Sunday, 8 May 2016

French Quilt Show 2016 - Part 1

Apologies for the delay in posting the pics from my wonderful trip to the quilt show in Nantes at the end of April. Pour l'Amour du organised by the French quilting magazine, Quiltmania (there is an English language edition, I am glad to say) and the show reflects the distinctive style of the magazine, and vice versa.

The photo above shows the entrance to the exhibition which was on the theme of cherry blossom in honour of Japan.  The sprays of blossom were cleverly made from egg cartons - inspired and very effective. I had a bit of a Blue Peter moment (British readers will understand) when I saw the water lilies below, and wanted to make some myself!

I went to the show last year for the first time (see this post and this post) and it was so enjoyable then that we were even more excited to be going again.  And isn't it so much easier doing anything second time around? We went to the same hotel, even the same restaurant the first night, caught the airport shuttle bus and negotiated the trams so much more easily than last time.  Not that it was difficult the first time, just that I felt really at home this time - whilst enjoying at the same time feeling 'abroad'!

So French!

Terrific mini-holiday and highly recommended, there were quite a few quilters on our flight and it was fun to hear English voices among the French at the show.  I had an in depth conversation with a quilter from Cardiff at one of the stalls about the best way to make half-square triangles!

Anyway enough chat, on with the photos.  I took a LOT of photos so I am going to have to show you edited highlights only, and I will have to split this post into two parts.  This is a slightly unusual show in that there is not a big competition element: most of the quilts on display are collections of the work of individual quiltmakers, which makes it more like going round an art gallery of quilts.

The exhibitions this year in which I was particularly interested were:
  • Quilts made by different makers to the Mountmellick pattern by Di Ford.  This design was offered as a BOM last year but these quilters had all used their own fabrics and some had adjusted or embellished the pattern to suit their own taste.
  • Antique quilts from the collection of Jane Lury
  • Quilts by Yoko Saito 
  • Quilts by a number of other Japanese quilt artists
  • Boutis by Kumiko Nakayama
There were many other very accomplished quiltmakers exhibiting at the show including Linda Collins, Brigitte Giblin, Margaret Sampson-George and Linda Koenig, all of whom have their work beautifully published by Quiltmania; lovely books with pattern instructions in English and French. However I have limited myself to the quilters listed above and a few other  quilts which took my fancy.  

So here goes - Boutis first. This display made me feel quite emotional. Whether it was the wedding dress and waistcoat which tugged at the heartstrings,I'm not sure, but it was such a privilege to see the incredible work which Kumiko Nakayama has done.

I don't think I would ever do Boutis, it seems to me to require too much patience and precision and I am not sure I have quite enough of either, but to think of the hours and skill involved in producing such wonderful, elegant pieces is very humbling.

The display was styled so beautifully and it told a story with accessories and flowers. This sort of presentation is one of the things which gives this show its special character and I believe it is all down to the vision of the organiser and editor of Quiltmania, Carol Veillon.

Next I will show you some of the very old quilts from Jane Lury's collection which also moved me (gosh,I am getting soppy!).  This time it was the sense of connection to the unknown women of two centuries ago whose skill with a needle was so impressive.

I absolutely adored this Broderie Perse Coverlet which is believed to be English circa 1820, the time of Jane Austen, one of my favourite authors. The coverlet is huge, 108" x 124" and in amazing condition so I guess it must have been kept for best.

Broderie perse is an applique technique which involves cutting out motifs from printed fabric (usually expensive chintz in the late 18th and early 19th centuries) and applying the motifs to a background fabric. The raw edges are stitched down with blanket stitch or some other decorative stitch, rather than turned under.  Here's a link to a Barabara Brackman blogpost about the technique with some great explanatory pictures.

I love how the maker has chosen so many wonderful birds, flowers and insects - even sea shells - from the original fabrics and created her own exuberant design.

There is no batting/wadding in the piece so it is a coverlet rather than a quilt, and the edges are turned in rather than bound.  The colours are hardly faded, the fabrics just amazing, the stitches almost invisible, and I could have stood and looked at it for hours.  I make no excuse for all the pictures!

Here is a Lone Star with Broderie perse and pieced borders, also huge (111" x 116") believed to be American, circa 1820 - 1830.

And a more informally pieced quilt from the same period which I love for the scrappy use of fabric.

I will save the Yoko Saito photos for the next instalment, so to finish, here are some of the highlights from the 25 Mountmellick quilts on display:

Clever use of two-tone border fabric above, with the shape of the roses enhanced by the cable quilting.

Subtle colours and simplified borders - hexagon flowers and diamonds replace some of the applique.

Amazing ochre/curry powder coloured background fabric makes the quilt look completely different, very rich.  (Sorry that the lighting has made it difficult to photograph well.) The beautiful machine custom quilting respects the piecing and applique.

This maker used much more modern fabrics and and an unusual colour palette. She tweaked the design quite a bit, but it is still clearly within  the spirit of the original.

The lovely border fabric chosen here set the parameters for the colours and fabrics used in the rest of the quilt.

My absolute favourite though was the quilt made by Cecile Franconie of Facile Cecile: what a work of art.  Her stitching was meticulous and there was lots of embroidery embellishment which enhanced the various elements within the design. 

I have included lots of close-ups so you can enjoy and be inspired too!

Oh, dear, I don't expect I will ever achieve this high standard of workmanship, but it is good to know that there are women out there who can match the seamstresses of the past, and inspire the rest of us to do our best in our everyday sewing.

Another mistress of the needle is Yoko Saito and I will post my photos of her amazing exhibition very soon.

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