photo of rose parr, kathy tidswell and bernadette kent at the uk festival of quilts

Teaching Patchwork in the UK

As told to Marcy Horswill
Spring 2020

Three Canadian quilting teachers were invited to share their expertise and skills in August 2019, at The Festival of Quilts held in Birmingham, UK. The show, produced by The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, celebrated its 40th birthday in 2019, with a presentation of twenty quilt exhibitions, more than 300 vendors, 250 Quick and Easy workshops, 130 Academy workshops and 50 lectures. The entire show was aimed at promoting the Guild’s vision about the importance of community and the sharing of ideas, teaching and friendship. Enjoy reading these experiences shared by quilt teachers Rose Parr, Kathy Tidswell and Bernadette Kent, as they journeyed overseas to what sounds like a quilting paradise.

What aspect of quilting were you teaching or lecturing about?
I discussed using ergonomics to stay pain free while sewing and quilting. This discussion included determining the best heights for a cutting table and ironing board, avoiding awkward cutting positions to eliminate wrist strain, correct sewing posture, studio design, stretches designed specifically for quilters that target the most common problem areas, all of which can be performed at the sewing machine.

photo of rose parr demonstrating stretches for quilters

Is this your first international teaching experience?
This was my first international teaching experience, I am presenting in Lancaster, PA, in March 2020. What was the favourite part of your teaching or lecturing experience at the festival? The enthusiasm! My lecture attendees made me feel like a rock star, they were so invested in the lecture. Genuine appreciation for the information: head nodding, note taking, full participation in the optional stretching, people staying to talk to me after both lectures – all of it was very rewarding. I had so many emails and people reaching out on social media thanking me and telling me the ways they were implementing the information I provided.

What were any unique quilting methods and/or designs to the festival or UK?
I was surprised at the amount of modern quilting. I always thought of the UK as very traditional. The work by Jo Avery (@mybearpaw) and Sheena Stone (@auburnstitches), both modern quilters from Scotland, were my favourites. No patterns, and hand stitching. Their two entries still stand out in my mind. Luckily, with Instagram, I get to see more of their work.

Do you have any recommendations or tips to give international quilt students or teachers?
Simply apply to teach. It never hurts to try. I applied a month after the deadline had passed. The organizer was in the process of making the final schedule. She was very excited by my topic, since it is so unique. She fit me in on the spot. I had an answer in two days.

What was your favourite part of the festival as an attendee?
I found the overall vibe of the festival was extremely warm and welcoming between teachers, vendors and participants. I cannot wait to return. The event planners were amazing; very organized, very welcoming. I’m excited to announce I am returning to The Festival of Quilts in 2020! I have the pleasure of presenting three lectures. If you are travelling to the festival this summer, perhaps I will see you there!

photo of kathy tidswell teaching a class at the uk festival of quilts

What aspect of quilting were you teaching or lecturing about?
I gave two one-hour demonstrations about using Inktense® pencils to create multicoloured maple leaves that could be used as appliqués. I gave hints on colouring and shading with the pencils and ways to wet them, turning them into permanent ink. I also discussed creating light- and dark-coloured flowers and leaves. Questions were encouraged! Students went home with notes describing the methods I found most successful.

Is this your first international teaching experience? If not, where have you taught in the world previously (other than Canada)?
In 2012 and 2013, I taught in a quilt and craft shop called Bastel Kiste in Luxembourg. While visiting the previous year, I enquired about the possibility of teaching. The owner said the following year would be their 25th anniversary and they would be hosting some international teachers. I sent my teaching information and the shop chose some classes. It was exciting! In the fall of 2018, I gave digital slide and mini-trunk presentations to quilt guilds in Basinstoke, UK, and Southampton, UK, and to an embroiderers’ guild in Portsmouth, UK.

What was the favourite part of your teaching or lecture experience at the festival?
The favourite part of my lecture experience was having the tutor badge, which allowed access into the halls at 8:00 am. I could see all the various quilt displays before the hall was crowded with people. Since I was doing only short demonstrations, I did not have a great deal of time to interact with the students, which is my favourite part of teaching.

What was your favourite part of the festival as an attendee?
My favourite part as an attendee was the demonstration booths, especially those showing different fabric painting and manipulation techniques. Of course, I also enjoyed the merchant mall, especially the art suppliers.

What were any unique quilting methods and/or designs to the festival or UK?
The unique design that blew me away was by an American, Betty Busby. Her quilt Vertex was first place winner in the Art category. Apparently Betty uses nonwoven fabric, paint and an electric cutter. The piece was breathtaking. It looked like reverse appliqué with very clean edges. I have admired her work before in some SAQA exhibitions, but I had never actually seen one of her pieces.

Do you have any recommendations or tips to give international quilt students or teachers?
Be prepared for different terminology and pronunciation. For example, batting is wadding, free-motion embroidery is often free machining, and where Canadians might say they were making a quilt, British would say they were making a patchwork. Sometimes it is hard to recognize everyone is really speaking the same English language.

When I gave my slide presentation last year, people did not know what I meant when I spoke about appliqué. At first, I could not understand the British version of appliqué either. Once figured out, it was partly that the emphasis is on a different syllable. We all had a good laugh.

I was invited to attend The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, UK, as a guest teacher in the Quilt & Easy Workshop and Demonstrations category. On the way to Birmingham, I passed through security in Frankfurt, where I learned a valuable lesson. What passes through Canadian security does not always pass through European security. Ripping apart my carry-on bag to find the thread snips hiding inside was not how I envisioned spending part of my day!

I arrived in Birmingham to attend the show, which was a ton of fun! The quilts were amazing. I met the group of Canadians on tour with Hyggeligt Fabrics from St Marys, ON. 

The students were great with their funny accents, and, of course, I didn’t have one! Students were provided with everything they needed for the class, which allowed them to take it all home to finish the project. The generous kits included snips, thread, needles and fabric.

Teaching was fun. All four of my classes went well. I taught a class called Let it Fly, where students made a small bag, entirely hand pieced. The other classes were Paperless Hexagons, Back Basting Appliqué and Let’s Stitch, where students made a small sampler using Razzle™ and Dazzle™ threads. A great experience on all fronts. Super students at a fabulously organized show.

Thanks to Emma and Wendy for their magnificent planning and thanks to my wonderful hosts, Liz and Chantel who made it an experience to remember!

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023 in Edmonton, Alberta