The Quilt Study Group of Australia

The Quilt Study Group of Australia was founded by Margaret Rolfe, AM, in 1994 in Canberra, Australia, as an extension to her continuing interest in quilt history. The aim of the QSGA is “to promote interest and research into quilting in Australia.  Members are committed to the study of quilts past and present, this study encompassing the social and historical context in which quilts were made.”

In time, quilters with similar interests (many of whom did not belong to their state Quilters’ Guilds) started their own local Quilt Study Groups. Each member paid an annual membership fee of $10 to belong to the QSGA and they communicated through a quarterly newsletter. This fee was also used to fund a national seminar every two or three years where members and non-members of the Quilt Study Groups could meet and learn about our nation’s quilt history, as well as study contemporary quilts and quilt-making..

By 2001 there were Quilt Study Groups established in most states, with over 100 members belonging to the QSGA nationwide. The QSGA committee was based in Canberra and administered the group nationally, while local activities were organised at the state level. In 2002 leadership of the QSGA was transferred from Canberra to the Sydney Quilt Study Group and the newsletters and seminars continued.

Current Situation
When the SQSG was unincorporated in 2009, the Quilt Study Group of Australia remained a separate entity, existing as a stand alone organisation from any state quilters’ guild or quilt study group. The committee members of the QSGA are Dr. Annette Gero (Patron), Karen Fail (Convenor), Janet Marwood (Treasurer), Liz Bonner (Secretary) and Sandra Lyons. The bank account is administered by Dr. Gero and Janet Marwood. To contact the Quilt Study Group of Australia, email the convenor – karenvfail (remove the space)

The QSGA continues to have three roles:
  • to promote and assist in the organisation of the biennial Australian Quilt Study Seminar;
  • to maintain a bank account for funding the Australian Quilt Study Seminar;
  • to provide communication via the blog, which replaces the quarterly newsletter.
For a number of years the QSGA has contacted all the state Quilters' Guilds  and non-Guild aligned Quilt Study Groups (currently in Queensland and Western Australia) to promote the work of the Quilt Study Group of Australia. The letter and attachment most recently sent in November 2011 are -

Master+ +Letter+to++Presidents+of+State+Guilds+Re+QSGA QSGA+Newsletter+November+2011
QSGA Seminars
The first QSGA seminar was held on the 21st July 1996. Titled “Quilt Perspectives”, it was held at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and was jointly sponsored by the Quilters’ Guild Inc. and the QSGA. There were fifty participants from all parts of Australia and New Zealand. Speakers included John McPhee, curator of the National Gallery of Victoria,  (The role of galleries in quilt collecting), textile importer Joyce Burnard (The history of chintz and the debt our textile heritage owes to India), Wendy Hucker (Country quilts and wagga rugs in the Pioneer Women’s Hut), quilt maker Barbara Macey (The challenges faced by quilt artists in the Professional environment in Australia) and freelance museum consultant Kylie Winkworth (Quilts as women’s work within the tradition of textiles in Australia). At that time only the Canberra and Sydney groups had been established.
The second QSGA seminar, “A Stitch in Time”, was held in Canberra on the 2nd of May 1998 and the National Gallery of Australia co-hosted the seminar in conjunction with their exhibition “Everyday Art: Australian Folk Art”. The keynote speaker was Janet Rae, British quilt historian who spoke about “the traditions of British quilts, past and present” followed by  Margaret Rolfe, whose talk was ‘What makes an Australian quilt Australian?”. Debbie Ward, textile conservator, who spoke of her work on the Rajah quilt, and Assoc Prof Richard Waterhouse (Who Were/are the Folk?). Jim Logan and Barbara Brinton gave an introductory talk to the exhibition and took the seminar attendees through it, concentrating on the 15 quilts from the Gallery’s collection on show.
The third QSGA seminar, “Australian Quilts 1901-2001”, was held again in Canberra on the 10th March 2001 to coincide with the “Celebration Quilts 2001” exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery. Speakers were Dr Annette Gero (Waggas and Wonderful Australian Quilts), Beryl Hodges (Fabrics in Australian Quilts), Sheila Bruhn (The Changi Quilts), Margaret Rolfe (Fundraising Quilts in the Twentieth Century), Margaret Wright (Quilts 2000: Quilts for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games) and Judy Hooworth (The Development of Contemporary Quiltmaking in Australia).
The fourth QSGA seminar, “Now and Then”, was hosted by the Sydney Quilt Study Group and was held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on the 20th September, 2003. Wendy Lugg spoke on “Asian Influences on Australian Quiltmaking”, Dianne Finnegan spoke about Toile de Jouy, Karen Fail’s topic was “Discovering Aunt Clara’s Quilt – A Social History”, and Ann-Marie Bakewell covered “Discovering Aunt Clara’s Quilt – The Decorative Arts”. Other speakers were Mary Hitchens (My Journey with Mary MacKillop – A Woman for All Seasons), Dr Annette Gero (Army Quilts Made by Men), Annette Rich (A Generation of Women and Two Quilts – or Grease Rags or Antique Quilts?), and Jennifer Corkish (A Piece of Queen Victoria’s Dress?)
The fifth QSGA seminar, “Women at Work”, hosted again by SQSG, was held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on the 23rd September 2006 and on the following day the “Colours of Australia” quilt collection was shown and a floor talk held. Speakers at the seminar were Wendy Hucker (The National Quilt Register Five Years On), Jan Mullen (The Development of Stargazey Quilts and Fabrics), Lula Saunders (Quilts and Greek Australian Women), Margaret Rolfe (The History, Growth and Contemporary Quilts of Canberra Quilters), Shirley McCarron (The Tasmanian Bicentennial Rajah Quilt Project), and Jan Irvine-Nealie (Together We Make Tomorrow).
The Southern Queensland Quilt Study Group hosted the sixth QSGA seminar, “Sharing Our Legacy”, in Brisbane on the 18th of October 2008 and arranged for visits to Miegunyah (Qld. Women’s Historical Society), the Qld Embroiderers Guild and a viewing of members’ old quilts at Lucerne House, Rosalie on the following day. Seminar speakers were Gail Chalker (Rosewood Redwork Quilt – Research, reproduction , dedication), Dr Annette Gero (Gold Rush Quilts), Karen Barrett (Quilting Legacy of Ruth and Denise in Brisbane), Margaret Rolfe (Rajah Quilt – Developments and Descendents), Michael Marendy (Conservation of Quilts), Margie Creek (A Family’s Legacy of Quilts) and Pam Holland (Bayeux Tapestry – To Quilt – The Comparison).
The latest QSGA Seminar, “Unfolding Tradition”, was hosted by the Victorian Quilters’ Quilt Study Group in Melbourne on the 5th and 6th of November 2011. The speakers on the first day of the seminar included Janet O’Dell (the Baddyll Quilt), Margaret Rolfe (who presented Annette Gero’s talk about the Victorian Quilters’ 2011 Fabric of Society Challenge competition), Lynette Nilaweera (The Wool Quilt Prize and the Geelong Wool Museum), Margaret Rolfe (The Martha Bergin Quilt), Bronwyn Cosgrove (Conservation of the 1840s Dickens Quilt), and the Strathdale (Bendigo) Quilters (The 1895 Heritage Signature Quilt). The following day speakers were Janet O’Dell (Traditional Quilt Turning of Selected Pre-1850 Quilts and Coverlets) and Alan Tremain (To create or re-create, that is the question).

The next Quilt Study Group of Australia seminar, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the group's creation, will be held at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, Sydney New South Wales on Sunday 6th and Monday 7th of July 2014. Speakers, venue and how to book details will be published as they are finalised.