Thursday, 16 April 2015

York Quilt Museum and Gallery

Today we visited York. Hans and Peter went to a guitar shop and I went to the York Quilt Museum and Gallery. It's a small exhibition space but very beautiful. They have a shop downstairs and the quilts upstairs. I found it very inspirational. Partly because the quilts were beautiful but also because not every one was perfect. We are our own worse enemies when it comes to our work. I agonise over every wonky seam and uneven block. Some of the quilts I saw today had small issues too. But this didn't detract from how wonderful they were. In fact it added to the wonder. I felt a greater connection to those women (and men) who had made mistakes then I did to the more perfect examples. It made the maker of the quilt more real and human. They live on in their work.
I also got some great ideas. I'm kicking myself now as I didn't take a notebook in with me (next time!). You can't take photographs of the quilts but what I should have done is taken a notebook and pencil and written down some of the methods and ideas which impressed and inspired me and also the names of the people who make each quilt.
Two things stick in my memory as something I want to try: sequins and wrong way round paper piecing. The sequins were sewn in the centre of hexagons in the Star of David quilt which had been machine sewn rather than hand sewn. The sequins anchored each hexagon in a way I'd not seen before. Two other quilts, by the same person, were made up of tiny squares (1 inch?) which had been paper pieced but instead of each square having it's right side facing out some were turned the other way so the back was showing. It added a really interesting texture and also an effective distribution of shade and colour.
I bought some fabric (of course) and a couple of books. One from my endless Wish List; The 1718 Coverlet by Susan Briscoe. The quilt is one of the earliest known dated patchworks. The book gives its history then a block directory so you can make some (all!!!) of the blocks yourself. I am not kidding myself I will ever have the time to do them all, and I'm not sure I would ever want to, but I do want to try at least a few. I have the vague idea of recreating them in very different fabrics to the original. It's a very vague idea at the moment though.
Here is a photo of it. I don't want to recreate it as the original is lovely but I do think I'll have a go at some of it, maybe for a cushion cover.

A final thought though: quilts are works of art. They are designed and thought out, colour and shape and form are considered, they are created and stand the test of time. Yet they are seen as 'sewing' or something for the home. They are both these things, of course, but in addition the are art. Art with a function (the best kind of all in my opinion). I can't help but ponder that if quilting had been a male occupation, done for pleasure not practical purposes, then they would be hanging in galleries next to Van Gough and Monet.

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