Sarah Hibbert is a modern British quilter. Her exhibition, Linen Works (sponsored by Lucky Spool), is at The Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham from 18th-21st August 2022.

Sarah, you’ve been quilting for over 30 years and are an acclaimed Modern quilter. What is it about the Modern aesthetic that you most enjoy

From the beginning, I mainly reconstructed traditional patterns and made a twist in the colour combinations, placing a block the wrong way or carrying a piece into the border. Maybe this way of constructing my quilts can be looked upon as a Modern look but overall, I enjoy the structure of clean lines and strong bold colours with simple quilting to emphasise the shapes, rather than the quilting taking over the design.

Your quilt, Reflections, has been acquired by The Quilters’ Guild for its permanent Modern archive collection. What does it mean to you to have your work recognised in this way?

I was incredibly honoured to have Reflections acquired by The Quilters’ Guild in 2019, not only for myself but also my family and the generations that may follow. To think that in years ahead, a member or visitor to the Guild may be looking at my work really does make me happy. I have been a member of the Guild since the late 80s and supported them as much as I could so to have a piece within their collection is just icing on the cake.

Your Festival of Quilts exhibition, Linen Works, features three different bodies of work. One of these, From Collage to Quilt, is the culmination of a three-year challenge to make a small paper collage each morning within 15 minutes, then transform it into a full-scale quilt design. Can you tell us more about the challenge and the resulting quilts?

This came about as a suggestion from a dear friend in New York, to create a piece of work for a period of 100 days. I knew that I couldn’t commit to 100 days of stitching, even though I wanted too, so I challenged myself to do a daily paper collage. I have always played with paper and creating the occasional piece but to create each day was such an enjoyable experience. After the challenge was completed, I looked back over the designs and pulled out one piece. I thought that it would lend itself very much to a wall hanging. I set about drafting the design to scale and was pleased with the results. This quilt was the Macaroons Quilt, which has since been used as the promotional design for The Festival of Quilts in both 2020 and 2021. I have continued with this challenge for the last five years and various quilts within my collection have come from this project.

Your new book of the same name is winging its way from the printers to the UK as we speak in time for The Festival of Quilts. Can you tell us more about it?

I have never planned to write a book but taking a simple paper collage design through to a finished fabric quilt has very much appealed to me as a design task. I wanted to share my journey as a homespun quilter, mixed in with stories of my upbringing, together with some of the highlights of the quilting community I really love belonging too. I want it very much as a coffee table book that you can flick through as inspiration rather than an instruction piece. Yes, there are 14 quilt patterns included but these are for the reader to interrupt their own piece, very much a stepping stone into quilt construction. I tried to cover most aspects of quilting piecing to assist the reader in making a unique quilt for their own collection. The words in the book are just how I was thinking and thoughts at the time of writing, very much a piece of me on the page. Luckily the publisher liked my way of chat so very little was altered. Therefore, the book is littered with beautiful photography and, along with the easy text, I hope that it will be an enjoyable read.

Your large-scale work inspired by Japanese abstract designs will be on display too, including Haiku which was selected for the 2019 Fine Art Textiles Award. How important is it that textile art, and quilts specifically, are recognised as high art?

I was extremely thrilled to have Haiku chosen for The Fine Art Textiles Award, it was a piece I really enjoyed making. It came from listening to John Cooper Clark on the radio talking about writing Haikus, so I thought along the lines of fabric talking and created 17 small design blocks and laid them in a 5,7,5 formation. I pieced the background in various neutrals to replicate scrap paper. On constructing this quilt, I didn’t think of it as an Art piece at all. I just wanted something unique that had my personal stamp on it. When I submitted the piece, the main objective was to share my work within this category, as opposed to losing it in the main arena. Having said that, I do think that quilts can and should be looked at as a form of Art, due to the design and colour aspect.

Linen has a special place in your heart. Can you tell us more about your love for this fabric?

I have worked with linen for several years, yes. I do so love the richness you can achieve with cotton fabrics, but I love the gentleness of linen. It seems to talk to me, wanting to be incorporated in a living quilt. The colour palette that you can achieve with linen is much softer but with a bold statement, should you wish to use highlight colours within your work.

You’re recently back from QuiltCon in the US. What were the highlights for you?

Very much meeting up with the quilting community after such a long break. It was wonderful to see such a varied selection of quilts, ranging from whole cloth to intricate pieced designs. There were many quilts constructed from online tutorials which made me realise how much the ability to access the major quilt tutors online has been such a huge benefit whilst in lockdown. Thus, fuelling quilters with further techniques and spreading the work of great quilt designs.

When you’re not chatting to Festival visitors about your work, who or what are you looking forward to seeing this year?

It will be wonderful to be back amongst fellow quilters and to visit the other textile galleries showcasing their work. The Festival is such a great opportunity to try out various techniques within the workshops or take time for a coffee and listen to the wide array of speakers. It is such a great event to soak up the amazing quilts and stallholders, so yes, I am very excited about attending the Festival this year.

We know you are a member of The Quilters’ Guild. What do you enjoy about being a member?

I have been a member of The Quilters’ Guild since the late 1980s and I have very much felt part of a family, with likeminded members promoting and celebrating the art of quilt making. The generosity of fellow members has been a real benefit to my journey, either by attending Regional Days or the AGMs. From attending events you know you will also have such a fun experience and come away with new knowledge and your inspiration sparked. I have held various positions within The Guild, either Young Quilters’ Rep or Treasurer for the Modern Group and I feel that once you step across to offer help, you receive so much more in return. The Quilters’ Guild achieves so much in the promotion of patchwork and quilting and should be cherished and enjoyed by many.

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