if this was the case. My curiosity aroused, I messaged the organizers and asked about the names of the quilt makers, and if this was a traditional quilting technique throughout Russia. Within a few hours I got to know that this is a traditional technique from Yakutia, and the two makers are Anna Zverova and Vera Vorfolomeeva.

The latter also made these two quilts hanging in the special exhibition of Best Quilts from Previous Quilt Shows:

I noticed she had used not only one, but three strips of fabric in the seams between the patches, all throughout the red/yellow/black quilt, and in a few places on the other quilt too.

Further study of my and my husband’s photos revealed that this technique was also used in some of the clothing and other gear presented at the Yakut wedding demonstration, like on this coat:

…. the mittens:

 

… and the saddle bags/carpets:

 

It has been interesting to observe and learn about all this, and as often happens, new information creates new questions and more curiosity, – in this case as to what could be the connection between the Swedish and Yakut traditions.

Given that the two geographical areas are almost half a world apart, it is probably pure coincidence, – but I cannot help but wonder.

After studying all this, and also having long online conversations about the subject with our travel companion Anita, I got a sudden urge to try my hand at “skarvsöm”.

Just take a look at the beauty here.

 

Edited:

This kind of sewing is called “kybyty” in Russia. Here is a You-tube-video where Vera Vorfolomeeva shows how to do it.

Here is also a stunning picture of the StBasil cathedral in Moscow that she has made in this technique.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

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The Yakut Wedding

As I said in my two previous posts here and here, there was a lot going on on the day of the Quilted Field.

One of the posts on the entertainment program, was a demonstration of Yakut wedding customs, especially on how to dress the bride.

 

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It all started with a small procession of the participants entering the field and the stage. First came the groom..

…then various family members and a shaman (…I think..).

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One person was at the microphone explaining what was happening, but only in Russian. We could guess quite a lot from what we saw happening on stage, but we probably missed out on a lot of interesting details.

The bride came on stage already with the pink dress on, but there was a lot more to be added, both clothes, jewellery, belt, handbag, hat and mittens, – all of this in beautifully made traditional style clothing.

Everything was done with slow, ceremonial movements while some haunting songs, reminiscent of sami joik, but not quite, were played in the background, occasionally interrupted by the storyteller explaining something.

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When the bride was ready, the groom came and led her to the other side of the stage, both holding on to opposite ends of what looked like a big tassel.

Afterwards there was some kind of ceremony, and then some serious gift giving, – everything in slow motion:

 

In the end they danced some sort of line dance, – again with very slow motions and sombre faces, – very dignified. No hoopla or laughter.

 

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No wedding is without food and drink, of course, and they had brought some of their traditional foods and drink on to the stage. After the ceremony and dancing, they came around and offered the audience tastes of both food and drink, served in carved wooden vessels.

The food was waffles and some small pancakes, – very good, – and the drink was white and had a sour-ish taste. After reading up on Yakut wedding traditions on the web, we think that it must have been fermented mare’s milk. Nobody got sick or died as far as we know,  😉 even though everyone drank from the same cup.

This also gave us a chance of a closer glimpse of their wonderful attire, – all beautifully made with lots of details to admire. I should have liked to examine them all more closely and in person, but the photos will have to do. There was a lot of fur, as would be expected on traditional clothing from the coldest place on earth, but there was also woolen fabric and what looked like silk brocade on some of the coats. There was also lots of silver jewellery, some of which reminded me of the designs from Juhl’s Silver Gallery in Kautokeino, who has got their inspiration from the tundra and the people living there.

Yakutia, or the Sakha republic as it is also called, is the largest republic in Russia, and is almost as far east and north as you can come in that country. This group had travelled 8-9 hours by plane to get to the festival, – all inland, which is telling of just how large this country is.

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The organizers had better cameras than mine, so the photos on their website have some more close ups and details from this event.

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Here is a Youtube video of a Dressing-the-bride ceremony at a big event in 2012.

(It stops rather abruptly, before they are quite finished, I think.)

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In my next post, we will take a closer look at some of their quilts.

