So here in the UK the annual Festival of Quilts event is fast approaching. I know this because I am frantically sewing up two projects that will be on display there (hopefully!). The Festival of Quilts is held every year at the end of July/beginning of August at the NEC in Birmingham. It’s a great central location enabling lots of people to be able to come. In fact attendance numbers are regularly around 25,000 over the four days. This year it’s on between 1-4 August (2019).
I LOVE going to the Festival each year and would encourage you to give it a go. I thought you might be interested in my top tips for a successful trip.
1. SEE THE QUILTS
First and foremost, you have to see the quilts! Surely that’s the whole reason for going! Last year an astounding 800 people entered quilts into the competition. Have you ever entered a quilt? I wrote a post last year on whether to enter or not, you can read it here. I’ve also recently read one here which is really interesting too. The competition quilts are not juried at this show, which means anyone can enter. I find it refreshing to see a total mix of abilities. It can still be overwhelming at times when you see the absolutely stunning and amazing work on show. But I try not to let that put me off when entering. I just try to remember that we are all on our own quilting journey and we are all at different points along the way. Some are ahead and some are behind but we must continue to walk our own walk. I’m entering three quilts this year: one in the group category; one traditional (I actually think it’s more Modern Traditionalism); and one new piece that I’m not really sure about but hey ho!
2. SPEAK TO THE ARTISTS IN THE GALLERIES
Every year there are artists’ galleries. In the gallery you will find a collection of works by one artist. He or she will be on hand to speak to about their work. I encourage you to speak to them, they will surely love the engagement. The galleries often introduce you to new techniques you may not have tried before.
3. TAKE A CLASS OR ATTEND A TALK
By the same token, there are a myriad of classes, workshops, talks and demonstrations on offer every year, over 400 this year! Take one, learn a new skill or just have a bit of fun. Not sure if there are places left or not but if so you can check them out here. This year I’ve decided to have a go at long arm quilting, so I’m taking a whole afternoon class. Really looking forward to that.
4. MEET UP IN REAL LIFE
Are you on Instagram or Facebook? I bet you’ve made a tonne of friends online. Festival is the ideal place to meet up in real life. I’m coordinating a group quilt this year and so I’m hoping to meet as many of the contributors as possible. I’m the Chairperson of the Hampshire MQG and I’m hoping to meet up with other MQG members there. Frances (the UK MQG coordinator) will be meeting up with members at the Sewing Quarter cafe between 12 and 1.30pm on Thursday and Friday.
5. SUPPORT THE VENDORS
There will be over 350 vendors at the show all hoping you will spend your pennies with them. Having a stand at a show is a major investment for many small shops, prohibitive for some. So please please please support them. Obviously you can’t buy something from 350 shops, although I’m sure some of you might try lol! But maybe take a flyer to return at some point in the future. Like much of retail at the moment, our quilting shops are really feeling the pinch. If we want them to continue we must support them. You can see a full vendor list here.
6. WEAR COMFY SHOES
You will be on your feet and doing lots and lots of steps all day so be sure to wear comfy shoes!!
7. REST & RE-FUEL
Make sure to take time to rest those weary aching feet. There are a couple of cafes inside the halls. These do get filled up quickly, but there are also benches just outside the halls and other eating places too.
8. TAKE A SHOPPING BAG
OK so this is an obvious one! When you are doing your bit for the British economy and supporting the vendors you’ll need something to carry your goodies away. Even if you are being careful with your pennies I can guarantee you will buy something! So take a bag or bags!!! I have seen people with little wheeled suitcases and shopping carts. Not sure what the rules are for those, but they do have restrictions for large rucksacks:
Rucksacks larger than 55 x 40 x 20cm will not be permitted into the venue but can be left in the cloakroom. The reason for the ban is to help protect the quilts from damage.
9. PLAN PLAN PLAN
Take time to plan your trip to make the most of your time there. You can read all the information here.
10. BE INSPIRED NOT DISCOURAGED
As touched on in point 1, there is much to inspire. It can assault the senses somewhat!! Some people feel discouraged, I kind of get this. When leaving I always feel as though I need to ‘up my game’, or try new things. I think that’s good, I mean, I’m also encouraged that it is possible. Everyone improves the more they do. Last year I came away thinking I needed to improve my quilting, I loved the quilts with ‘graffiti’ quilting on, i.e. different designs all mixed in together. So this year I’ve tried it and I love it. This is the little piece I tried it on.
I’m currently working on something that will hopefully make it to festival this year that will have a bit of that on. I know it won’t be as masterful as some of the pieces I saw last year but it is an improvement of what I did last year and that has to be the main point right? To keep improving yourself.
Well I hope that’s been helpful for you. Hope to see some of you there. Tell me in the comments section what else you would add to this list?