Quilt design inspiration in London Museums

One final post from our travels to the UK this summer, if you don’t mind. It’s so fun to find beautiful quilt and design inspiration where every you go, so I thought I’d share a few last pictures of some pretty design I came across on our travels. Above is the Museum of Natural History (literally across the street from where the Fat Quarterly Retreat was held. Such a gorgeous building and the carved detail on the gates out front was gorgeous with representations of different wildlife. I wish I’d snapped pictures of more of them.

One of my favorite things about London is the museums – in part because they’re free (although a small donation is appreciated.) We visited a bunch of them while we were there. Though not specifically quilt themed displays, there was still great inspiration to be found. This is the Tate Gallery.
When I visited, there was a special exhibit of  beautiful “fabric paintings” by an artist named Andrea Buttner that reminded me of modern quilt designs. There was also a special Folk Art exhibit going on, but I didn’t have the time to go through (or, sadly, the desire to pay the extra fee at the time.)
This tile floor at the Tate was another fun quilt design inspiration.
The British Museum is full of pieces from antiquity, but the modern sky light over the main hall atrium is one of my favorite features!
Strolling through the carvings from ancient Assyria (Iraq) was this beautiful carved “quilt”. (Not really, but it sure looks like one!)
Here’s a close up. I’m sorry it’s hard to see – the lighting made it difficult to get a really good picture, but hopefully you can still see some of the gorgeous carved detail. Making a “stone quilt” sure means it’s got a longer chance of survival.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is a museum dedicated to the “decorative arts” including textiles and clothing and interior decor, jewelry, sculpture, etc. It is huge and such a fantastic place. One of my favorite exhibits there is always the one displaying clothing over the last 600 or so years. It’s fantastic! I don’t know why I don’t have any photos from that – maybe they weren’t allowed. I can’t remember.
Gorgeous tile designs from the period furniture and decor exhibits. I love getting quilt inspiration from tile patterns. Plus I’m always a sucker for blue and white together.
There was a gorgeous collection of original designs by William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts movement in the 19th century. He was a builder, furniture designer, artist – pretty much could do it all. I’m totally a William Morris fan and it was fun to see the detail and how much more vibrant are the original pieces.
This piece is called strawberry thief. Morris’s prints also inspired some the first Liberty of London textiles. This one is still in print today!
I also snapped this picture of the tile floor at the V&S. I think I need to make a quilt like this.
More design inspiration around every corner. These massive doors were on a building along Embankment.
One highlight for me was visiting the Jane Austen museum in Chawton, in the home she lived in towards then end of her life and while her books were being published. This was my first ever time visiting Chawton.
This is an old quilt on one of the beds in the house. Red and white never goes out of style!
But the really cool part was to see the quilt that Jane Austen herself had made! I’d remembered hearing about a quilt made by Jane, but hadn’t realized it was at this site! I’m sorry for the lousy picture. The lighting was not great and there was a glass wall around the bed. (Which was probably a good safety precaution against those of us who might fondle the quilt itself, or just walk off with it all together. You know how nutty those quilt-people can be!)
The fabrics and colors were beautifully preserved. I loved the dot fabric used for the sashing especially. I would love to know though, how much the colors have faded and changed over time.
Look at those hundreds of little baby triangles. I’m assuming this was English paper-pieced, but don’t know. You can read more about the Jane Austen quilt here and here. As if I didn’t love Jane enough – then to be reminded that she was a quilter too!

One final quilt from our journeys was at the Harry Potter Studio tour outside London. (If you’re a Potter fan, it was absolutely worth the effort and the price to go. So well done.) This pic is from the set of Gryffindor tower and there is Ron Weasley’s bed with this patchwork quilt of knit squares, obviously made by his mum. As a good mum would.

