Monday, August 29, 2016

Report on Rhonda Pearce's QSG of NSW talk

In April Rhonda Pearce gave a talk for the Quilt Study Group of NSW about her quilting journey and  showed five of her remarkable quilts.  She explained that she was a dressmaker by trade and started working when she was 15 for Sydney’s most famous fashion house, Germaine Rocher. The Sydney couture atelier was started by Germaine Rocher in the 1930s and was allowed to make a limited number of exact copies of some of the latest Parisian designers’ collections. There were only two treadle machines and, like the other 19 women she worked with, Rhonda sewed most of the garments by hand. This is where she honed her skills, and explains both her love of hand sewing and why so many of her quilts have won awards both here and overseas.

Rhonda’s only lesson in patchwork came from Val Moore, whose quilting tour of USA she went on in the 1990s. After she returned, Rhonda realised her dream of owning a patchwork shop by buying the local post office building at Glenbrook. She started with just 89 bolts of fabric and due to interest from her students, started making patterns of her quilts for sale. For this reason, Rhonda estimates she has made over 300 quilts, mostly samples for the shop. Now she enjoys the luxury of making only quilts she likes. Over the ensuing years Rhonda has developed many patterns and produced many outstanding quilts, including First Place in The NSW Quilters' Guild's "Professional, Traditional and Viewers' Choice 2007"category for her "Insanity" quilt, which has attracted a huge following, both in Australia and overseas. Although she does tend to use the same colours in her quilts, Rhonda said she never sticks to a fabric range and adds the odd quirky coloured fabric.
Rhonda and Baltimore Classic

In 2013 Rhonda took out First Place in the "Traditional Applique" category in Houston, with her entry "Baltimore Classic".  Rhonda is a member of the Cocktail Quilters and 17 of the group went to Houston with her for the prize giving ceremony. She discovered she had also won the Viewer’s Choice award when she landed in Honolulu on the way home.  The inspiration for this quilt came from a photograph in a book about the quilts in The American Museum in Bath. Rhonda said drew up the blocks using graph paper and decided it would be a Block of the Month. Most times she was only one step ahead of her students. The top took her 24 months to sew plus 12 months of hand quilting (using 15-16 spools of quilting thread). At 3 metres square it is such a large quilt that in order to fit the hangers at Houston, the sleeve had to be put on part way down the quilt. 
Civil War Journey
Rhonda likes to use mainly reproduction fabrics and tone on tones. She prefers to applique using the freezer paper on top, needle turn applique method using a blue wash out pen. She transfers her design onto the fabric she is appliquing on, but marks only as much as she can sew that night. At the end of the night the block is immersed in cold water, rolled up in a towel and spread out to dry overnight. When asked for more details, Rhonda told us that she doesn’t prewash her fabrics, uses Gutermann thread for applique and hand quilting, uses a thimble for quilting and a short needle. She has a Clipfast frame for her quilting and balances it on the arm of the chair. She does a lot of crosshatch quilting and said that she doesn’t like quilts which are overquilted.

Half inch Hexie Quilt
Rhonda then showed us an amazing quilt top she has made of 15,000 half inch hexagons for a grand daughter’s 21st birthday. She reuses her hexagons and said she only bought 300 to do the whole quilt. She will probably quilt it by ditch stitching around each hexagon and hopes to show it in Paducah.
Rhonda’s newest quilt, “The Glenbook Star”, has a foundation pieced log cabin centre using quarter inch strips from her stash of left over fabrics.
The Glenbrook Star

 Still another quilt brought was based on the “Ann Randoll Coverlet Quilt” which was in the recent V & A Quilt Exhibition. The centre was appliqued onto a circle of fabric, a bias strip was sewn on and then it was appliqued to the quilt top and the fabric cut away from the back. She quilted it using Hobbs Poly-Down batting.
Ann Randoll Coverlet Quilt

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Report on Kerry Easton's QSG of NSW talk on Sewing Tools

On the 13th of February 2016, Kerry Easton gave an outstanding and fascinating talk for the Quilt Study Group of NSW on sewing tools used in the past. 

Kerry is an ex-CSIRO researcher and currently the NSW convenor of the Needlework Tools Collectors’ Society. Her interest in this area started when she decided to restore an empty 1820s Palais Royale workbox, thus kick-starting a ‘restful passion’. This involved using her husband’s woodworking tools, including his new oscillating spindle sander. She did say that her work background in particular has helped her pursue her interest in all sewing tools and we were very lucky to be the beneficiaries of her passion.

Kerry started her talk by discussing early embroidery frames and took us through a series of photos of paintings and illustrations to show how the basic design has not changed in 265 years. We were led through the various types - embroidery frames, tambour frames, circular hoop frames and triangular table frames – and methods of tightening them, before she moved on to cover quilting frames. She is especially fond of padded silver hoop frames, and showed us a beautiful American example she has restored.

Kerry then covered the topic of clamps (also known as sewing birds or third hands), and showed how they were used to tension fabric for sewing. The variety of designs was mind boggling, ranging from simple G-clamps to the most ornate animal, insect and bird-shaped metal clamps doing double duty as pin cushions and tool box holders. Of course, sewing machines made them obsolete. Kerry brought along some collectors’ sewing birds to show us and warned us against buying any Charles Waterman (USA) gilded sewing birds from the 1970s as they are modern copies.

Kerry then talked about the more common components found in sewing baskets or etuis (scissors, thimbles and thimble holders, thread holders, pincushions, needles, needle and bodkin holders), as well as thread spinners, swifts or thread winders, reels and reel stands, tatting and other types of shuttles.

We learnt about the fad for parfilage or drizzling (recycling metallic threads and lace) in the court of Louis XVI and the beautiful sets that can now be bought for large amounts of money, before Kerry showed us a range of portraits including all these items.
Finally, Kerry covered the types of containers for these needlework tools. This included work baskets, etuis, chatelaines and work tables. She showed us a wonderful selection of etuis made from exotic materials, such as one made from a giant shell.

We finished by looking at all the sewing tools Kerry had brought along to show us, as well as the treasures that had been brought along for show and share. It was a wonderful and detailed talk.