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Mary Palmer and Anne Kiely win Best in Show at The Festival of Quilts

By Mark Hayhurst 07 Aug 2019

Irish quilt artists Mary Palmer and Anne Kiely have won The Handi Quilter Best in Show Award at The Festival of Quilts for their Two Person Quilt category-winning quilt, Who Will Tell the Bees?

The collaboration was made in linen, cotton and wool with etchings translated digitally onto fabric, constructed by hand and quilted by machine. It offers a window on the world and of global environmental chaos on the brink.

Judges said: “We liked the theme, good combination of different elements and how it really tells a story. Brilliant! A fabulous example of interpretative long-arm quilting, entirely appropriate to this magnificent quilt.”

The pair won three awards in total, scooping first prize in the Two Person Quilts (sponsored by The Craft Cotton Co) and Best use of Longarm (sponsored by The Grace Company) categories. The artists were presented with £3,500 in prize money at The Festival of Quilts Awards Ceremony on Thursday, August 1, 2019 at the NEC Birmingham.

Winners of The Festival of Quilts’ competition categories were:

Art Quilts (sponsored by Madeira) – Betty Busby, US, Vertex

The judges admired the work’s “shifting focus across the design and the meticulous execution. Subtle and unusual colours and fabric patterns are skilfully handled in this quilt, with a great sense of depth.”

Contemporary Quilts (sponsored by Janome) – Claudia Pfeil, Germany, Fractal

Judges said the work was: “Impressive! It has the ‘wow’ factor. An excellent result in risk taken with embellishment which adds an airy effect. The strong background compliments the overall design with a variety of different techniques which demonstrate excellent workmanship.”

Group Quilts (sponsored by Bombay Stores Fabrics) – Cowslip Workshops, UK, Over the Hills and far away

Judges liked the work’s “clever use of fabrics, from the themed print to the subtle use of colour in the pieced border. An effective use of negative space complimented by the applique and appropriate quilting on a well-balanced, beautifully executed quilt.”

Miniature Quilts (sponsored by Baby Lock) – Sandra Newton, UK, Embrace this day

Judges said: “The dynamic impact of the piece is created by imaginative use of colours and attention to detail. Exemplary use of materials and techniques to create a stunning work.”

Modern Quilts (sponsored by Pfaff) – Robyn Fahy, Northern Ireland, Fractured Circles

New entry criteria for the Modern category were introduced for 2019, with entries no longer required to be functional.

Judges said: “The work is beautifully executed with rhythm and motion as well as depth and texture created with the quilting which perfectly complements the overall design.”

Novice Quilts (sponsored by Cotton Patch) – Katarzyna Plesniak, Poland, Pieces of memories I

Judges praised the work’s design, “with a deep meaning, excellent use of a limited subtle colour palette, a rich and evocative texture and great interpretation of the theme.”

Pictorial Quilts (sponsored by Juki) – Juana Castañeda Romera, Spain, De Oriente a occidente la mas

Judges said: “A strong image, well balanced in the frame and immaculately executed. Congratulations on an amazing piece of work, a privilege to have judged it.”

Quilt Creations – Lynne Barker, UK, Chest

Judges said: “This highly evocative piece promotes a huge emotional response. The use of threads, knots and their placement make a stunning contrast to the discs. The thread shows ripples of movement through the piece to contrast with the seeming regularity of the outside ‘armour’.”

Schools & Groups of Young Quilters – Primary/5-11 (sponsored by Brother) with a theme of ‘Memories’ – Shenley Brook End School, UK, Memories: the Mind is a Puzzle

Judges praised the “light and airy piece, portraying memories that are important to a child. We loved the jigsaw effect that linked memories to each other.”

Schools & Groups of Young Quilters – Secondary/12-16 (sponsored by Brother) with a theme of ‘Memories’ – Atelier de Couture Magique, Belgium, Years over the sunset

Judges said: “We loved the use of the sun and figures to show the passage of time. The colours were particularly well chosen.”

The Quilters’ Guild Challenge (sponsored by Bernina) with a 40th anniversary theme of ‘Four Decades – One moment’–Kate Dowty, UK, Forty Shades of Green

Judges said: “This stunning quilt is a simple concept, executed with confidence in style, beautifully presented in lovely colours.”

Traditional Quilts (sponsored by Clover) – Gwenfai Rees Griffiths, UK, Pennsylvania

Judges said: “This beautiful sophisticated design with subtle colouring has been expertly employed with exquisite workmanship at every level. We all agree there was nothing to alter.”

Two Person Quilts (sponsored by The Craft Cotton Co) – Mary Palmer and Anne Kiely, Ireland, Who Will Tell the Bees?

Young Quilter/Young Embroiderer 5-9 Category (sponsored by Brother) with a theme of ‘Memories’ – Beatrice Varley, UK, Rainbow Fairy Memories

Judges said the winning entry was: “A very good composition, very well stitched. The fairies are not too strong in colour – it means it is a part of the colour play. Excellent embellishment.”

Young Quilter/Young Embroiderer 10-13 Category (sponsored by Brother) with a theme of ‘Memories’ – Naroa y Nahia Sevilla, Spain, Hermanas por el mundo

Judges called the entry: “A striking quilt that draws you in to look closer. An excellently composed piece of work. Fabulous!”

Young Quilter/Young Embroiderer 14-18 Category (sponsored by Brother) with a theme of ‘Memories’ – Kyle Long,Ireland, My Memory Timeline

Judges said: “We love the shape and arrangement of images. Such a fun quilt to make everyone smile.”

New for the 2019 quilt competition were two overlay categories which recognise the different skills involved in work made using a longarm quilting machine and work that is hand quilted. Entrants in any competition category were eligible to enter the new overlay categories. Winners were:

Best use of Longarm (sponsored by The Grace Company) - Mary Palmer and Anne Kiely, Ireland, Who Will Tell the Bees?

Best use of Hand Quilting (sponsored by Aurifil) - Andrea Stracke, Germany, Ruby

Judges praised the Traditional category entry’s “well-planned design and exemplary stitching, a beautiful quilt.”

The winner of the Visitors’ Choice Award (sponsored by The Quilters’ Guild) was Taj Mahal at Sunset by Pippa Wardman which also came second in The Quilters’ Guild Challenge.

Winner of The Festival of Quilts’ new Lifetime Achievement Award (sponsored by was Janice Gunner. The award recognizes and celebrates the commitment, achievement and dedication that a specific individual has made to the quilting community throughout their life – either through own work, their teaching of others or through their lifetime devotion and enthusiasm for the world of quilting.

Anna Baptiste, Event Director for The Festival of Quilts, said: “Jan has committed her life to textiles, is an international award-winning quilter, teacher, lecturer and writer, a former President of The Quilters’ Guild and a recipient of a City & Guilds Medal of Excellence. She has been a long-time champion of textile artists and was instrumental in creating The Festival of Quilts. We’re honoured to present her with our first ever Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The Festival of Quilts takes place annually at the NEC Birmingham and is the biggest patchwork and quilting event in Europe. It attracts 25,000 visitors from all over the world. 2019 highlights included 800 hung competition quilts,spectacular galleries by internationally-acclaimed textile artists including Michael James, India Flint and Eszter Bornemisza, an extensive programme of workshops, talks, lectures and demonstrations, artists at work in a live studio environment, a daily Trunk Show by YouTube quilting star Jenny Doan, a Japanese Pavilion, an Innovation Station showing latest equipment, The Quilters’ Guild 40th Birthday Party, social events and shopping with over 300 specialist craft suppliers.

The Festival of Quilts 2020 takes place from July 30- August 2, 2020.

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