Oh to be in England…

To put it mildly, this summer may have been our best ever. For some reasons you’d expect and others surprisingly unexpected. As I’ve already mentioned (maybe too many times) for years we’ve dreamed of taking our children to England and this is the year we made it happen. 
Now that we are home and the kids have started school again, I’m finally going through my pictures (there are a lot) and thought I’d share a few of the good ones. So if you’re only here for the fabric and quilts, hang tight, there are a few of those still in this post. Hopefully the rest of the subject matter is pretty enough to sit through. And if not, we’ll get back to the fabric stuff next time.
We started our journey in the Northwest in the Lake District. The Lakes are a very popular tourist destination in the UK – and with good reason. They’re pretty scenic (understatement). The photo at the beginning of the post is taken from the top of Orrest Head near Lake Windermere.
This is beautiful Avenham park in Preston, England. My husband and I each lived in the northwest of England for a period of time in our early 20’s as Mormon missionaries, where we overlapped briefly. In fact the fist time we ever met was in Avenham Park. It was one brief and totally awkward conversation but it was enough that when we met again 18 months later, when I was back in college, that we had a good jumping off point to continue the conversation. And it gives us the chance to say we met in a pretty awesome location. We showed our kids, who I think were mostly impressed, if not a little wary of the mushiness factor.
Our goal for this experience was to introduce our children to people and places that we love, and to spend time with them, but also to get our kids outside their comfort zone. Obviously England is not a drastically different culture from America, but there are subtle differences living in Europe vs the US. 
We also wanted them to see the history in a country with a much older history than our own. I’ve lived and traveled in Europe on multiple occasions and I’m pretty good and going hard as a tourist, seeing a lot each day. With our kids with us, however, I definitely had to re-calibrate my expectations. There were some days when “seeing another old building” was just not what they wanted to do. 
For most of our time in England, we rented a little cottage outside of Manchester and took day trips from there. I highly recommend a little cottage or flat (apartment) when traveling with kids. There are a wide variety of vacation rentals to be found via TripAdvisor, Bookings.com, etc. We have four kids so it was definitely less expensive than multiple hotel rooms, not to mention having a kitchen meant we could cook our own food and make eating much less expensive. Plus it added to the real living in another country experience. We could walk to the shop (aka grocery store), my boys loved playing “footy” (soccer) with lads at the nearby park, and it just gave them more stability and routine on a long trip away from home.
It also meant my husband had a place he could work from. That’s the other thing that made this experience a possibility for us – we are lucky in that my husband (and I) work for ourselves and with a computer with internet access we could work from anywhere. (Minus the sewing machine part.)
Having lived in England a couple of times, we spent some of our time visiting places I’d been before like York – which I’d visited as a college student 21 years ago. I remembered really liking it and going back it exceeded my memories of how much I loved it.
I also loved visiting new-to-me-places. One of which was Lyme Park a “great house” just outside of Manchester. If you’re a Jane Austen and/or Colin Firth fan you might recognize it as Pemberley from the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice. Someone recommended this to me right before we left and it turned out to be one of my favorite days of our trip. Such a beautiful spot. We could have spent hours more exploring the extensive grounds if we’d had the time.  
We could not believe what spectacular weather we had while we were there. Our kids got sick of my husband and I saying “And the weather was SO beautiful” every day, but he and I knew that it easily could have rained every day. That said, rain is not all bad. I think if I lived in England, my garden would be so much more lovely. Check out those hydrangeas. They were huge!
Another favorite aspect of the trip for me was visiting towns where my English ancestors came from. I LOVE family history and learning more about where I came from – each of these places were little villages where my grandparents’ parents and grandparents came from. Where they’d been born, christened and buried. (The marker in front of the headstone above marks my ancestor John Udall. Good thing too, since the headstone is completely unreadable now.) I have lots of British heritage which is I think another reason I feel like part of me belongs there.
I think some of my favorite (or favourite) parts of the trip were things that we hadn’t planned that seemed to magically fall into our path. For example, we drove up through Yorkshire to Haworth one day for an outing. By sheer coincidence we drove along the route that had been used for the opening stages of the Tour de France only a few days earlier. There was bunting lining the route along country and village roads for miles.

Another one of those things that I couldn’t have planned was getting to visit a meeting of the Leeds Modern Quilt Guild. Awesome Justine noticed via Instgram that I was not far away and invited me to come. The day could not have worked out better as we were going to be driving through Leeds on the way to York that same day.

