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Lifestyle April 6, 2016


We caught up with the ladies from The Auckland Quiltmakers and discovered there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to quilting.


When I call in to meet the ‘quilters’ they’re on retreat in Long Bay spending their days quilting and downing tools to pop off for a swim or share a meal. “It’s great to have the freedom to focus on our passion,” they say.


Though they’re not all here this weekend, there are 36 in the group and they’ve been working together for 20 years. They come from as far away as Wanaka, Levin and Christchurch. “We’re fabricaholics, we never forget a fabric,” smiles Kate Howard, who’s leading our visit. Indeed, all of the ladies are highly experienced quilters and all do something different when it comes to quilts. Who knew there were so many varieties: scrappy, traditional, modern, and strip.


We set off on a quilt tour to see the artisans at work piecing together block fabrics in a traditional size, putting hand-dyed fabric, liberty prints or old kimono fabric (Juliet’s been saving these since 1986!) together.




“Did you know? The word ‘quilt’ comes from the Latin ‘culcita’, meaning stuffed sack.”



Quilting uses sewing techniques such as patchwork piecing and appliqué and uses skills of colour and geometric composition, line and linear movement. Typically, it’s the sewing of three layers together: a top fabric, ‘batting’ in the middle and a backing material. The quilters first hand or machine sew patches of fabric together to make the top layer and then ‘quilt’ the three layers together using hand or machine stitching.


There’s a cacophony of beautiful colour: teals, greens, blues, purples, yellow, orange, red, pink. Kaffe Fassett has inspired many in the group; a British-based American who teaches quiltmakers globally to work with colour. Another muse is Nancy Crow, an American quilting icon who has made more than 300 quilts and runs workshops in the art.


Wandering the room, Dr Rosemary has drawn a tree, painted it, stitched it and repainted it for her quilt. Jill’s is modern, light and bright with a white background. Janet’s is done using Indonesian batiks. Jan is embellishing her quilts with animal buttons for her grandchildren. Lesley has used fabric that was left outside to weather for a few weeks with clothes pegs and bottle tops lying on top of it to create a unique pattern. Kate’s own work in progress is made from old linen doilies.


“We hold an exhibition each year and we also annually create a quilt to raise money for Mercy Hospice. But mostly we do it for the joy of it. Our great fear is that our eyesight or our hands go. We definitely don’t make a living wage from quilting. Nancy Crow can sell a quilt for $50,000 USD but that doesn’t happen in New Zealand. When we sell quilts we probably earn the equivalent of $3 per hour.”


The Auckland Quiltmakers show and market is on 30 April and 1 May at the Parnell Community Centre in Parnell Road, 10-5 daily.


Words: Jenna Moore

30 April – 1 May | 10AM – 5PM
Parnell Community Centre, Parnell Rd

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