Friday, 25 April 2014

Meet our talented tutors - Sarah Humphreys - Patchwork and quilting


Sarah Humphreys, our patchwork and quilting guru, who lives and breathes her craft. We're lucky to have such an expert on board and even more lucky that Sarah just so happens to be super lovely and very cool to boot! She's as bright and vibrant as the quilts she makes, with ever changing hair colour (blue the last time I saw her), and she sets every one of our customers at ease with her patience and quilt-side manner. You can take a number of classes with Sarah at Ministry of Craft although you'd do well to book in advance as they regularly sell out!
What first drew you to your craft?
In 1991 I went to see Gillian Clarke talk about a quilt she had made depicting women’s work in the Middle Ages.  I went because I was interested in women’s history.  And I came away excited about the wonderful quilts I had seen – as well as charmed by the talented, welcoming women who made them.  I started my first quilt soon afterwards, and I’ve been making quilts ever since.

What’s your crafting background?
I come from a crafting family – and I have crafted for as long as I can remember.  My mother, aunt and grandmother would encourage embroidery, sewing, knitting, papercraft – any craft you can think of.  The worst thing you could say in my family was that you were bored – there was always something to do.

Did you train professionally as a quilter or are you self taught?
I didn’t train professionally as a quilter – nor am I entirely self-taught.  Over the years I have attended evening classes, local quilt groups, workshops and quilting retreats to learn and develop my skills.  Of course the internet is an amazing resource – and I love to buy and read patchwork books.  Mainly though I have learnt from being around other quilt-makers – quilters are amazingly generous when it comes to sharing skills and ideas. 

What are your main sources of inspiration?
Other quilters.  From international quilt shows to ‘show and tell’ at my local quilt group, there is always more to see, admire and learn from.  I am a member of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles and the conference and AGM is one of the highlights of my crafting year – I attend lectures, view exhibitions and spend time with some of the most talented and diverse quilters in the country.

Who’s been the biggest influence on your career so far?
My mum.  She encouraged me to go to that first talk and we have quilted together ever since.   We have travelled all over the UK together to attend shows, conferences and workshops.  She is always supportive of my work – and lets me raid her craft room when I’m short of the right bit of fabric. 

What’s the best thing about being a crafter?
Spending time with other people who love the same things you love.  The quilting world is predominantly women and it is amazing to spend time with women of all ages, learning and sharing skills with each other.  Positive female relationships have been really important in my quilting history – I have met women who I may otherwise never have even spoken to and they have become really good friends.

Do you do any other crafts in your spare time, apart from what you specialize in?
I enjoy cross stitch and free embroidery.  Sometimes I make cards and have done a bit of scrap-booking. Occasionally I make clothes.  I dabble but I always come back to quilts. 

What’s you’re the best thing you’ve ever made?
It depends who you ask!!  I have two modern sampler quilts in the living room which my husband loves.  He can often be found tucked up with a quilt and the cat on the sofa watching late-night cricket or early morning Grand Prix.  My best friend loves her wedding quilt - she requested ‘sky blue and sunshine yellow’ - not colours I tend to use but we were both delighted with the end result.  My personal favourite is ‘Frank’ – a wall hanging I made last year depicting Frankenstein’s monster.  He hangs in my house like a family portrait!!

We'd love a Frank in our lounge!
Have you ever made a creative mistake?
Who hasn’t?!  In fact, if there’s a mistake that can be made I’ve made it.  And I’m still making mistakes – but that’s part of learning.

And your favourite tool or material?
I have a pair of Fiskars scissors which I am particularly attached to.  They have a non-stick coating which makes them easy to keep clean.  I use them on anything and they seem to stay sharp – and they are just the right size for me.

I’m also really into interesting threads for quilting.  I love Superior threads as they produce a great range of different colours and weights.  I use their bobbin fill ‘Bottom Line’ almost all of the time in my sewing machine.  And I adore the vivid shades of their ‘Nature Colors’ polyester thread – I use a lot of this for free machine quilting.

What’s you favourite crafty anecdote / story?
I love to see learners’ work displayed in quilt shows – I teach adults and young quilters and it’s always exciting to see their quilts on show.  My ‘claim to fame’ is that one of my young quilter’s wall hangings – along with young lady herself – was visible on the tv show Kirstie’s Handmade Britain.  I was so excited when I saw it!!

Halloween style quilting!
Where can we see / buy your work?
You can see my work on my website  I also use my blog to show lots of work done in my classes both at Ministry of Craft and other venues. 

What have you got coming up in the future?
I’m really excited to be expanding my teaching as I love helping other people to discover the world of quilt making which has been my passion for so long.  I have regular classes now in Leeds and Doncaster as well as at Ministry of Craft.  This year I’m teaching four workshops at Festival of Quilts at the NEC.  And in October I’m running the first ever Edward and the White Bear quilting retreat with my mum – we can’t wait!!

You can follow Sarah and find out more about her quilting adventures on twitter @EandTWB or by following her blog

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