Directors of the show (from left); Isabel Paterson, Patricia Macindoe and Ruth Higham
Directors of the show (from left); Isabel Paterson,
Patricia Macindoe and Ruth Higham

As one of the worlds leading producers of dyed and printed cloth for almost 250 years, up until the 1960s, it seems only fitting that the Vale of Leven in Scotland should be the home of the Loch Lomond Quilt Show. Now in its third year, the show has established itself as the national showcase for the wealth of talent that exists in patchwork and quilting circles throughout Scotland. Over 350 quilts were on display in 17 exhibitions in ten different venues, mainly churches in Dumbarton and the surrounding area.The inspiration for the show came to organisers Isabel Paterson, Patricia Macindoe and Ruth Higham during a visit to the Le Carrefour Européen du Patchwork in the Val dArgent in Alsace several years ago. Based on the same multi-site format they approached their local Arts Development Officer with a grand plan and with the support of EventScotland, and The Quilters Guild, not to mention fellow enthusiasts and very tolerant husbands, the Loch Lomond Quilt Show became a reality.

On an Island Beach By Sheila Dalgleish
On an Island Beach By Sheila Dalgleish

Isabel, Patricia and Ruth believe that much of the success of the event is down to the fact that they are, first and foremost, passionate about quilting and understand what visitors to the event are looking for. The message from them is that the event is A quilt show for quilters by quilters. Stretching over four days and spanning the length of the River Leven, there was literally something for everyone beautiful exhibits, workshops led by sought after teachers, retail therapy, cruising on Loch Lomond and the chance to hear Patricia and Isabel in their very own rendition of the The Proclaimers song Im Gonna Be (500 Miles), aka ... (500 Quilts)! But more than this, there was a real spirit of camaraderie, and a desire from participants and visitors to celebrate the creativity and friendships which have grown out of a shared love of patchwork and quilting.

The event is very focused on preserving its Scottish identity; the competitions and themes are closely linked to Scotlands textile history and the natural heritage. This years Far & Away theme was inspired by Scottish scenery looking out to the islands and beyond, and attracted a feast of colour, techniques and textures integrating Harris tweed, Celtic designs and felting. The open competition theme, Cabin Fever, looked for traditional and new interpretations of this timeless pattern, which according to quilt historians originated in Scotland. (Examples of a log cabin design can be seen at the National Museum in Scotland on an embroidered sewing box dating back to the mid 1700s.)

Are you Crazy? By Fiona Wysocki
Are you Crazy? By Fiona Wysocki

There was also a tribute to the organisers dear friend, and one of the original visionaries and backers of the event, Marie-Louise Mundie. She sadly passed away just a few months before the fi rst show was held but her memory lives on in the Marie-Louise Mundie award for traditional hand quilting which, this year, went to Nikki Tinkler

If the competition experience didnt suit everyone then there was a chance to take part in the local Guild exhibition. Or the 30 of the Best display which highlights a different Scottish region each year; this years group was from the islands of Islay, Arran, Lewis, Orkney and Skye, and they brought together examples of Japanese folded patchwork, exchange dyeing and some classic patterns.

Bonnie quilts on the banks of Loch Lomond

Visitors to the National Park Gateway Centre on the shores of Loch Lomond were in for a real treat if they managed to catch a glimpse of the Q in the Park exhibition. An open brief to produce any sort of quilt which could brave the elements (including a force 8 wind off the loch that weekend!) resulted in an array of dazzling quilts, hanging from overhead branches, wafting silently in the breeze, mesmerizing passers-by as the afternoon sunshine created an almost stained glass effect.

Im just sitting watching flowers in the rain by Morven Roche
Im just sitting watching flowers
in the rain by Morven Roche

If battling the elements wasnt everyones cup of tea, then you could still enjoy views of the loch surrounded by quilts from Georgina Chapman and friends hanging inside the Gateway Centre. The exhibition brought together work from many of Georginas pupils in both the UK and the US and was a perfect backdrop for the launch party and award announcements held on the opening day. I couldnt imagine a more fitting place to hang the Mariners Compass themed quilts by Georginas pupils than against a ceiling-to-floor glass window looking out on to the loch.

Quilting in the aisles - Both literary and spiritual

In addition to the competition exhibits there were collections from many of the workshop leaders which will be covered in more detail in future articles. Here is a sampler, so to speak, of some of the inspirational quilts and artists on display in the participating churches and libraries.

Vale of Leven Baptist Church - Irene MacWilliam together with the Irish Patchwork Society

Irene MacWilliam ran a workshop on zoomorphic Celtic appliqué showing students how animal and human shapes could be intertwined to form fun and fantastical shapes. And her Fish Tales quilt was just one of many pieces being exhibited. The Irish Patchwork Society were invited to bring a selection of contemporary quilts and The Fire Spitting Dragon by Joke Buursma, which was pieced, appliquéd and quilted by machine was just one of many dramatic pieces on display.

