Monday, 21 June 2010

Long Day - Long Post

Well, today's the longest day (in the Northern Hemisphere, I think my friends in the south are in for a long night) and I have a feeling this might be my longest post.  Hang in there though, it's all good.

I'm back home now and recovering from my weekend away and my trip to London.  I'm shattered!  It's so much noisier than I recall, so much bombarding the senses and I'm afraid I'm no longer young enough to find it all exhilarating, just tiring.  I did have a great time though.
We had a family trip to the V&A, Mummy and my sister, Jane, and I travelled on the train with my beloved, Alan, and then we met up with my son, David in the restaurant at the V&A.  Wow, those rooms are something else, I had to take a photograph:
The cafe/restaurant is in the Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms. The rooms were the first museum restaurant in the world and were created to showcase modern design, craftsmanship and manufacturing.  Around the wall of the main Gamble room is a quotation from Ecclesiastes 3,
"And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour"
- we know that because David "googled" it on his iphone and impressed us all!

Sustained with tea and cakes we split into two groups - girls to the Quilts 1700 - 2010 exhibition, boys to silver, miniatures and jewellery (and they failed to return with any free samples).  We used the iphones on loan with the commentary on the exhibition which cost £3.50 each.  The "app" can be downloaded, the details are at the end of this post.  I was a little disappointed with this commentary as it was only for 22 of the quilts on display.  It included lots of information and close-up images of the quilts but we had to swap backwards and forwards between iphone/headset and reading information boards.  Mummy soon gave up on hers but I have a photo of her using  it which impressed the grandchildren!  However, I think if you were unable to visit the exhibition the "app" would be a good buy at £2.39.
I have another little moan and then it's all good.  I was irritated with how crowded the exhibition was.  We had purchased timed tickets in advance (as advised on the V&A website) but people were still able to, and were, paying "on the door" and going in immediately.  As the exhibition was busy I feel these people should have been asked to wait or given a timed ticket for a quieter period in the day.  Anyway, that's my whinge.

On to the Quilts!

A pre-exhibition visit to the toilets led us past the Design Studio and, after a second look to confirm what I thought I'd seen I called Jane over.
"OOOH, that's Kaffe!"
We remained calm and continued on our way to the Ladies' Room!  Kaffe Fassett was running a workshop with Liza Prior Lucy on "Colour in Design":
Learn the secrets behind Kaffe's design process by developing your own personal colour palette to use with his Snowball pattern.  In this master class, Kaffe Fassett and Liza Prior Lucy take you step by step through selecting fabric, cutting and arranging pieces, and final edits.  There are no right or wrong answers, just a multitude of possibilities.  Participants must bring all materials specified on supply list.  A copy of Kaffe Fassett's book V&A Quilts is recommended.  £82, £66 concessions

On to the Quilts!

I was impressed with the way in which the quilts were displayed.  Some were wall mounted, others displayed as if they were in a bed.  Some were protected by a glass screen, others not, and, although it was not permitted to touch of course, it was possible to get relatively close to most of the quilts and examine the details of the fabric and stitching.  I was particularly impressed with the way one quilt was shown with windows in the wall behind it enabling us to see into the back of the quilt.

I felt there was a good variety of quilts on display, and several by men, both recent and historic.  There was also a good range of techniques and I have to admit to a rush of glee at observing less than perfect seam matches and stitching on some, not necessarily the most utilitarian either.

A lot of research has been carried out into the histories behind the older quilts on display and some were shown with related artefacts including a diary, paintings and sewing tools.  I coveted the most delicate and exquisite needlecase and a beautiful etui.

The quilt that spoke to me most was the one sewn by the Girl Guides in Changi prison for their beloved leader, Elizabeth Ennis.  It was pieced from hexagons of fabric scavenged from wherever they could and many pieces were of insufficient size to include a seam allowance.  The quilt was stained, grubby with the sweat of young girls sewing in hot and appalling conditions, and in a very poor condition but I feel its survival at all is remarkable.  An article about the Changi quilt was published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper on 1st June and can be read here:  The secrets of the Changi Girl Guide quilt.
This photo of Olga Henderson, who was one of the Girl Guides who sewed the quilt, is taken from the Daily Telegraph article:
Olga Henderson with the Changi quilt at the V&A exhibition in London 
Photo: JAMES

Coming up to the present, another quilt I found promoting an emotional response was that created by the prisoners in Wandsworth Prison in south London, organised by the charity Fine Cell Work.  The appliqued and embroidered quilt was filled with comments on life, from the flippant, "I didn't do it, Guv" to a deeply moving, "I can't take any more".

I was as interested in the modern quilts as the old and enjoyed observing that actually there isn't much new in our favoured craft.  Quilts that looked modern turned out to be over 200 years old, another that was modern was created using very traditional methods.  The range of fabric used in the quilts was most delicious and included silks, wools and some wonderful embroidery and it was interesting to learn how they were acquired.  Yes, they really cut up the curtains!  They also had to wait for the peddlar to bring ribbons and fabrics instead of popping out to the LQS!  I am looking forward to receiving my copy of  curator, Sue Prichard's,
"Quilts 1700 - 2010 Hidden Histories, Untold Stories", the catalogue of the exhibition (which I'm afraid I have ordered from Amazon to save £12.25 and not have to carry it home on the train with me).  The book contains many photographs of the quilts in the exhibition and the personal and social histories attached to them and I enjoyed a peek at a copy in the V&A bookshop.

