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Quilts as an Art Form

art quilt Karen Platt

There are traditional or modern quilts and there are quilts that transcend craft and become art.

“I don’t get it,” he said, “who buys these things? Why would you put a quilt on the wall?”

So I took him along to The Festival of Quilts, and he got the hanging of quilts on walls as decoration, but he is still not convinced about the money side. Isn’t this just a craft that people do when they retire? Aren’t they just given away for free?

As I finished writing the beginners’ quilting ecourse and the quilting design ecourse and all the samples I had to make; I find myself free to follow my own path (more or less) and quilt what I always wanted to quilt.

I have said it before, that I came to quilting because so many friends said my digital art would make great quilts. I have still to use my digital art in that way, but now I am free to explore. Like knitting, quilts stand at the crossroads of art and craft. Original design alone does not make it an art form. Using art and design principles, like those I teach in the ecourses helps to distinguish a quilt as a piece of art. It’s also about breaking the mold of functionality and thinking outside the box.

Making money from any craft or art is never easy, but it is possible. I am hoping to make my mark on the quilting world for my innovative ideas and creative use of this medium.

A quilt artist uses traditional quilt techniques but also employs non-traditional ones such as digital or painting, dyeing or stamping, has a message or something to say. Modern quilting is big business.

You can find inspiration for modern quilting and other textiles in my ebooks

and on my workshops in the U.K., France and India

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Book Review Embroidered Treasures Birds by Dr Annette Collinge

Book Review Embroidered Treasures Birds by Dr Annette Collinge, hardback published by Search Press in association with the Embroiderer’s Guild. ISBN 9781782211327, price 20 gbp available from www.searchpress.com

Subtitled ‘Exquisite Needlework of the Embroiderers’ Guild Collection’, this book showcases the best embroidered birds from the extensive collection. The embroideries cover a period dating from the 17th century to the present day. From abstract to naturalistic, the variety is wonderful and the book covers many forms of embroidery from crewelwork to contemporary. The imagination, skill and detail in portraying birds will provide much inspiration to everyone interested in this subject. There is a brief history of the Embroiderers’ Guild followed by twelve chapters: Monochrome Embroidery; Metal Thread; Applied Materials; Machine Embroidery; Silk Embroidery; Evenweave Backgrounds; Bags; Art; Samplers; Fanciful; Birds From Many Lands and finally Stitches. A short paragraph of text opens each section, with each photographed piece of work having a title such as ‘Crewelwork Panel’ and descriptive text plus technique, date, place and size highlighted in a box. On some pieces, it also gives the maker’s name and who gifted the piece to the collection. All pieces have a EG number. I found the techniques of most interest, but this is not a book of techniques – it merely informs us of the technique used. Work as varied as rug hooking, felt applique and numerous embroidery techniques are included from all over the world. There is some overlap of the chapters, for in Chapter One on Monochrome, you will find Metal Thread and Silk Embroidery even though these have chapters of their own. Almost every manner of bird is to be found. This is a wonderful resource on how birds have been used to inspire embroidery over the centuries. Recommended.

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Book Review Tote Bags by Debbie Shore

Tote Bags by Debbie Shore, hardback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782216186, price 15.99 available from www.searchpress.com

Totes are so easy to make and this beginners book offers the bag maker some ideas to transform the basic pattern. It includes just two re-usable templates that can be drawn around and kept inside the hardback folder that encloses the paperback book. The easy to follow, step by step instructions are just about foolproof, the illustrations are very good. The book includes simple totes with alterations to a basic pattern by adding a bow, flap or a knotted twist of fabric. With the purse and drawstring bag, you have three basic patterns although the book claims there are 15 patterns. This is still good value for money however for the inspirational variations.

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Book Review Occasion Bags by Debbie Shore

Book Review Occasion Bags by Debbie Shore, hardback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782216193, price 15.99 available from www.searchpress.com

Debbie Shore provides insight into bag making. I love the format of this book – the package includes a paperback book and re-usable templates bound in a hardback cover. There are 15 projects to sew. There are only two templates however, and this has limited the scope of bag styles. Having a different fastening or flap is not sufficient in my opinion and the book desperately needed a wider range of bag shapes and sizes. The concept is however fantastic. Owing to the limited number of styles, I would say that this book is excellent for beginners. Get to grips with basic bag making. The projects include: curved, round and scalloped flap handbags; bow, curved, zipped, patchwork and scalloped flap, slim, chain strap clutches, cosmetic bag; fringed, piped, triple pocket handbags and a zipped purse. The illustrations are very good and the instructions clear and easy to use with step-by-step images for you to follow. The templates are drawn around and can be used time and again. You could change the size with a little initiative and add your own embellishments, however to me this is more like 4 patterns dressed up to look like 15 but still good value.

