The Tentmakers of Cairo

Today I have a really interesting topic for you: the Tentmakers of Cairo.

They do wonderful appliqué work on sturdy canvas which was originally used to decorate the interior of tents in the Middle East. This work is called Khayamiya. It is an original craft and since many generations the skills are passed along from father to son.You can read more about the history of Khayamiya here.

As with quilts this art form was not recognized by collectors and/or museums. The art and the artists were “discovered” by visitors to Egypt. The Australian quilt artist Jenny Bowker brought them into the quilting world where they can be found at major quilt shows for some years now. Jenny Bowker tries to promote their work, not only to show the world what a stunning craft this is but also to support the stitchers as their art is a dieing one in their home country. You can find more about the tentmakers at Jenny’s website.

So if you are lucky you can find the tentmakers’ booth at one of the major quilt shows. If you walk into it there is a firework of colors,

there are some signs that someone is working here (like snippets of fabric on the ground),

and sometimes you even can watch one of the tentmakers working.

The beautiful appliqué pieces are only made by men with fathers teaching their sons. A skilled stitcher works really fast and often without marking the appliqué pieces. And still it takes him one to six months (depending on the size) to finish one of these beautiful pieces.

If you want to know more about this craft and their makers I have some videos for you:

In this video by Bonnie McCaffery the tentmakers not only show their stunning pieces but also describe how they design and how they work.

And in this video Jenny Bowker introduces two tentmakers and their colorful pieces. But the really interesting part is what Jenny has to say about their way of life and work.

Here a tentmaker shows the whole process of making a pattern, transferring it to the canvas and stitching the appliqué. Every traditional quilter (in a certain age I should add) recognizes the whole process. It’s the same way we learned to make patterns and transfer them to the fabric. (This was the time before water soluble pens were on the market.)

And last but not least there is a whole documentary on this ancient craft.

If you get a chance to see one of the tentmakers’ exhibitions don’t miss it. You will see a lot of colors, patterns and beautiful work and you will meet really friendly people.

I’m linking this to Off the Wall Friday, Can I get a Whoop Whoop and to Brag about your Beauties.

 

I am missing the Quiltshows

I am really missing the quiltshows! Although I like the online events and really loved some of them (thank you Modern Quilt Guild!), I miss the camaraderie, the exitement, the laughter, the friendship, the harmony, the emotions, the joy, the feeling of belonging together, ……… I could go on and on.

While browsing YouTube I found this great film made for the PBS Short Film Festival in 2020 about Quilt Week in Paducah and it brought all these feelings back to me. So much so that I was close to tears sometimes. It really shows very well what quilting is all about.

If you are missing all the great shows as well – here’s the video. Enjoy!

40 years – a Quiltshow

As we still can not travel (at least here in Europe) many quiltshows are cancelled at the moment. This is sad but understandable. But …… I do have several thousand pictures of quiltshows in my photo archive. So how about revisiting some shows of the last years?

In 2019 the Quilters’ Guild of Great Britain celebrated their 40th birthday with a quiltshow at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, titled “Spotlight @ 40”. The quilters were asked to interpret 40 in the most creative way. One side of the quilt had to measure 40 inches. The quilts were all made by British members of the guild and they went into the permanent collection of the Quilters’ Guild.

Here are some of the beautiful quilts:


“40 days and 40 nights” by Cag Tyndall
Artist’s statement: Work on this quilt began during the spring of 2019 when my mind turned to the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent. I wanted to celebrate the wonderful variety of colour and texture of different fabrics, as well as how they respond differently to dyes. Linen, cotton, silk, and mixed fabrics were all hand dyed. There are 40 appliquéd circles of each colour. The piece has been lightly quilted. 


“Circuit XL” by Marion McCrindle
Artist’s statement: Each year is a new cycle, hence there are 40 circles to represent 40 years of the guild’s life so far. Just as each year brings its own challenges and developments, so the circles have different patterns, colours and are made from a range of materials: paper, thread, fabric, wood and metal. Some years are good – some do not go as planned. In the life of the guild, some years have been highly successful, others less so. The circle has no end, something we hope for the guild. The circle of friends I found in the guild has a value above rubies. The circles represent a year—each different: some good, some bad, significant years, quiet years.


“40 Layers of Quilting” by Jo Avery
Artist’s statement: When I thought about the last 40 years of quilting and The Quilters’ Guild, I imagined them as layers of sedimentary rock as found in an archaeological dig. The resulting quilt shows 40 different layers of patchwork techniques including miniature log cabins and flying geese, plus layers of improvised and curved piecing. Appliqué, hand quilting and other embellishments have been added to some layers to represent as many aspects of quilting as possible. A fissure was created through the layers with the two pieces brought back together again with buttons representing the ‘make do and mend’ starting point of our patchwork tradition.

Jo Avery wrote a blog post about how she made this quilt and what a terrible mistake she made, which resulted in an even more interesting quilt. Don’t miss it, it’s a lesson in creativity.