🙂

Eldrid

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The Quilted Field in Suzdal

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Sunday 14th August was the day the quilted field was to be laid out.  The weather forecast said rain, so we were not sure if we were going to be able see it or not, but luckily it let up during the morning hours, – and so we were greeted by this gorgeousness once we entered the grounds of the Museum of Wooden Architecture.

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The quilts are 1 x 1 meters and have strings attached to all four corners so they can be tied together. This was a good thing as the gusts of wind occasionally blowing across the field, could easily have created some disarray.

 

 

The Quilted Field is an ongoing project. Every year the 10 best quilts from the new entrants are chosen to be a permanent part of the project. At the moment they are aiming at having a large amount of very fine quilts to display at the event of Suzdal’s millennium anniversary, which will be in 2024.

 

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The best and most interesting quilts are exhibited for the rest of the week on the inside walls of the Eufemius Monastery.

 

From what we saw, they will have no problem of filling up the fields with exquisite quilts in 2024. There was a lot of creativity, skill, beautiful colours and design displayed at our feet while walking the field. The entries come from all parts of Russia and also from other countries. All entries are accepted, – none is turned away.

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There were so many quilts, and hardly enough time to study each one in detail as there was so much going on the whole day. (See my previous post) . However, some of them made me stop a bit longer to study details I found interesting.

 

 

The theme of this years Quilted Field was Wooden Architecture and Calico Wedding. Keiko Nakamura from Japan made this one, inspired by the wooden church standing in the grounds of the Suzdal Kremlin:

As you can see, a lot of different techniques have been used making the quilts. Keiko also used the same quilting as in the border for an obi belt for her daughter-in-laws kimono:

 

The participants of the Quilted Field do not get their own quilts back. At the end of the show, all quilts that are not permanent parts of the project, are packed in paper bags, and the entrants can choose a random paper bag with an unseen quilt to take back home.

All the quilts have name tags on the back, with the full address, so you have the chance of making friends with the maker of the quilt you get, and the one that get yours.

You can also choose to donate your quilt to the project and not get that unknown quilt in a paper bag.

Since the quilts lay backs down and were tied together, there was no way we could see the name tags, so I have no idea who made most of these quilts, and can therefore not give credit to the makers. However, if you see your quilt here, feel free to comment below.

There was also a special exhibition of wedding quilts hung in different places around the field. This was a separate competition.

There was also a quilted car.

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The organizers have lots more photos on their website.

🙂

Eldrid

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The International Quilt Festival of Suzdal, Russia

This August I travelled to the International Quilt Festival in Suzdal, Russia. It was a 10 day trip, with 8 of them spent at the Quilt Festival and in the immediate neighbourhood of Suzdal, a small town about 2 hours east of Moscow.

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I have been wanting to visit a Russian quilt event for a while, as I know there are several, and when I saw pictures similar to this one posted on the internet last year, I decided that this was where I wanted to go.

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Suzdal is a very old town. It was founded nearly 1000 years ago, and for a while it was the capital of a principality while Moscow was still merely a small outpost.

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The Suzdal Kremlin (photo above) is way older than the more famous one in Moscow, and is on Unesco’s world heritage list, along with one of the monasteries in Suzdal.

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The capital was moved, but over the centuries,  Suzdal became a religious centre with several monasteries and lots of churches. During the Soviet time, industrialization passed Suzdal by, and much of the old architechture was preserved. When the people realized what a gem they were sitting on, laws were passed to prevent highrise buildings in or near the town centre. More than 300 buildings in town are now listed or protected, including 5 monasteries and more than 30 churches. Suzdal is now a major tourist attraction on the so called Golden Ring, and more than a million tourists visit every year.kyrkjer

This also means that the place is well equipped with reasonably good hotels and restaurants, so the town, with a little less than 10 000 inhabitants, is capable of hosting quite large events.

The travel agency connected with the quilt festival, which organized the tour, had put together a varied and interesting program, which, in addition to the quilt festival events, also included a trip to a local farm and several guided tours of the town and area.

Since there were so many interesting things to do, and to look at, that were not necessarily quilt related, I brought along two family members who are not quilters, and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.

