Top 10 Tips for visiting a Quilt Show!

Photo from Festival of Quilts 2018

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.

The Crafty Nomad Festival of Quilts Top Ten by Jo Westfoot


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


You will be on your feet and doing lots and lots of steps all day so be sure to wear comfy shoes!!


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.


Bag by The Crafty Nomad

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.


Take time to plan your trip to make the most of your time there. You can read all the information here.


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.

The Crafty Nomad Ombre Mini

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?

To Enter or Not To Enter, that is the question...

What on earth am I talking about?!  Well recently it was the Festival of Quilts in the UK.  I absolutely love going to it every year.  But it can be extremely overwhelming.  This year was no exception, in fact it was even bigger than previous years!  

The main draw for me, has to be the quilts themselves.  I mean it's nice to shop too, but it's the quilts I go to look at!

It's always such an inspiring event.  The quilts are completely AMAZING!  It's a very grounding experience and I ALWAYS leave thinking of how I want to improve my own work and skills.  It inspires you to 'Up your game'!

This year I entered two quilts.  One had been in Quilt Now Magazine last year and the other one was my Breaking Point Quilt.  From previous experience, I knew when entering that there would be many quilts way better than mine but did it put me off from entering? No of course not.  I wasn't entering to win, I was entering to share the quilts.

I spoke to lots of people whilst there and before and after about entering a quilt, and so many people were put off entering as they feared the judges comments or that people would think their quilt not good enough.  I think that is such a shame.  A quote springs to mind:

"Use what talent you possess - the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the birds that sang the best"

We are all at different stages along the journey of learning and improving, does that mean that only the best or most confident can share their work.  Of course not.  So I encourage you to enter your quilts into exhibitions so that people can see your lovely hard work.  I guarantee you you will benefit so much from seeing your quilt hung in an exhibition.  And you'll also get encouragement from people who view the quilts and also from the judges.  Most comments I've had from judges have been very positive. 

I did have a bit of a giggle at the feedback from the judges on my Breaking Point Quilt as it just goes to show how very subjective the judging is as in the category of 'Originality' one judge ticked Excellent, another Good and the other one Satisfactory lol.  So you kind of have to take it all with a pinch of salt.  Given that I drew the star shape from an idea in my head and then drafted foundation paper piecing patterns in EQ8 I'd have to say it really is original lol!  But all of these comments help you improve and 'up your game' for next time.  

So should you enter? Definitely! Will I keep on entering? Yes as long as I have time!!!

Breaking Point Quilt - Creativity for Well-being

Today I'm sharing a quilt with you that hopefully made it safely to Festival of Quilts and should be on display there.  I wanted to share with you the story behind the quilt.

The Crafty Nomad - Jo Westfoot - Breaking Point - Let's Talk Quilt

I listen to Podcasts whilst out on my daily run or walk.  Most of them are quilting related.  On a sunny day back in April I happened to be listening to episode 131 of the Crafty Planner Podcast. Sandi was interviewing Kathryn Clark.  I was fascinated by the depth of the subject matters that Kathryn quilted about.  Up until now my quilts have all just been about aesthetic, shapes that I like the look of etc.  But Kathryn was quilting about really meaty political subjects: bank foreclosure; immigration; Russia.  I loved that idea. So it got me thinking.

At the time I'd also been working on material for a talk I now give at Quilt groups all about how creativity, and quilting in particular, helps our mental health and well-being.  So I married the two up and decided to make a quilt on the topic of mental health.  By the time I got home from my run I already had the bare bones of the design in my head! So hurriedly set about drawing it out! 

Creativity for Wellbeing Quilt by Jo Westfoot The Crafty Nomad

The finished quilt is a little different to how I initially had it in my head, it kind of evolved as I made it, but the main blocks were exactly how I had pictured them from the beginning!

I wanted the quilt to depict that moment when you snap, the lead up to it and then the healing process that follows.  So it contains four blocks which each represent one of those stages.  The blocks are foundation paper pieced from a pattern I designed using EQ8.  The quilting symbolises the breaking point, like an explosion.  Along those quilted lines are words that represent the feelings at each stage of the process.  In my initial plans these words were to be stitched onto speech bubbles appliqued onto the quilt.  Because we really need to talk more to help us heal.  But that really didn't suit the style of the quilt in the end.  So instead I stitched the words along the lines.

Breaking POint Let's Talk Quilt by Jo Westfoot The Crafty Nomad

I chose to use Alison Glass Sun Print 18 fabric for the blocks as a) I love it! and b) it had three depths of tone to each colourway.  I had originally planned to use plain white as the background, but changed this to use a low volume text print by Moda.  This was to represent the fact that in the background of life, the regular noise of life carries on as normal whilst you are in the midst of your own personal crisis!

So the first block represents the process of Breaking, when things are starting to get out of your control.  The colours are subdued dark rainbow as your colours are starting to fade.  There are gaps appearing where you are starting to break.  The red sections show pain.

Breaking Point Block Jo Westfoot The Crafty Nomad

The second block represents being Broken, the moment of exploding, when there is only pain and emptiness: you are completely lost and have no control over your life.  Here there is only red fabric and gaps.

Broken Block Breaking Point Quilt Jo Westfoot The Crafty Nomad

The third block represents the Healing process.  Here you can see the rainbow colours are a mix of dark and mid tones showing that you are starting to lighten.  The gaps are now filled with low volume rainbow colours representing the healing process.  There is still plenty of pain though represented by the red fabric.

Healing Block - Breaking Point Quilt - Jo Westfoot The Crafty Nomad

The fourth block represents being Healed.  The colours are lighter and brighter.  There are a small number of red and low volume rainbow areas remaining, showing that the experience becomes part of the new version of ourselves, allowing us to have more empathy in life.  The low volume areas I think really embodies one of the quotes stitched in to the quilt: "The wound is where the light shines through".

Healed Block - Breaking Point Quilt - Jo Westfoot - The Crafty Nomad

I love how this quilt turned out but I already have plans to make an adapted version!  There was a real moment of 'despair' when making this quilt and I'll share about that next week, but it was just so ironic as that word is stitched in. Let's just say it almost didn't get sent to Festival of Quilts!

I would love to know how quilting has helped your mental health and well being, let me know in the comments.