“Belonging” by Lesley Brankin
The second line of The Quilters’ Guild Mission Statement reads: “We bring together quilters in a spirit of friendship and learning. We promote quilt-making in all its forms across the UK.” In the spirit of coming together in the guild’s 40th anniversary year, the maker invited fellow regional members to donate squares of cream/white fabric and provide a single descriptive word summing up what membership of the British Guild means to them. The squares were pieced together as a background and the tallied words featured in the ‘spotlight’.

 
“Spotlight on The Guild” by Anne Gosling
Artist’s statement: When I thought about the theme Spotlight@40, I decided to put the spotlight on The Guild, in particular guild membership, to celebrate the 40th anniversary. A crossword in guild colours seemed the most appropriate way to express all that the guild has to offer its members. The quilt is machine pieced but as I love to stitch by hand, the letters are hand appliquéd. The guild logo is the basis of the quilting design which is also hand stitched.

 
“Headline News” by Sabi Westoby
Artist’s statement: The theme was interpreted by focusing on world events that took place 40 years ago. For (british) quilters, the highlight of 1979 was, undoubtedly, the formation of The Quilters’ Guild and this work marks that exciting event. I also refer to other contemporary cultural, historical and political events that still seem significant to me 40 years later.  Red text, a reference to the ruby anniversary, was digitally printed on cotton sateen and the piece was stab stitched by hand.

 
“QGBI Excels” by Jeni Rutherford
Artist’s statement: The inspiration for this hanging is The Quilters’ Guild and how patchwork has evolved in the last 40 years. In 1979 contemporary work was unusual but now the Contemporary Quilt Group is one of the guild’s specialist groups. The hanging is in two parts: the front features QGBI, the guild’s ‘initials’. The back features traditional block designs—where the guild began—but the single colour blocks and quilting are contemporary. It represents all the people working away, in York and around the UK, who are generally unseen but make the guild what it is today. The motifs feature 40 in Arabic and Roman numerals. XL can be pronounced excel—what guild members try to do.

 
“40 Endangered in 40” by Melanie Missin-Keating
Artist’s statement: In the 40 years since The Quilters’ Guild began, the 40 animals, plants and insects shown in the quilt have become endangered to the point of extinction. Will they be extinct in the next 40 years? Can we save them? 


“Region 3 from the Air” by Grace Meijer
Artist’s statement: The landscape of Region 3 was the inspiration for this piece—the beautiful rolling landscape with its many colours, from the white chalk to the acid yellow rapeseed and the little hamlets and farms tucked into the hills. It is also the area where The Quilters’ Guild started; the first AGM was held in Winchester.


“Birthday Celebrations” by Aoibhínn Murray, Ciaran Behan & Aoife Behan
Here the 40th anniversary of The Quilters’ Guild is celebrated as a quilted birthday cake. The cake has three tiers, and each of the three Young Quilters involved designed and created their own section before joining them together. A sewing machine as the cake topper features a patchwork fabric flowing from it, displaying printed photos of 40 quilts from the past 40 years.

This is one thing that I like especially about the British Guild – it really fosters the young quilters. From 5 to 18 years the membership in the guild is free and there are special workshops for them. It’s really a great way to bring children and young adults to quilting. The above quilt is a perfect example of how much this pays off.

So this was our first, private, little quiltshow – with more to come. Come back to check or – even better – subscribe to this blog (enter your e-mail address in the box on the right) so that you don’t miss them.

I’m linking this to Off the Wall Friday, Can I get a Whoop Whoop and to Brag about your Beauties.

 

Book of the Month: Stunning 3-D Quilts by Ruth Ann Berry

Ok, I will confess that the cover of this book was the main reason why a bought it. The quilt looks so complex and the title states it’s “simplyfied”. So my curiosity won.

When you open the book the table of contents will take your breath away. I immediately wanted to make every single quilt of this book.

There are 12 projects but each of them has three further options in different colors – 48 possibilities all in all.

All the quilts are solely made of 60° triangles.
The downside: you need a lot of these triangles – a lot of cutting and a lot of sewing. And every triangle has 2 sides on the bias.
The upside: Ruth Ann Berry explains in every detail how to cut, organize and sew the triangles. And there are no inset seams.

To sew one of these quilts you will need a lot of patience (the quilts consist of 800 to 1000 triangles),
a brand new blade in your rotary cutter and
you have to be prepared to unsew some seams (I think it’s really easy to switch two triangles which will ruin the design).

At the moment I don’t have the peace of mind to tackle such a project but if you do you will soon be the proud owner of a spectacular quilt.

Stunning 3-D Quilts Simplified
by Ruth Ann Berry
C&T Publishing, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-61745-959-7

 

Art quilts over the years

I found this video by Martha Sielman (executive director of SAQA) where she shows art quilts from 1960 up to now. It’s interesting how styles, fabrics and even sizes have changed over this time. The video itself runs for 50 minutes with another 15 minutes for questions and answers.

So grab a cup of coffee and join me watching …

Favorite Quilt

QuiltFest on Instagram asked for my favorite finish. That is an easy one for me because this quilt is the first one I ever made that I really love. I like most of my quilts but I usually see something I could have made better. Not with this one. It’s a Mondrian inspired quilt I designed myself – a gift for my nephew who’s an artist himself and enjoys and values quilts.