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Book Review Fabulous Facades by Gloria Loughman

Book Review Fabulous Facades by Gloria Loughman, softback published by C&T Publishing. ISBN 9781617453441, price 24.99 in the U.K. available from www.searchpress.com

Subtitled ‘Create Breathtaking Results With Fused Fabric’, this book shows you how to take photos of facades and make quilts. It includes Design, Color (retained American spelling), Fabric, Creating a Pattern, Construction, Putting It Together, Finishing and Projects as well as a gallery of work. The book deals with a theme – the theme of facades – architecture, doors, buildings, skyscrapers, shape. Gloria explains how the technique can be applied to other subjects. All patterns are available as a download.
Looking at Gloria’s photos and finished quilts is very inspiring. Other artists work is included too. There are many examples of buildings from around the world. A detailed account is given of the method and techniques used. This is a fabulous addition to Gloria’s already published books. It gives practical information that is easy to follow accompanied by fabulous photos. Very inspiring use of photos to art quilts.

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Book Review Stitched Textiles Nature by Stephanie Redfern

Book Review Stitched Textiles Nature by Stephanie Redfern, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782214526, price 15.99 available from www.searchpress.com

Another book in the Stitched Textiles series. Step-by-step techniques for textiles interpreting the natural world. Sources include the ocean, rainforest, flowers, birds and other animals. Textile techniques include hand and machine stitching, painting, printing and embellishment. There are three original projects to follow to practice the techniques. See how Stephanie uses her photos to develop design ideas, how she uses a sketchbook, creates collage and design sheets. Her sample textiles often use paper. You’ll discover how she goes from idea to design. Stephanie creates some fabulous cut-out shapes of animals and birds, but for me, some of her backgrounds are far too busy and detract from the focus of her work. Her simple Rainforest 1 works much better. She also shows her artist’s books and scrolls. Well worth buying.

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Book Review Print Pattern Sew by Jen Hewett

Book Review Print Pattern Sew by Jen Hewett, hardback, spiral bound, published by Roost Books. ISBN 9781611804621, price 25.00.

Simple block prints can transform fabric, expressing your own individuality. Anyonw who wishes to learn block printing and how to make their own clothes would do well to add this book to their list of must-haves. Spiral bound so that it lays flat, clear and concise instructions and good photography combine to make this book easy to use. Find out all you need to know about preparation, fabric choice, block printing basics, creating a design, carving a block, printing on fabric and troubleshooting. Section Two is all about pattern. Discover how to design and print repeat patterns including half drop and brick repeats; multicolour prints and layering. There is also a block print gallery of work included of Jen’s fabulous work. In Sew, you will find examples of the prints on clothes – a jacket (coat), short-sleeved dress, short-sleeved blouse, cap-sleeved dress and blouse, full skirt, espadrilles, apron, cross-body bag, clutch and tote. This is followed by a pattern section that includes the above plus a square and an oblong scarf. There are templates for the designs and the full-size patterns to 40″ chest are included in a flap at the back of the book. Not too difficult to alter the size. Recommended.

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Designing Your Own Quilt

Designing your own quilt does not seem to occur to most quilters. Think of the millions of quilters around the world and how few actually design. It can also be said that some designers do not quilt, that goes for other textile areas too like knitting.

I am a hands-on designer and quilter. I do prefer the design aspect. I respect that you think you might not have the skills to design your own quilt, but those skills can be learned. Wherever you live, take a look at my ecourses

Top five skills designing skills (but remember they can be learned!)

1. Creativity

2. Understanding fabric, texture and placement

3. Strong sense of colour

4. Sewing skills

5. Problem solving

If you can piece and follow quilting patterns, chances are you can design your own quilt. Being a quilt designer is a bit like being a juggler. You also have to add in a bit of you, a bit of magic, something that makes your work stand out from the crowd. This comes with practice.

Of course you can design with software these days, which eliminates some of the skills, but learning to design is a fascinating subject and one I urge you to try. Designing your own quilt is so satisfying.