So my nice family dropped me off and kept themselves entertained while I got to visit with these lovely ladies. Such a good time! I loved seeing what everyone was working on and I even got introduced to the famous (or infamous?) Greggs pasties thanks to Katy.
Speaking of Katy, I also got to see Issue One of her new baby, the magazine Quilt Now and it’s fantastic! This is published in the UK so there are no direct US subscriptions as of right now, but you can order Issue 1 (while supplies last) or subscribe through Pink Castle Fabrics.
Another extra special place we were able to visit is the Isle of Man. I lived here 19 summers ago (also while serving my Mormon mission) for 6 months. This was my first visit back and it was WONDERFUL! It’s such a beautiful place.
These are the ruins of Peel Castle (about 1500 years old) outside the town of Peel.

Here are some views of Cregneash Village. So many shades of green. (The Isle of Man sits in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, so it’s not too surprising that it’s so green.) And I love the pop of color from those red post boxes and phone booths. I may be slightly obsessed with them.

When we finished our time in the North, we headed south for a few days before we finished in London. (I took the train to London by myself for the Fat Quarterly Retreat the weekend before and returned to Manchester before driving south as a family.)
Oh London. It’s the best! Here is Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace as seen from the bridge in St. James park. 
I lived in London as a University student for a semester abroad which was one of the best times of my life. I still love to visit London and just wander through the streets. Happy, happy memories. And I’m happy to say that London obliged and provided lots of new memories too. I loved taking my kids on the Tube and the big red buses, walking through the parks, climbing the Lions at Trafalgar square, and touring the Tower of London. They even obliged me in visiting my old digs at Palace Court, not far from Kensington Palace where Will and Kate and baby George live.
I have to say that I was really sad when it was time to come home. Not that I didn’t miss people at home, but I really loved our time in England. I would move there – or at least return for another extended stay – in a heart-beat. I am so THANKFUL that we had this opportunity. It has been interesting to see the different ways we have each processed it and been affected by it. I do think it broadened my children’s perspective in very healthy ways. 
The thing that has surprised me is how much I have been affected by the experience. As much as I loved the experience of just being in England itself, I am also realizing that I loved the simplicity of our lives while we were there. We brought very little with us and it was so liberating to travel light and not have to keep track of stuff. We lived in much smaller accommodations than our house at home. And we got to spend a lot of time together with out having to worry about getting different kids to different lessons or teams or schools all on a different schedule. 
The whole experience has made me realize how much I want to simplify our lives and to get rid of clutter – both physical and emotional clutter. Since coming home I’ve been cleaning out our house like crazy and took a big pile to the Good Will last Saturday. I’m also starting to say No to more and to better differentiate between things I need to do and things that are nice to do, but really aren’t really that important. I wouldn’t have predicted this effect on me and I’m really grateful for it.
I have a few more quilt-inspired pictures to share from our trip, but I’ll save those for other posts down the road. Thank you so much to all of you for sharing such generous and genuine excitement and kind words that we could live this dream. (I’m a big believer in abundance mentality. Expect good things to happen to you and be happy for the good things that happen to others.) I truly hope you hold onto your own dreams and do what you can to make them happen. The outcome may be better – and even more slightly unexpected – than you think!