 

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The quilty events like exhibitions and classes were spread out on 8-10 locations throughout the town; – in hotels, churches, culture house, library, and even inside one of the monasteries. Exhibitions were open every day for more than a week.

The quilt shops were located in one of the hotels on the outskirts of town, along with the show administration and most of the classes. Our hotel was in the very centre of town, right next to the town square where much of the entertainment was going on, and with short walks to most of the exhibitions and attractions, and to a variety of good restaurants.

 

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Some events were one day dos, like the Quilted Field event held in the grounds of the Museum of Wooden Architecture.

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People sew quilts of the same size, 1 x 1 meters with ribbons attached to all four corners. The quilts are then laid out on the grass in a checkerboard pattern, and tied together at the corners.

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The audience can then walk, run, dance, or skip across the Quilted Field, enjoying all the different colours and motifs, and of course take lots of photos. People love to pose with their quilt, or with their family and friends, and photograph each other in the field.

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In addition to the quilted field, there were also quilts hung on clothes lines and on the walls of the old houses around the area.

 

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There were also lots of stalls selling food and various crafts.

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In addition to all this, the organizers also put on a more than 4 hour long show with lots of song and dance, traditional wedding processions and games, in which both young and old took part.

The theme of this years quilt festival was “Love”, and on this day the focus was on courtship and weddings. There was a special competition category of wedding quilts, and these quilts were hung around the area, and the winners were announced at the end of the day.

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People had dressed up in traditional wedding dress, and a procession of wedding guests following the couple marked the start of the show program.  Later the guests mingled with the audience, and it was interesting to study the various costumes they were wearing.

Quilters also wore their home made dresses, and we recognized a few of them from the fashion show in the town square on the previous day, – more on that in a later post.

On stage a folk dance group sang and danced to traditional folk tunes. They were very good, and wore a variety of wonderful costumes, – the sort quilters would love to take a closer look at.

I think they performed for more than an hour, and still I was sorry to see them go.

 

The audience were invited to learn traditional wedding dances in front of the stage. One couple led the dance, one lady had a microphone and explained the moves over the loudspeakers. Of course, we did not understand the words, which were in Russian, but we understood the moves and steps that were shown. They started out with the polonaise, which we also did at our daughter’s wedding 10 years ago, so it was really very similar to our customs at home.

A small play was performed, again all words in Russian, but you could guess a lot from the mimics and tone of voice. My guess is that this was about a young girl who wanted to be a fine lady in town, and turned up her nose at the simpler farm girl who wished to stay put. However, the farm girl got the eligible young man in the end, but luckily an officer also came to the rescue of the “fine” girl, so all was well in the end.

I loved their costumes.

 

The whole thing was very informal. You could sit and watch all the time, or get up and walk around looking at the quilts, participate in the dancing and games, go have a snack at one of the stalls, or sit on the grass enjoying your packed lunch. There were not only quilters present, but families out for a Sunday afternoon walk, officially invited guests, and also busloads of tourists visiting the museum as part of their tours. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

 

This is already getting too long. I will have to make several new posts to show you more of the quilts, and of other (hopefully) interesting stuff.

🙂

Eldrid

 

 

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Festival of Quilts

For the very first time I had the chance to attend the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this year.  The last quilty event I attended in the UK was the National Patchwork Championships at Ascot in 1997, which is quite a long time ago. It felt good to be back at a quilt show, and I enjoyed every minute of my stay.

Since I returned home, I have also enjoyed myself studying the photos I took of the quilts. I had planned to post some of them soon after my return, but I have had a hard time choosing which ones, and where to start.

There was a large number of quilts on display, and even though I spent most of the time looking at the quilts, I am not sure I got to see all of them. And then there were all the boots, which also had quilts in them, along with other stuff.

What I found I admired most at the show was all the wonderful and detailed quilting done on most of the quilts that were shown. So I think that is where I will start.

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“Rhapsody” by Sandy Chandler is one of the quilts that caught my attention. It is a wholecloth quilt, and was entered in the Traditional Quilts category, and got a “Highly Commended”, which is kind of a 4th place. It was quilted on a longarm machine, mostly hand guided.

