Unlike most other quilters, I didn’t learn at my grandmother’s knee. I rarely saw my grandparents, and my mother was a primarily a knitter – she made some of my clothes when I was little but she was never a fan of patchwork. I started sewing by doing embroidery and making clothes for my dolls. I did try one patchwork project when I was about eleven, but it was the spiderweb design and I was using a variety of 70s fabrics from chiffon to double knit, so it wasn’t successful and I only did a couple of blocks. I continued with embroidery, though, and became reasonably proficient. I was also a reasonable home dressmaker, making clothes for myself and my mother.
In the late 1980s I was looking for more craft projects to do. I remember seeing a magazine or calendar with Judy Mathieson’s Nautical Stars on the cover, and was completely blown away by it (it remains one of my favourite quilts ever). At almost the same time a colleague brought her massive Broken Star quilt to work and I loved how soft it felt. When I was next at the newsagent I happened upon a magazine with an easy rail fence pattern. I made the top (which was a disaster, but that’s another story) and was hooked.
My second top was a combination of duck and ducklings (in brown) and shoo fly (in green). When I showed it to my mother she was very surprised that it was so nice and regular — it was then I realised that, as a child of the 30s in the UK, her only exposure to patchwork would have been crazy quilts from her grandmother’s time or Red Cross quilts during the second world war (most of which were very haphazard). I did try to interest her in quilting, especially since her arthritis was preventing her from knitting by then, but she never caught the bug.
Quilting was very much an occasional hobby while I was working but since I retired I’ve been doing much more, especially for Aussie Hero Quilts. I’m also trying to get more done for myself, though I’m not sure why, since I have only one bed and no family to pass them on to. After accumulating more than a kilometre of fabric (at a conservative estimate) I’m now on a quest to use up as much as possible before it all becomes someone else’s problem.