Although I decided the book was too heavy to carry home I did manage to stagger back with a little fabric!  The V&A has commissioned a range of limited edition prints to tie-in with the exhibition (how they understand us quilters and our weaknesses) and I was tempted by a few designs.  Interestingly, Jane chose a very similar range of fabrics for herself and so we have decided not to discuss how we are going to use them but to wait and see what we each create.

The Quilts 1700 -2010 exhibition ends on 4 July but I would urge you to visit if you possibly can, it was well worth the effort of getting to London and the three hours we spent looking around.  Failing that I think the book will be a wonderful resource.

I was also immensely impressed with the V&A itself (I haven't been there for many years and had forgotten) and am already planning a return visit, I particularly want to visit the Toshiba Gallery of Japan.  The Victoria and Albert Museum building is wonderful and the displays stunning.

David even managed to find another quilt for us, this linen quilt shows episodes in the life of Tristran, nephew of King Mark of Cornwall and dates from 1360.

And that wasn't the end of the quilty fun.

On Sunday Jane and her family invited us over for a barbeque (which we elected to eat indoors, oh the vagaries of the English weather...) and showed me how she is progressing with her Very Hungry Caterpillar wallhanging for her classroom.  I am very impressed.  She is stitching the whole quilt by hand, it is her first piece of patchwork and quilting and those tumbling blocks are beautifully pieced and very evenly stitched.
All in all a very successful weekend, thank you for reading to the end, I enjoyed sharing it with you.  Here's the info about the app:

Quilts 1700–2010 App
This unique App, made for the V&A, takes you on a journey through three centuries of quilt making in Britain. It presents 22 works from the much-anticipated Quilts 1700-2010 exhibition on display at the V&A in Spring 2010.
Weaving audio commentaries, video clips and original interviews with stunning photography of quilts old and new, the App reveals the stories, fabrics and techniques involved in making the quilts on display. Listen to V&A curators, quilting experts and textile artists, including Grayson Perry, who share their insights, while zooming into high-resolution images for a detailed, stitch-by-stitch look at selected works.
The V&A has thrown open its archives to reveal historic textiles rarely or never before seen. Featured works include the ‘Rajah Quilt’, made by women convicts while being transported to present day Tasmania aboard HMS Rajah, ‘Patchwork with Garden of Eden’ by nineteenth-century quilter Ann West, as well as contemporary pieces such as the ‘Right to Life’ by Grayson Perry and ‘To Meet My Past’ by Tracey Emin.
This App also celebrates the work of those whose names have been forgotten, but whose colourful and creative stories now survive through their quilts. It presents the stories – along with patterns and pieces of cotton and silk, and you can discover how experts have pieced together histories from clues hidden in the layers of fabric.
Quilts 1700–2010 - three centuries of beautiful objects of delight, intrigue and inspiration.
The Quilts 1700–2010 App is a Pentimento application created by Antenna Audio for the V&A.
The exhibition is supported by the Friends of the V&A, with further support from Coats Crafts and the Coats Foundation Trust.
Priced at £2.39 the App is available to purchase from the iTunes Store.


  1. WOW! What an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Nice photos! It sounds like a great trip!

  3. I'm so pleased you had a great day out! I'd be back to the V&A in a shot, there is so much to see.

  4. Hi Lis, You deserve a prize for this post. One of the best reviews I've read and I've read a few. Thanks for the tip about the book. I've seen it as a friend bought it at the V&A and carried it back to Skye. I might consider buying it now. I would like to know what you thought of the "artists" quilts.

  5. Thank you so much Lis, that was an amazing post. I have learnt so much reading all your links.
    How exciting that you got some of the limited edition fabrics. I previously knew about the Rajah quilt but not the Changi one- really quite a remarkable achievement. Isn't it incredible that those 3 mentioned lived to such an age after all that in their lives. Real survivors.
    I also have to say the ceiling in the restaurant was amazing. Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm glad I have the wee booklet - I will reread it.

  6. This was a very interesting post. Thank-you. And my you do a lot of travelling!

  7. Oh to be in England and visit this exhibition! Mind you, on our visit there in 2008, (didn't know you then Lis) we went to V & A especially to see the Textile Room, I found that really exciting to see so many old embroideries etc. Pleased you enjoyed the exhibition to see these wonderful quilts.

  8. Thank you for sharing your trip to V&A with us. How exciting that you got to go! It all sounds so wonderful. Wish I could go *sigh*. Thanks for the great photos of that quilt about Tristran. Wow. And the photos of the building too...what an awesome restaurant!

  9. Too bad I don't live around London. I won't be able to see this exhibition. Fortunately lovely bloggers post their stories on their blog. Thank you.

  10. What a wonderful opportunity. This exhibit sounds so very delightful. You did an excellent job sharing insights. Thank you very much. As I live in So. Cal. it is a bit difficult for me to pop over to visit, so I really do appreciate hearing your insights. This is such a great exhibit that I do hope that it can become a traveling exhibit, for museums WW to host for their community. But how wonderful for for this exhibit to be held and for those that get such an opportunity to view it first hand. Lovely.


  11. Thanks for taking me along with you Lis. So many people I know (not all quilters) visited and sent me some postcards and one friends brought me back a cute mirror with hexie on the back. Glad you had a good day and saw all that great quilts - Hugs Nat


I really appreciate your lovely comments, ideas and opinions, they make my day. Thank you for visiting Piece'n'Peace,
hugs, Lis x