The big and medium blocks are log cabin blocks with different fabrics but in the same hue. Its machine sewn and machine quilted. Made in 2020.

 

 

Book of the Month: Artful Improv by Cindy Grisdela

Since I have been quilting for more than 35 years I seldom buy quilting books anymore. Most of them are no longer interesting to me – been there, done that. But browsing Amazon I discovered “Artful Improv” by Cindy Grisdela. I follow her on Instagram and love the quilts she makes and I liked the cover – all these bright and colorful blocks! I ordered the book and I can say it is one of my best purchases of the last year.

The book is a gentle guide to improvisational quilting. By gentle I mean that you start with blocks that still resemble traditional quilting – log cabin blocks, drunkard’s path and even houses. But when you insert angled strips, curved stripes and/or a lot of negative space you suddenly have a beautiful modern quilt.

The book is a treasure chest filled with an abundance of inspiration but also with very clear tips how to cut, sew, quilt and finish a quilt. What I like best are the numerous photos of quilts that show how much you can achieve with fabric and quilting lines.

This book opened up a new way of quilting that I thoroughly enjoy! (You can see my first improv quilt here.)

artful IMPROV
by Cindy Grisdela
C&T Publishing, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61745-261-1

 

It’s Spring!

Finally! Today at 10:37 am spring arrived – even for the astronomers. For meteorologists and me spring starts with March 1st.

I decided that this will be the year when I make a quilt for every season. All will be approximately the same size and will be hung at the same place. This is a plan that I had for some years now but I never did it. But this year it will work out. Because of a book I recently bought: “Artful Improv” by Cindy Grisdela. I will tell you all about this book next Tuesday – today I will only say that this is the book I was waiting for. Colorful, graphical quilts with a lot of space for quilting, one more beautiful than the other.

I immediately started my first improvisational quilt with a simple improv log cabin block in the colors of the first flowers of the year (the yellow daffodils, the purple crocuses, the red tulips) mixed with some blue for the sky and some green for the fresh grass. I then surrounded the block with spring green fabric, quilted some wavy lines because spring is rather windy where I live and voilà my spring quilt is finished.

Spring quilt

 

I’m linking this to Off the Wall Friday, Can I get a Whoop Whoop and to Brag about your Beauties.

 

A Quilt of Significance

Once upon a time …. or to be more precise in 2017 the “Through our Hands” textile art group had a great idea: The Portrait Shuffle.

One could sign up for a kit including a canvas, create a portrait of any kind (person, animal, flower, …) in any way (draw, paint, collage, patchwork, photograph, …) and return it to the organizers. All the portraits were exhibited at the prestigious Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England in August and they all were all shown on a blog created for this special event. After the show, the portraits were shuffled and randomly sent back to the participants meaning you got a portrait back, not your own but somebody else’s. So, you got back an original work of art by an artist from somewhere in the world. You could be the lucky receiver of a portrait/quilt by Alicia Merrett, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs, Jette Clover, Linda Barlow, Sandra Meech or any other celebrity of the quilting world. An exciting idea and I wanted to be a part of it.

I was thinking about my portrait for a long time. It should be a kind of quilt not a drawing and it should be in the bright colors that I love so much. I was thinking about a Picasso-like face or a Venetian mask – but no idea was really that appealing. And then I looked down where my dog Felix was happily snoring away under my desk. How about a portrait of Felix? In bright colors?

I looked through my photos of Felix and found a suitable one.

I traced the outline and divided the forms, the lines mimicking the fall of his fur. I fused colorful fabric to the background trying to leave very small gaps between the fabrics. In these gaps I hand-embroidered black lines. (From pre-school on, this was always my favorite way of coloring – black outlines filled with the brightest colors.) I glued batting to the canvas to get the quilty feeling and mounted the portrait. It looked fabulous and exactly like Felix.

And then it happened.

Just for the records: I am not a sentimental or romantic person. I don’t collect things from my childhood, not even things from my daughter’s early years. I have no problem when my husband forgets our wedding anniversary or if somebody doesn’t call me for my birthday. When my grandmother died, I didn’t keep anything from her stuff as a memento and when my father died, I only took over his BMW because it’s a really nice car and I’m an only child and my mother couldn’t use it.
The same goes for my quilts. If I make a quilt for someone, I don’t care what they use it for. Fine if they wrap the baby in it (as intended), equally fine if the dog sleeps on it. Really! I couldn’t understand my friend who was heart-broken when a quilt she gave to a friend was nailed to the wall (with really large nails, producing holes the size of a penny).

And then that all changed.

I was not able to put the portrait in an envelope and send it to England. It was impossible for me to send my own dog away. What if the portrait would have gone to someone who doesn’t like dogs, to someone who would throw it away? For the first time in 30 years of quilting I understood the meaning of “I put all my heart and soul into it”.

For several days I tried to convince myself to send the quilt but I couldn’t bring me to do it. As much as I would have liked to own a quilt by Alicia Merrett or Annabel Rainbow, Felix stayed at home. I really would have loved to be part of that exhibition – next time I will make a portrait of an unknown horse.