TALKING TEXTILES with ... ECT tour guide & our very own quilter Graham Parker
In the third interview of our Talking Textiles series, we speak to our exclusive tour guide and very own quilter Graham Parker about how he got started, taking short cuts and the joy of quilting clubs
ECT: When and why did you get into quilting?
GP: In autumn 2014, I took an ECT group to the Open European Quilt Championships in the Netherlands and I just loved it. The people were so nice, the work was fantastic, and it also struck me that quilting was a very accessible art. Then the following year, ECT’s CEO Theresa McDermott asked me to lead a tour to the International Quilt Show in Houston. This time I voiced my interest in having a go at quilting for myself and three of the group in particular, Sally, Mary and Joan, really encouraged me. I took them to a textile shop as part of the tour and they suggested some fabric for me to try and gave me tips on how to start. I worked hard on it and it came out really well. In fact, it was included in a quilt festival at Midsomer Norton last summer.
ECT: Your first ever quilt was in an exhibition? That’s quite something! Have you always been crafty?
GP: I’ve only been properly crafty since I saw the quilts in the Netherlands and America, but I have always had the ability to try and make things. If I went on an art tour, I wouldn’t be able to resist buying canvases when I got back!
ECT: What is it about quilting that keeps you hooked?
GP: That’s really easy to answer: it’s a bit of escapism. I used to have a purpose-designed sewing room, but we've moved recently and now my sewing area is contained inside my wardrobe, which has huge sliding glass doors and is deep enough to house a table for my sewing machine. I go in there, put my music on and I am in my zone.
ECT: And what’s your style?
GP: I’m not terribly complicated in my making. When I first started quilting, I used to cut up lots of fabric and make blocks, but these days I don’t want to spend hours at a chopping board cutting and slicing; I just want to sit and sew, so I’ve gone simple. I am making a patchwork quilt for my back car seat at the moment. And I'm all for shortcuts because I want to get to the finished product; no UFOs [unfinished objects] here! Of course, I want it to look nice and be well finished, but if there’s a slightly quicker way of doing something then I’m on that bus!
ECT: What do you do with the finished work?
GP: I have given away a lot of the bags I’ve made. With the quilts, I have sold a couple and made two to commission, but all the rest, 15 or 16 in total, are under the bed.
ECT: Under the bed?
GP: Oh yes, they never get used. I make them, then fold them up and put them under the bed along with all the batting [the fabric that’s sandwiched in the middle of the quilt] and all my really big bolts of fabric.
ECT: So, it’s the making itself that’s the pleasure?
GP: Yes, but also the owning and the personal pride in having made something. I’m a textile hoarder. When I go under the bus, my partner can flood the market with my quilts, but right now I’m into owning them. I don’t even photograph the ones I sell or give away because I don’t want to regret having let them go. I am the same with my fabric stash. I like to get it out and look at it, partly for inspiration but partly just to know that all these beautiful bits of fabric are mine! Every quilter I’ve ever met is the same – you’ll never prise a stash off any quilter…
ECT: You took part in a quilt exhibition, ‘Man Made’ last summer. Tell us about that.
GP: It was at Midsomer Quilting, which is a really fabulous quilt shop in Chilcompton in Somerset and was devoted exclusively to quilts made by men, both professional and amateur. I had three of my quilts in the show and it was such a morale booster. [Graham talks about one of these quilts in the short film here.]
ECT: As well as quilting at home in your wardrobe, you also take people on our quilting tours and you’re a member of a quilt club too – how important is that community to you?
GP: Oh, it’s really important. The quilting world is a family. When I was starting out, people were so generous and encouraging. Of course, the clubs haven’t been meeting over the past year, but I am so looking forward to getting back to the club scene. I miss talking with other quilters about what we’re all doing, sharing ideas, seeing what others have been making and, best of all, the Show and Tell.
We have a wonderful programme of inspiring, sociable quilting tours coming up for later this year and beyond - find out more here