"Stitching Stories: Torbay's Social Fabric Quilt Heads to National Spotlight"

"Stitching Stories: Torbay's Social Fabric Quilt Heads to National Spotlight"
Photo supplied - Libraries Unlimited

By Jill Dando News

A colorful tapestry of local memories is set to make waves at the prestigious Festival of Quilts 2024.

Earlier this year, Libraries Unlimited commissioned Devon-based textile artist, Allegra Galvin to work on an ambitious project across Brixham, Churston, Paignton and Torquay libraries. 

Her proposal, Social Fabric, involved her running public workshops in which participants pieced together segments of fabric which hold specific meaning for them. Storytelling is a huge part of the project, which culminated in the creation of a single large quilt that brings together those individual stories into a rich and multi-layered whole.

The piecing workshops took place at the end of May, with local communities gathering with Allegra to make quilt blocks from scraps.

They shared their fabric and their stories: a deep red cotton used sixty years ago to make pyjamas for a little boy, a bright green and pink batik from the Dominican Republic, a hand stitched tortilla napkin from Mexico, linen from Ukraine, a gingham school dress from Brixham, the blanket of a much loved pet, pictures of sailing boats.

The patchwork blocks were pieced together to represent two sails, and then the artist spent four days in residence in the libraries with her quilt frame in a public space, so people could ask about the fabrics and learn to hand quilt.

Photo supplied - Libraries Unlimited

The finished quilt will be going on display at the prestigious Festival of Quilts 2024 at Birmingham NEC 1-4 August. It will then be coming home to Torbay for a celebration of the project on Thursday 12th September at Churston Library.

Visitors can view the quilt in all its glory and hear some of the stories from the communities that created it. The event runs from 4-5.30pm, is free and includes tea and cake. 

Allegra said, "I am absolutely delighted to be working on this project. Libraries are places of incredible power and possibility sitting in the heart of our communities. The process of making a quilt lends itself to the sharing of stories, and I have loved working with library teams, volunteers and library users to create a shared work of art that tells our story.”

Photo supplied - Libraries Unlimited

The project was commissioned as part of the Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation funding that Libraries Unlimited receives. Working under the banner ‘Creative Communities’, the team programme hundreds of events across Devon and Torbay throughout the year and work with artists on various projects.

Rae Hoole, Creative Communities Producer, said: “We were overwhelmed by the quality of responses to this Artist Commission call-out. Allegra’s proposal, Social Fabric, shone in its potential to engage our communities, customers and library teams in acts of co-creation that we hope will have lasting impact in Torbay.” 

Find out more about Allegra Galvin and her work here: www.wildwoodstudio.org

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