As far back as I can remember I have always sewn. My Mum was a very patient teacher and inspired me to always try a little harder. If I made mistakes Mum would often unpick, unravel, or unwind the disaster and get me back on track again. I remember sewing on her old Singer and loved making clothes for my Sindy dolls. I still have a 1957 Butterick pattern book and I spent hours drooling over the wonderful clothes and colours. I remember trying to make a ‘tent’ dress for my Sindy and of course the fabric was too stiff and just didn’t work, not at all like the clothes I was trying to copy. I remember I cried buckets.
Mum, of course, made herself and her three daughters all our clothes so it was logical that I was soon sewing my own clothes. Collars, cuffs, set in sleeves, facings, French seams, gathers, darts etc were all taught by Mum. I had a friend who’s Auntie worked at a sewing factory and we were often allowed to wallow in her huge ‘rag bag’ and take home some fabrics. These fabrics were stroked and admired and almost never used as they were so precious.
I made my first quilt for my sister Annie when she left home at 16 to attend Teacher’s College in Palmerston North. It was really just a cover – a pieced top of squares gleaned from Mum’s rag bag which, of course, was all the leftovers from our clothes. I backed it but there wasn’t any batting. Not sure if we could even buy batting in those days.
Three years after I left school I was accepted into the Wellington School of Design. I was a ‘mature’ student of nearly 21! I had no idea of what I wanted to do but I was hungry to create and design. Why I didn’t try for the Textile Design course I have no idea. It seemed to be only carpet designing in those days. My flatmates were attending the Fashion design class so between the three of us, we were always surrounded by fabrics, patterns, paints and paper. I completed my three years with a Diploma in Visual Communications – majoring in Illustration and Graphic Design. Four years in advertising agencies and rising to Creative Director of the Direct Response Division in an international agency followed. By this time I was married and living in Parnell, Auckland.
On my walk to and from work I passed ‘Once Upon a Quilt’. I think this was the first quilt shop in Auckland and I just loved the shop – textiles and colour and thread…. I went to one class on English paper piecing and I was hooked! The star I made became the centre of my first real quilt, which was given to my niece, Kiriana.
When my first son was three months old I started teaching quilting at the Baptist Church in Long Bay. Two more sons followed and while they were in the crèche attached to the Community Centre I taught patchwork in the hall. For ten years I taught patchwork classes at Night Schools.
I taught or attended the Quilting Symposiums throughout New Zealand (I even weaned Son #2 to attend the 1989 Hawkes Bay Symposium!) and entered various competitions, all the time reading, sewing, designing and loving the art of quilting.
In 2005 I started a website www.kiwiquilts.co.nz and decided to sell patchwork fabrics online concentrating on New Zealand quilt fabrics and designs. In 2007 I upgraded the website and decided that this was to be my full time business. In six short years I grew the database from zero to over 11,000 quilters worldwide and cut, packed and processed over 11,500 orders. I lived and breathed quilting.
Then in October 2013 I sold my successful Kiwiquilts business and after a few months of decluttering and becoming reacquainted with my bulging fabric stash I am now ready for the next phase of my quilting life with my sister, Annie.