Meet a Member – Sabi Westoby


Get to know The Guild by meeting our talented members! We have interesting and inspiring members all over the country doing amazing sewing and we want you to be able to share their work.

Meet Sabi Westoby, a textile and mixed media artist who is also a member of Contemporary Quilt.

What are you working on now? 

I set myself a challenge at the start of 2022 to make a collage a day.  They are small (5” x 5”), manageable and fun to make, using whatever paper is to hand in my studio.  I see inspiration for this year’s journal quilt project, which might lead to my making larger quilts based on the collages.

For the first time ever, I am also making a crazy patchwork quilt out of fabric scraps, just to see if I can do it.  It is satisfying to use up fabrics I have had for a couple of decades and to know that the quilt will be loved – the intended recipient has admired it but is unaware that it is for her.  However, unlike traditional crazy patchwork quilts, this one will not be quilted by hand with decorative stitches  – simple machine quilting is planned. 

What is your favourite contemporary quilt that you’ve ever made? 

My quilt, ‘Page 27’, must be my favourite.  It was made in response to a call for entries by Studio Art Quilt Associates, of which I am a member, for a global exhibition, ‘Forced to Flee’.  I was honoured to have had my piece selected.  I was inspired by the Guardian’s The List documenting refugee deaths over a 25 year period; it had a powerful effect on everyone who saw the work in progress on my design wall – tears, shock and dismay.  And these reactions were repeated hundreds of times by visitors to ‘Uprooted’, my exhibition of 18 quilts building on The List which was shown at The Festival of Quilts and The Knitting and Stitching Show, Harrogate, both in 2021. 


Who are your quilting heroes?

I have too many to list them all here but these artists stand out for me:

I discovered the work of Gwendolyn Magee a few years ago when I was given a copy of ‘Journey of the Spirit’, a publication that accompanied an exhibition of her work at the Mississippi Museum of Art.  Her early quilts, drawing on traditional designs but using strong colours and patterns, sing out at the viewer.  But her later textile artworks show the power of art to confront themes of racism, subjugation and death in a tactile, sensitive and beautiful way.

Annabel Rainbow’s series of Life Quilts, celebrating the nude body of the older woman, are a joy to look at.  I admire the way she has portrayed themes of ageing, domesticity and motherhood with paint and stitch.

The work of Dorothy Caldwell exploring a sense of place is beautiful.  The earth colours sing out and some of her large textile hangings are breathtaking in their scale, depth of colour and texture. 

Can you recommend a good quilting read? 

I highly recommend ‘Quilting Art’ by Spike Gillespie, published in 2009.  This is textile eye-candy!  It is an overview of the works of 20 contemporary textile artists complete with full colour photographs of artworks and a synopsis of their backgrounds, inspiration and working practices.  When I need a boost of inspiration, this is the first book to which I turn.

My work tends to develop in a series and I always use sketchbooks to record ideas, materials and samples. So ‘Sketchbook Explorations’ by Shelley Rhodes and ‘Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists’ by Kay Greenlees helped me establish good working practices.  Examples of their work are given as well as practical instructions.  I keep returning to both books when my artistic mojo is flagging.

What do you love about The Guild and your membership of the Contemporary Quilt special interest group?

I joined London Quilters in the late 1990s and it was wonderful to meet like minded people and see their beautiful work. Membership of The Quilters’ Guild followed soon afterwards and getting my copies of ‘The Quilter’ was exciting and inspirational.  I then joined Contemporary Quilt and felt that I had come home – so many talented quilters willing to share their work and skills.  Taking part in the Journal Quilt challenges has been wonderful – at times taking me out of my comfort zone but always satisfying.  And the opportunities to exhibit with the group have been a privilege.

Sabi Westoby

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