If you need a certificate, your choices are a University or C&G course. As funding is being withdrawn, I believe some of the C&G courses are ending shortly. Typically a University design degree will cost around 10,000 pounds. A C&G course Level 1 costs around 900 pounds for the academic year (i.e. not a full year). Both of these give you recognised qualifications.

My own Quilting Design course is a full 12 months for under 500 pounds and includes more than C&G Level 1. As a fully qualified and trained teacher, I develop my own ecourses
and teach in person too. I also offer a good range of shorter courses and skill-based courses. New courses are being added all the time.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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My Year Offering Quilting ecourses

As a quilt designer I have taken the route of offering quilting ecourses. There are also other routes I can pursue – the doors are open far and wide.

It’s one of the first decisions you have to make as a professional – which path to follow and build upon. I chose teaching because I am a fully qualified and experienced teacher. I wanted to bring ecourses within the reach of the many not the few. I have not cut corners, just costs.

I started offering quilt design ecourses just over a year ago to start in September 2017. My first group of wonderful ladies finish their ecourse in the first week of September. It’s all gone very well, with good feedback. FOQ helped to publicise the ecourses, the feedback and interest were fantastic.

So where to for 2019 and beyond? I am offering in situ courses in a number of places, and looking for other places to offer courses too, see the website under ecourses, the link is above. I am also working on videos to expand the desirability of the ecourses. If you are looking to learn, please take a look at that section of the website – so much more than just design, I cover many aspects of patchwork and quilting.

So where to next? One of my desires was to produce my own fabrics – costs are a little preventative, but I can still produce hand dyed fabrics, so I shall develop one-off art cloths to be used in quilting. The kits are developing too alongside a range of unique quilts. I am creating my own quilt style now. Ones that build quilting skills. This second year will be building on the good foundations of 2017-2018. Wish me luck! The culmination will hopefully be a show quilt at FOQ 2019 and better recognition for all my hard work.

I finished 2 full-size quilts, one almost full-size, 4 lap quilts, at least 3 art quilts and 3 Cathedral Windows quilts. I am working on a new skill builder quilt design.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018
Karen Platt teapot quilt series

Karen Platt tea quilt series

Karen Platt elephant quilt

Karen Platt bird quilt

Karen Platt Quilt along

hand dyeing Karen Platt

One Block Wonder Quilt Karen Platt

One Block Wonder Quilt Karen Platt

strip quilting, pre-cuts
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Tips for entering the Festival of Quilts and Other Quilt Competitions

Shizuko Kuroha FOQ 2018

Tips for quilt competitions including FOQ.
I know a lot of quilters at some point decide to enter a competition, so I wanted to offer some sound advice as a teacher and designer.

1. Follow the competition guidelines.
2. Ask the organisers if you are unsure about anything.
3. Design for the category you are entering – some shows will re-categorise your quilt if you did not get it right, others will simply reject it. So read the description carefully and follow accordingly. Here are the categories for FOQ 2018, check that they do not change. Other shows have very similar categories.
4. If it is not all your own work, if you had help in some way – say so.
5. If you used a pattern name the designer and pattern.
6. Understand the system of judging. Here is the link for judging for FOQ for example.
7. Take note of the way your quilt will be hung.
8. Check postage and insurance (these are sometimes included in the cost of entry.
9. Check the deadline for entry.
10. Check the deadline for submitting your quilt and for picking it up.

Ask yourself if you are ready to make a competition quilt. The standards are high.
1. How long have you been quilting?
2. Are you neat, accurate and precise?
3. Can you make a straight quilt with equal sides?
4. Can you design? Ok you can use a pattern, but in my book that is cheating!
5. Be honest about your abilities and work to your strengths.
6. Have you exhibited a quilt before?
7. Can you do it in the time available? It is best not to overstretch yourself.
8. Look at past galleries of quilts from previous shows, especially winners. It will give you an idea of the standard expected.

Tips for quilt size
Each category in a competition has a size to work to. Measure carefully including binding if your quilt has it. For mini quilts or wall hangings, you could make a card template and check your size. Ensure if they are working in inches that you measure in inches, or in centimetres if that is what they have stipulated. Conversion can lead to inaccuracies. For example 12 inches (the size for miniatures) is normally taken to be 30cm, but accurate measurement means it is more than this, only marginally, but worth checking.

I have been a designer for over 40 years and offer ecourses in textiles and quilt design, workshops overseas as well as tutorials, blog and more. Online ecourses means you can enjoy them wherever you live.