‘Uncharted’: Challenged, Explored, Conquered!


We invite Janine Pound, the organiser of Contemporary Quilt‘s ‘Uncharted’ Challenge, to introduce us to the challenge and what to expect from CQ’s 20th Anniversary exhibition at The Festival of Quilts.

The invitation to exhibit as part of the CQ 20th anniversary was embraced by many members. As the quilts started arriving during October 2021, it felt like Christmas had come early! The pleasure of opening the quilts was immense and I knew we were not going to be short of entries for the exhibitions. The craftsmanship and diversity of the pieces was astounding. 

I was delighted to receive 78 quilts. This is 30% more than the average submitted for previous challenges. So thank you very much to everyone who entered. The number of quilts meant that the two jurors, Merrill Tanton and Jean Meyers, who agreed to make a selection for the 2022 Festival of Quilts gallery had their work cut out. They were tasked with choosing 35 quilts which would give a cohesive exhibition while showcasing the diversity of CQ members and a further 15 to hang if room was available. This is the feedback from the jurors:

’Uncharted’, as an adjective, is all about the unknown, the unexplored, an area of land or sea not mapped or surveyed, completely new and not previously described or experienced, not plotted or planned.

The overall standard of composition was very high with many original and innovative designs. We were moved by the personal stories portrayed when makers were inspired to use stitch to help them process a previously unexperienced life changing event. An ‘uncharted’ time for them. The use of antique, repurposed and hand dyed fabrics was evident in the wonderful colour palette and textures displayed in a number of pieces. We would urge the maker to be mindful of the size of piece required as many were 5% outside the stated size, but these pieces were sufficiently successful to warrant inclusion in this exhibition. The makers of all the pieces entered should be proud of themselves and we thank you for sharing your work with the jurors and visitors.”

The specified size for the ‘Uncharted’ quilts was 150-200cm long and 30cm wide at the top of the quilt (although the width could vary along the length providing it did not exceed 30cm). These dimensions were chosen to allow the quilts to be exhibited as banners, where possible, such that both sides would be visible. The jurors noted that, “We had to allow an error margin of 5% on width and length to find 35 pieces as first choice and then 15 as second choice. 13 pieces in our first 35 were not within the rules and overall 35 pieces out of the 78 were not to size”. When entering a quilt to a challenge/competition, where there is a selection process I would encourage you to read and re-read the rules and ensure that you do fulfil the size requirement. There were a few quilts that were not considered for selection because they were incorrectly sized.

We chose ‘Uncharted’ as the title for our 20th Anniversary Challenge because it summed up the ethos of Contemporary Quilt – how brilliantly have we been proved right! Exploration was a common theme and covered land, sea and space although sea was the most popular with 19 quilts. Subjects covered included the sea floor, deep sea creatures, coastal environments, navigation and the effects of climate change. Barbara Kavanagh’s dark blue/purple coloured ‘Deep Ocean shows the variety of sea creatures as one descends into the depths, with interesting information about them given on the back. Sonia Crabb has used charts and maps as her inspiration for ‘Uncharted Coasts which was “designed to reflect the transition from unknown to known during the early days of exploration, when the unknown was dangerous and disordered, these maps and charts transformed it to organised, safe and planned”.

The natural world, as viewed in gardens or more widely, encompassed trees, flowers and animals and migration of birds. For the latter, ‘No Map Required by Susan Clowes-Phelps portrays swallows swooping overhead as they fly south at the end of the summer. Gardens were linked to lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic while other quilts focused on the virus itself and the challenges encountered.


Historical documents, charts and events were used as a point of reference for many quilts. Jo Coombes has explored the possibility that ancient scrolls badly burnt during the eruption of Vesuvius may be deciphered using computer programming. ‘Unwrapping the Ashes looks like it could just be one of the scrolls.

And then there were the dragons! As we all know, in Medieval times dragons lived in the unexplored regions, a subject researched by four quilters. Rachel Tyndall’s ‘HC SVNT DRACONES – Here be Dragons was “inspired by the north western portion of Olaus Magnus’s ‘Carta Marina’ of 1572”.

For me, the quilts that told a personal story and mapped the journey through life were the most moving. There are a few that depict deep and personal events that, frankly, make one want to cry. Gillian Travis has told of her uncharted journey following the loss of her son using images from photographs taken during her travels.


The materials and techniques used were as diverse as the subjects covered. Fabrics included commercial and hand-dyed or painted cotton, wool and silk, repurposed fabric, organza, synthetic fabric and paper. Indigo, Procion dye, acrylic paint, Markal paint sticks and Inktense blocks were just a few of the media used to colour fabric; in some cases, these were applied using methods of printing, such as Thermofax screen printing, breakdown printing, block printing and stamping. Digital imagery and photographs have also been used to provide the background over which stitch has been applied. Some quilts were made from paper laminations, others used appliqué, improv piecing, paper piecing and whole cloth.

The 2022 winner of the Anne Tuck Award is Buffy Fieldhouse with ‘Between Tides’. The judges commented: “Subtle, sand like colour. Original and clever, textured depiction of sand. The composition has humorous elements which add to its appeal”. This quilt is based on paper laminations, using photographs taken while walking on the beach. Buffy was inspired by the way the sea washes away patterns left in the sand but also how it creates new patterns as the tides ebb and flow.


Warm thanks again to all who entered a quilt for this special CQ 20th anniversary challenge. There is a catalogue accompanying the exhibitions, containing images and artists’ statements of the quilts submitted. This will be available to purchase at The Festival of Quilts and other events, and online, providing a lasting tribute to the talent and diversity of this group.

Janine Pound, CQ Challenge Organiser


Why not visit our website to explore Contemporary Quilt, and find out how you can become a member?

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