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Exclusive: Kirstie Allsopp on the joys of quilting 16 March, 2010

Posted by CandidaB in Candida's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: mydeco

Just in time for the much talked about Quilts exhibition at the V&A this month, I caught up with homemade home domestic goddess Kirstie Allsopp about the joys of quilting.

How are you involved with the exhibition?

I will be giving a talk at the V&A about quilting tonight at the Director’s Circle Dinner – I am so excited. I literally cannot wait to walk through the doors and see the exhibition.

It all started when we visited this amazing quilter in Devon, called Jo Colwill.  She is a premier quilter and teaches the craft; that’s what really sparked my interest.

Why do you think the exhibition is important?

Quilts are really special in that each one has a narrative behind it; they magically combine history, artistic talent and skill. Looking at a quilt, you can pick up clues about the circumstances in which it was crafted – the economy, current design trends, what was squandered, what was recycled…

I have always had a huge respect for skilled needlewomen.

V&A quilt

Image credit: Bishops Court quilt, 1690-1700. Unknown maker © V&A Images

Why do you think quilting has had such a revival lately?

I think quilts have always been popular to buy, but somewhere along the way we lost touch with making things. Women today work, and they feel out of touch with the act of creating something. I think there’s a new demand for doing things which ground you in family life.  If you’re on a train miles away going to a meeting, for example, and you are sewing or quilting, it transports you to your family and your home.

That’s another reason quilting is so popular: it’s portable. You can do it anywhere.

Also, if you look at the evolution of the quilt in America, it started very much as a community project, and I think this still lives on today. People love groups – I have worked with a few crafts groups – knitting, sewing etc – and everyone there is so happy to socialise as well as learn. You come away with so much more than just a skill.

Do you quilt? Honestly?

At first I was daunted by the size of them, I won’t lie. But that changed when I worked with Angel, from London-based design shop Tobias and the Angel. She taught me how to make quilted lavender cushions, and it was such fun and really easy. Small quilted things like that make great presents for the home.

Do many men quilt, do you think?

I have only ever seen one, but I am sure there will be more!

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Comments»

1. stencil helen - 17 March, 2010

It’s lovely that quilts are so personal. Some of our customers have stencilled designs onto fabric then quilted around the shapes. I have seen some fabulous results. A lady called Kris in LA made some fabulous ones. One of these days I’ll have a go.

2. Sally Tatters - 18 March, 2010

There are plenty of men professional quilters, look up Ricky Tims and Joe Cunningham for starters. And when you get to the exhibition you will see fantastic work made by male prisoners http://www.finecellwork.co.uk/whatsnew/Fine_Cell_Work_is_made_Corporate_BIDA_member. It is a shame that in the exhibition modern work is represented solely by textile artists without any representation of the award winning quilters who are continuing and developing the tradition by actually making quilts. It is a superb exhibition, and there are wonderful things to see, but it is a little misleading about the state of the art at grassroots today.


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