Fish Tales by Irene MacWilliam
Fish Tales by Irene MacWilliam

St Mungo's Church, Alexandria - Sandra Meech and Jenny Barlow

What a contrast to bring together the urban landscapes of Sandra Meechs quilts with the traditional methods and patterns employed in Jennys quilts! Visitors spent a lot of time up close and personal with many of the exhibits, marvelling at Jennys precision stitching and digesting the full impact of Sandras complex designs. Both Jenny and Sandra held workshops during the event exploring mixed-media and hand-quilting techniques respectively.

West Kirk, Dumbarton - Sheena Norquay, Frieda Oxenham and Turning Point

On entering the West Kirk you were greeted with gentle background music provided by the ladies of the church and it was almost like being in a quilting spa. On one side of the aisle was Frieda Oxenhams Sew Far So Good collection, bursting with colour and joy, and facing that was Sheen Norquays Beaches and Birds which was so evocative you could almost feel the sand between your toes. But there was more to come and one of the magical moments of visiting this venue was discovering yet another collection of pieces from Turning Point hanging high up on the balcony, appropriately entitled The Power and the Glory. Frieda introduced the concept of the Artists Trading Card in her workshop and Sheena shared her love of experimentation with textured surfaces in her Making Marks day.

Riverside Church - Cabin Fever, Old Log Cabin and ColourFX

ColourFX took the theme of Shakespeares eighteenth sonnet and included Alicia Merretts Thy Eternal Summer Shall Not Fade. This was the perfect collection in which to immerse yourself on the wetter and wilder days during the show. Alicias workshop explored the way shape, line and colour can work together to achieve balance and beauty visual music as she likes to call it.

The power and the glory by Turning Point
The power and the glory by Turning Point

Dalmuir Library - Maureen Arnott

A winner from last years show, Maureen is inspired by unexceptional objects and surfaces in life such as walls and pavements. She uses dyeing, stitching and careful use of textures to show these surfaces as things of beauty and her collection was simply entitled Look around you.

Dumbarton Library - Glasgow Gathering

Made by members of the Glasgow Gathering of quilters, this exhibition celebrated the Round Robin style. For those of you who havent had the chance to take part in a Round Robin, this is something along the lines of a friendship block. Each person that joins in starts by making a centre block, they then pass this to another member of the group who adds a border and this continues until all the borders are all added. It then arrives back to the originator for a fi nal top and tail! Round Robins can be exciting, challenging and hugely enjoyable, and everyone ends up with a finished quilt.

Thy Eternal Summer Shall Not Fade by Alicia Merrett
Thy Eternal Summer
Shall Not Fade
by Alicia Merrett

St Patrick's Church Hall - Traders Village and Guild Exhibition

It seems to be a universally acknowledged fact that any quilter in possession of a large stash is entitled to augment it at regular intervals, no questions asked! There was a chance to indulge in a bit of retail therapy at the Traders Village with over a dozen shops and businesses taking part. Gilly Thomson, or the Hungarian quilt lady as she seems to be better known, had her selection of hand-printed blue and white fabrics, along with a blue and white hand-quilted churn dash quilt displayed for inspiration. You could also pick up jazzy buttons, kits on hardanger embroidery and, for the really adventurous, sheets of copper which can be heated and stitched on to fabric (perhaps worth noting for next years Q in the Park!).

Less is More

The multi-site format of this show is what gives it its charm. The venues were small enough for you to interact with other visitors and to chat to volunteers manning the welcome desks. Isabel, Ruth and Patricia, more often than not, had big smiles for everyone and were keen to keep the tone of the show friendly and informal. By using intimate venues to show the quilt collections it was much easier from a visitors point of view to digest all the different textiles, techniques and colours. The quilts seemed to take on a new dimension hanging from the heavy beams of the church balconies rather than in a large cavernous exhibition hall. This show is defi nitely enjoyed at a slower pace, and the opportunity to walk between venues and to stop for coffee and home baking was a perfect way to take everything in. With a shuttle bus running regularly between the different sites it was also easy enough for visitors to revisit collections or to take a break.

Next Year

Plans are already underway for next years show which will be held 1417 May 2008. The themes, are Starring ... as the theme for the open competition and Bordering on the Extravagant for the Scottish and Group competition. When I spoke to Isabel, Ruth and Patricia after the show they were feeling optimistic about the future and are really delighted at how the event seems to be garnering support from year to year. After completing the gigantean task of returning many of the quilts they were eager to get down to some strategic thinking about developing the event further. In fact, they seemed to be brimming over with ideas, which can only mean good things for all of us visitors roll on May 2008!

First published in Popular Patchwork Number 7 - 2007