 

Lots and lots of beautiful feather quilting. Click on the photos to see a larger and closer view.

 

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This one, called “Sunshine and Flowers”, was made by the same person as the one above. It was entered in the Quilters’ Guild Challenge, which had a garden theme this year.

Again: Lots and lots of beautiful quilting.

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Here is a little beauty: “After the Snowfall” by Sheena Norquay. It was entered in Pictorial Quilts, and was one of the Judges Choices.

I did not get to take many close ups of this one, but above are a couple.

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This is “Lily White” by Pauline Tiney, entered in the Contemporary Quilts category. I came across this quilt one morning just before I was due at a workshop, so got just the one picture. It was hung so you could see both the back and the front, and I think this is the back side. It is still beautiful.

There were so many quilts I thought that I would go back to have a closer look at later, but in the end, there was not enough time.

The thing about wholecloth quilts is that they often don’t look like much until you go close and study them. That is also partly true for this one:

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It is called “Simply Mandalas” and was made by Pierra Vernex from Canada. The motifs are inspired by circular mandala motifs made by Tibetan monks. It was made completely on a home sewing machine, using the quilt-as-you-go method.

It is truly stunning.

 

 

 

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Here is one with more colours and beautiful quilting. It is called “Kutch Diamonds”, and was made by Annelize Littlefair. It was entered in the Traditional Quilt  category, and got a Highly Commended. You can see why below:

 

It is freehand quilted on a longarm machine, and took 150 hours to finish. I can easily believe that.

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This is called “The Old Garden Gate”, and is made by Lynda Jackson. It has been quilted on a longarm machine.

Below are some close ups:

 

 

Then there was this one:

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It did not look like much at first glance, but the more I looked, the more it caught my interest.

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I thought it was a bit fun that it was also captured with another head on it 😉

The quilt is called “Profiles”, and was made by Stephanie Pettengell. It was entered in the Art Quilt category.

The profiles were made by removing the black colour of the fabric, using discharge paste. It was then free machine quilted.

All the profiles were quilted in a similar manner, except the brains, they were all different.

After looking for a while, I also discovered that profiles were quilted into the black part of the fabric. A very original piece.

Since we are on the topic of heads, I will also show you this one:

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This is “Skull Optics” by Paula Rafferty, entered in the Art Quilt category.

When I first came by it, I did not see the skull, – just the black and white stripes, which were kind of disturbing to the eyes. I took a photo anyway, because I thought the border was so neat.

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Only after loading the photos on my home computer did I notice the skull motif.

On a more humorous note: The space in front of this one was always crowded.

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It is a group quilt called “Les Q-Ers” entered by Marion Barlow on behalf of the group Q 4 Quilters. It shows a group of quilters in a bus queue, heading for a quilt show. The quilt got a Highly Commended.

And here is the reverse side, on their way back from the show.

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I think I am the one who does not NEED more fabric, – except I do not have to hide it when I get home. 😉

Although I spent most of the time looking at quilts, I set aside a small amount of time at the end of the day to walk by the boots, – just to see what was there. Of course I got tempted, – and I also had a small list of items that I was looking out for.

Here is what I brought home:

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The fabrics at the front are all for a project that is lurking in the wings. They are silks, some hand dyes, and a few gorgeous ones from Oakshott.

Then I was also tempted by Heide Stoll Weber’s hand dyed fabric packs, and I am really looking forward to make something out of the two pink and orange bundles to the right. I also grabbed some neutrals for my hexagon project, and threw in a few other fat quarters as well.

I bought one of the African embroideries, and a few of their prints. Then there is some bling and a small iron, and also thread and needles. I love the Nimble Thimbles, so bought a couple of those, and on the last day I splashed on a small hand made pair of scissors. (I bought a pair of hand made duck billed scissors at Ascot nearly twenty years ago, and they are still very good, so I reckon it is worth the expense. ) They must be very popular, for as I was getting the last pair, I overheard them saying they were super busy and would not be taking any new orders till after Christmas.

The fabrics have been duly fondled and put away till I have finished my current project. In between sewing, there are plenty more photos to be studied, and I will pick out some more to show you in another post.

🙂

Eldrid