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Quaint Quilts Keep an Age-Old Craft Alive

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Quilt artist, Farida Talaat, designs and creates modern heirloom quilts

When we think of quilts, often visions of our grandmother’s house, antique markets and vintage homeware come to mind. But the venerable craft is an art form in its own right, argues Farida Talaat, who is on a mission to refresh and modernise the craft in Dubai and beyond.

Quilting is the craft of stitching a soft batting sandwiched between two layers of textile to be hand- or machine-bound with a fabric binding. It varies from a purely functional fabric joinery technique to highly elaborate, decorative three-dimensional surface treatments. It is often associated with slow fashion hand-work and embroidery.

Farida is a keen quilter who designed her first quilt in Toronto, Canada in 2020. A talented artist since childhood, she dabbled with arts and crafts, cross-stitchery and garment-making before foraying into core quilting. She first learned piecing and nesting techniques on a domestic sewing machine, thanks to Youtube videos. Later she would use more complex English Paper Piecing methods to create intricate designs with colourful fabric.

Farida Talaat

Today, she designs and hand-sews precious, prolific quilts from her quilting studio in Al Barsha, drawing inspiration from her travels and exploration and adding to her previous work.

“Around here, things often start with a pile of fabric. Usually this is how I get inspired; through testing samples and swatches. I can almost immediately envision where each fabric belongs. For me, they’re not an after thought or a finishing touch, they usually drive the entire plan for a quilt design,” she says.

“By creating new quilts using old techniques, we are essentially reviving an ancient art form and producing something that is at once beautiful and functional.”

Farida’s love for textiles has a lot to do with her background in fashion design, but also the creativity that runs through her family. “My mother and grandmother all sewed and I spent my childhood surrounded by art and craft.” Decades later, a good pattern or the perfect colour and texture still get her excited.”

The unique craft is also a highly resourceful one. A wide variety of textile products typically result from quilting such as bed coverings, soft home furnishings, garments, wall hangings, artistic objects, and cultural artifacts. Quilt art can be framed, hung, or otherwise displayed in any way shape or form.

A departure to basic sewing, quilting is a more elaborate and time consuming and involves arduous planning. To ensure the artisanal factor to the quilting métier remains intact, Farida carefully curates material from all over the world. Despite living in the fabric capital of the region, she goes to great lengths to source fabric from Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Cairo, and Istanbul.

As to her favourite quilt design, “Lately, I’m interested in organic modern minimalist quilts. They feature gentle curves and circles that evoke a sense of calm,” she adds.

Farida also likes quilts with an element of imperfection or an oddness to them. Inevitably, each quilt ends up with an almost deliberate quirky element in it. From the unique and cherished fabric combinations to the dexterous techniques Farida has learned over the years, the attention to detail that goes into each quilt is truly special.

Quilts have the power to cover and comfort, but also to celebrate and honour people, occasions, and events, as well as inspire their owners and recipients. “Each quilt is a journey and has a deep connection to its maker. Every quilt I make has a certain sentimental value for me,” she says.

“By creating new quilts using old techniques, we are essentially reviving an ancient art form and producing something that is at once beautiful and useful and that carries meaning and history. “Form and function…and fun!” says Farida.

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