Melton crafter celebrates ‘surprise’ international quilting award

Denise Geach (centre), of Melton, wins The 1718 Challenge at the Festival of Quilts, pictured with guild president Linda Bilsborrow (left) and festival event director Anna Baptiste EMN-180509-150932001

A Melton woman who took up quilting to use up off-cuts from dress-making is celebrating winning an international prize for her work.

Denise Geach won a coveted category at the annual Festival of Quilts, which attracted 800 entries and 25,000 visitors from across the world.

The winning entry by Denise Geach, of Melton, for The 1718 Challenge at the Festival of Quilts EMN-180509-150945001

She won The 1718 Challenge, a one-off competition designed to celebrate the display at the event, at Birmingham’s NEC, of the 1718 Silk Coverlet, the UK’s oldest recorded patchwork.

Contestants were challenged to replicate or interpret the historic piece in their work and her entry contained references to her Leicestershire roots such as a fox and crowns representing the recent reburial of King Richard III in Leicester.

Judges picked out her piece, titled ‘Leicestershire 1718’ as the winner from dozens of entries, including from France and Australia as well as the UK.

She told the Melton Times: “It was a big surprise to win the category.

“I didn’t enter with the idea of winning it.

“It was quite stunning to see the original coverlet, which is still in very good condition, hanging alongside all of our pieces of work.”

Her victory is all the more remarkable since she only took up the craft seven years ago.

“My mum, Sheila, used to enjoy dress-making and I took it up as well,” recalled Denise.

“I started quilting because I wanted to use the off-cuts from dress-making.

“Mum isn’t with us anymore but I would think she would be rather pleased that I won this prize.”

After visiting The Quilters’ Guild museum at York, Denise was inspired to make her own interpretation of the 1718 Coverlet in classes at the Birmingham-based Pastures New Quilting.

The Festival of Quilts was the last time the historic coverlet will be on public display for a decade due to its age and fragility.

Commenting on Denise’s entry, the judges stated: “Confident colour choices combined with personalised design elements made this quilt stand out in a very competitive group.”

Anna Baptiste, event director for the festival, said: “Denise’s award-winning piece was a wonderful tribute to the original coverlet.”

She added: “Quilting has an important heritage and we were honoured to have the 1718 Silk Coverlet at the 2018 Festival.

“It’s the oldest piece we’ve ever displayed and it was wonderful to be given the opportunity by The Quilters’ Guild to celebrate the origins of patchwork and quilting.”

Denise’s prize-winning quilt will be on display in the Textile Galleries at The Knitting and Stitching Show, the UK’s biggest event for the textile art, craft and design community, at London’s Alexandra Palace, in October, and in Harrogate in November.

Her prize was a personal visit to see the original covelet and a goody bag.

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