My fabric beginnings & Quilt Connection
My introduction to fabric was from a very early age. Mum worked in a quilt shop when she was pregnant with me and when I was about 4 she opened a quilt shop called 'Quilt Connection' with her friends in Lower Hut, Wellington. I grew up knowing not to use fabric scissors on paper, accustomed to stepping on pins, threads always on the carpet, needles sticking out of the arm of the couch, the whirr of the sewing machine, I knew how to use a cutting mat and rotary cutter. I had an opinion of what fabrics I liked. I also thought quilting was boring, for old people and not arty or creative, I never saw it as fabric art back then but we also didn't have google and the exposure to the rest of the world and the possibilties out there that we have now. And I wasn't aware of the differences of traditional, modern and art quilting.
I remember the many days I walked to Quilt Connection after school and hung out in the shop looking at the new fabrics, touching and playing with all the displays of knicks knacks, I particularly liked the craft glues, there was dolly things, "country" themed things, decorated wooden stuff, tiny handmade teddies, all the usual quilting notions. the shop expanded so much I remember rolls of batting in the bathroom at one stage. They ran many classes at nights and weekends. I remember them making typical 80's/90's things like covered tissue box holders (probably the least exctiing craft thing ever) but also interesting quilts were produced there too. Another craft I remember being popular is painting terracotta plant pots and making these stiff bows to go on them. They did manage to extend into the shop next door eventually but it was just before Mum died.
I remember Mum's sewing room at home, an odd shaped sunny room and the way she stacked her fabric is the way I now stack my fabric; she was always sewing something or working at the shop or both. I think looking back the quilting kept her sane and helped her to cope with her illness. I feel like I never knew her very well. Back then no one explained things to children either so I was left in the dark to wonder about what was going on. Quilters always talk about the psychological benefits of quilting, I'm told it's calming. some quilters you know only do it for the social aspect, others it is their "escape", their passion, their hobby and in some cases it becomes their career and livelihood. I think for Mum it was all of the above.
My Nan tells me I started my adventures with fabric with a scrapbook, scraps of fabric and glue and would make fabric collages, this grew to a brief micro interest in quilting when I was about 7 where I made a little doll quilt with mum, it never got finished and I don't think I did much of the work on it. Whilst I didn't want to participate I did watch and absorb everything she did. I preferred to draw detailed tiny pictures with fine pens like pigmas. I used to draw on serviettes in restaurants, and on anything I could, I also spraypainted a sun on our garage door one time, I graffitied the back of my bedroom door, every inch of it. One of my relatives let me paint pictures on her garage walls. I loved drawing, it never occurred to me I could use those skills in quilting as I was mostly familiar with Amish, baltimore and traditional quilts.
The quilts pictured in this post are my favourites of Mum's, I love the Amish ones when she used blues and purples. The blue one to the right she made for symposium.
Some of the funny memories I have are of Mum and her friends making some rather dorky things like hexagon pieced hats with little plastic tikis hanging off them, dolls with as much anatomical correctness as they could create, quilted waistcoats (sorry it had to be said, quilted waistcoats are hilarious to my generation!)
When Mum died we stored her quilts in large bags in the garage then when Dad died just 4 years later I handed them over to Nan for safekeeping as I knew she'd have a better idea how to care for them. I'd started living in temporary situations and moving around and I certainly couldn't lug hundreds of quilts with me. Every time I saw Nan we'd get out the quilts, fold them the other way, give them a bit of air and put them back in her cupboards. Later on when I bought a house I picked the ones I liked the most to bring back home.
I kept some scraps of Mum's fabric, some of which I recognise as cut from dresses she wore and I try to include those in my art quilts, I like the idea of recycling the fabric and it just somehow seems nice to use them. I even occasionally use scraps from my Nan as well.
Mum called my sewing a dog's breakfast back then, I often wonder what she'd say if she could see what I do now. What I make is very different to what she made and I never want to own a fabric shop but I certainly learnt a lot growing up with her about quilting and embroidery and I'm really glad I learnt those skills.
Left: Mum standing outside the shop on opening night with the other partners in the business.
Below: Quilt Connection Ltd and Mum's Obituary in New Zealand Quilter magazine