A little bit about Magie Relph

"The Accidental Business"

"How and why did you start your fair trade business, The African Fabric Shop?"

It's a question I'm asked all the time and the truthful answer is, "By accident."

My passion for African textiles, heritage and design began in the 1980s, as I spent several years travelling and working all over Africa as a cook on an overland expedition truck. I made my first patchwork quilt "on the road", collecting scraps of African fabrics as I travelled.

Eventually my husband Bob Irwin (aka The Saturday Boy) and I gravitated back to the UK. I continued to develop creatively as a textile artist and quilter. At the same time, I started doing talks and workshops for patchwork, embroidery and textile groups, always bringing along my growing stash of African fabrics for display and for sale.

Today, The African Fabric Shop has taken over not only the house, but most of our waking hours. As we travel regularly in Africa, I continue to expand my knowledge and appreciation of African textiles and the talented artists who create them.

I regularly share my experience and passion in my Talks and Workshops for textile groups.

Magie Relph displays African
map appliqué from Togo

My creative work

Textile artist and quilter

I combine traditional, pictorial and experimental use of fabrics to create original wallhangings, quilts, cushions and clothing. Not surprisingly, you'll find African influences and fabrics in many of my pieces.

I've had the good fortune to have my work honoured on a couple of occasions.

Two Kings - In 2004 I was commissioned by The Quilters' Guild of The British Isles to create this wallhanging for their anniversary collection 25 for 25.

Kente - This wallhanging, inspired by traditional Kente cloth from Ghana, won a Special Award at Quilts UK 2001.

My formal qualifications from City & Guilds are Patchwork and Quilting Part One and Teaching Certification.

I an enthusiastic member and former Exhibitions Officer of The Quilters' Guild of The British Isles. My other memberships include Contemporary Quilt, The Textile Society, The American Quilt Society, The Embroiderers' Guild, The Bead Society of Great Britain and The Ghana Bead Society.

Click to enlarge

Two Kings by Magie Relph

Research and publishing

I am passionate about textiles, especially African textiles. Each time I return to Africa, I learn more about the traditions and heritage behind these wonderful fabrics - how they are made and the people who make them.

I share my knowledge and enthusiasm through my writing, often in collaboration with my husband, Bob Irwin. In November 2010 we published our first book - African Wax Print: A Textile Journey.

We also publish regularly in textile and quilting magazines, including:

  • The Quilter
  • Popular Patchwork
  • British Patchwork and Quilting
  • HZG - Handwerken Zonder Grenzen (The Netherlands)

Popular Patchwork, June 2008