Quiltbeach

.........or Where I Made The Frankenstein Fabric

I've spent some time lately trying to find "my people" here in South Florida.  Who are my people, you ask?  Well I'm not entirely sure either, but I think they like being creative with thread.  And they might like the Ramones.  Other than that.... well I guess I'll just know them when I see them.

This weekend I journeyed up to Vero Beach, on Florida's Treasure Coast, for a couple of days of convening with people who like to quilt.  The Treasure Coast Modern Quilt Guild had pulled off something of a coup and booked famous quilters Victoria Findlay-Wolfe and Luke Haynes to run workshops.  This was the second year of Quiltbeach, and I would have to say that it was largely a roaring success. There were also workshops by local quilt artists, a great exhibit of quilts, and a small marketplace with fabric and other quilty temptations.

Double Wedding Ring quilt by Victoria Findlay-Wolfe

J Rock Star quilt by Victoria Findlay-Wolfe

On Saturday I attended the "keynote" lecture by VFW (no, not Veterans of Foreign Wars - keep up!). The hour was a great introduction to Victoria's background and methodology - absolutely perfect for me who knew very little about her a few weeks ago.  Long story short, she grew up on a Minnesota farm that she was desperate to escape.  Whilst studying fine art she was chastised for confusing art with craft by using a quilt as a canvas for painting.  After working as a painter she eventually returned to sewing and making quilts - but she turned the process upside down, shook it all about and dumped it back on the table.  Probably best known for her "15 Minutes Of Play" philosophy, where she encourages us all to let go and just have fun with fabric.  Working mostly with "made fabric"(scraps sewn together more or less randomly to create new textures and color palettes), I was astonished to hear that she has made over 400 quilts in the last 7 years. Yes - do the math, that's more than one a week.  And she raised a child at the same time. Damn over achievers make the rest of us look bad.

Luke Haynes Quilt

Luke Haynes Quilt detail

After the keynote I did the workshop led by Luke Haynes. I was very excited about this indeed.  Luke makes beautiful quilts out of old clothes (which he apparently buys by the pound from Goodwill). Many of his quilts feature photographic portraits of people...some famous, some not, some Luke himself.  Just incredibly exciting and cool work (follow that link above and dive in).  The workshop was a bit of a mystery, apart from knowing that we were going "From Clothes To Quilts", we didn't know what we were making specifically.  The instructions were to bring three garments - two of the same color and one contrasting.  Luke showed us how to deconstruct those garments quickly to achieve maximum useable fabric. Then we were told to cut them into wonky strips, and sew those strips together randomly.  Once we had constructed a rectangle, we cut that up and sewed it back together in a different order.  Then we cut that up and sewed it back together again.  

Stage 1 of the Frankenstein fabric

It was a bit like the "cut-up" writing technique used by William Burroughs and cohorts. Each step was revealed only after we completed the previous one.  (People kept popping their heads in and asking what we were making and we could only say "we don't know!") Finally we cut the fabric (by now decidedly disfigured and wonky) into strips (at last! something sensible! we thought), and the strips into squares.  

Slashing and burning in full swing

Suddenly we had something really quite lovely and amazing.  The Frankenstein fabric was transformed into little Cinderella squares!  All of that slashing and joining turned up beautiful little shapes and angles, the sort of thing you can mess about cutting and piecing together for hours to make a "proper"quilt. It was astounding, and jolly good fun.

My Cinderella blocks, ready to be joined together into a fabulous quilt.

A little bonus of the class was that I got to meet my swap partner from the Angled class pillow swap that I did last year... the lovely Rene. She is just as sweet in real life as she is on t'internet

 With Rene and Luke (stolen from Rene's Instagram)

With Rene and Luke (stolen from Rene's Instagram)

Also got to see many of the ladies from the South Florida Modern Quilt Guild, who I met in Boca Raton last month - they are all so lovely.

I wish I could have stayed to take a class with Victoria on Sunday, but sadly my budget and time did not permit.  I did buy her "15 Minutes Of Play"book and have already devoured it.

Luke and his finished quilt.

Between Luke's wonderful skills and energy and Victoria's inspiration, I have come back full of ideas and with a whole new way of working opened up to me. I want to do nothing but sew. And write the (very) occasional blog post.

I ran out of time and didn't get to sew my Cinderella blocks together, but I already have a plan...watch this space.

I am really grateful to the ladies of TCMQG for making this event happen - I hope that next year is even better!