Riley Blake’s Fabric Fest – a recap

I had to do a quick recap of Riley Blake’s Fabric Fest last week. The preparation consumed my life for the past weeks, but it was so fun to finally get there and be around lots of fun people and all kinds of fabric-y inspiration. It was also a little bit surreal to see quilting legends like Eleanor Burns and Jenny Doan live and in person. (Did you know Eleanor Burns has written over 100 books? Ho.Lee.Smokes.)
The folks at Riley Blake went all out to make it a great event! They even had a fashion show (that included quilts too) one night – sadly, my pics didn’t turn out great of that.  Local Las Vegas quilt shop Quiltique set up shop in one of the Ballrooms with dozens of bolts of Riley Blake collections and basics. It was hard to resist, I tell you.
I taught a few different classes. (Four actually. Hence the reason my life has been crazy the past few weeks.) The first class was an introduction discussion of Modern quilting, which included an improv-inspired, quilt-as-you-go project. I was so nervous but everyone in the class was great and it seemed to be a new technique for a lot of people. I loved seeing what people came up with.  The bag on the right wasn’t made in the class, but was another quilt-as-you-go project that I spotted and loved.
The ladies in the class for the Union Jack bag did such an awesome job!! We ran out of time to finish in class, but many of them came back to open sewing that night and finished! I was so proud of them. I am planning to write and publish the pattern for this Union Jack block and bag. When life calms down a bit. A HUGE thank you to Pellon for sponsoring the batting and Peltex for this project. We used the Utlra Firm Fusible Stabilizer (Peltex 71F) for this project and it worked splendidly.
My other two classes didn’t have specific projects attached to them. One was a scraps class with lots of ideas for sorting and using fabric scraps. It was so fun to see the creativity that came out of there. We also made storage cubes inspired by Amanda Jean’s tutorial.
Remember this bunch of solids I was bundling together into kits? It was SO MUCH FUN to see the way the different class members used those solids.
This class was about Modern Quilts inspired by traditional quilting. (I started a pin board with some of the examples I used.) We talked about staying true to our aesthetic and style, but pushing the boarders of that box a little. I LOVED what everyone did and the variety of ideas that came out of that same bundle of solid prints.
This one is by Heather. I think I need to make a whole quilt inspired by her creation. Loved it.
Finally, the best part of sewing retreats are the people. Always. Thank you SO MUCH to all those who introduced yourselves to me. Each one made my day even better. I have loved the people I’ve come to know through quilting and through writing this blog. My roommate Melissa from the Polkadot Chair is one of those people I came to know virtually and has become a great friend. We rarely see each other in person, so this was fun.
Jenny Doan was one of the key note speakers at lunch one day and said something to the effect that “People’s hearts are changed through this (sewing and quilting) hobby.” We start out creating something for ourselves, then loved ones, and then sooner or later, you’re creating with the desire to share and bless other people who need some love in their lives. I loved when she said that because it rang true to me. I’ve always tried to pin down why quilter’s are such good folks and I think Jenny summed it up – because something about this kind of creativity changes our hearts.

Spring Break

It was not fun to get up this morning. All of last week was our Spring Break from school and we tried to pack it as full as possible. It was all worth it, but hence our dragging today as we try to get back into our routines. 

We took our kids to visit the last two National Parks in Utah that we hadn’t been to yet: Canyonlands and Arches. As you can see, they were pretty spectacular.

 Dead Horse Point, Colorado River
 Island in the Sky, Canyonlands
Double Arch, Arches. Top picture is Delicate Arch and second pic is Balanced Rock, also at Arches. Sorry for the travelogue today, but I figured since the scenery was unique enough you wouldn’t hate it too much. It was good to get away, as always, spend time with the kids, get our exercise, and avoid distractions. Besides a few storm clouds (which made for dramatic skies) the first day, we had perfect sunshine and warm weather.

Then we came home to spend the weekend with family visiting from out of state, watch the LDS General Conference, and celebrate this guy’s 7th birthday. He fell asleep in my lap Sunday afternoon and I tried to soak it up as much as possible, because those moments are only going to get more rare… *sniff* Also I took advantage of the chance to take his picture without him making weird faces at me or running away altogether.

I did get some sewing done during our drive – I finally finished this paper piecing project that I started in Katy’s class at the Sewing Summit. It only took me a few long-distance road trips to complete. It’s called Spring Carnival and you can find the tutorial and pattern on Katy’s tutorial page. I love it – now I need to decide it’s destiny.

In other sewing fun, Craftsy is having a sale on all of their classes – up to 75% off! So if you’ve had your eye on one or more of the plethora of classes they have, now’s a good time to sign up.

And now, I’m off to try and catch-up on all things computer related and to stop eating leftover Easter candy. Wish me luck.