It all started as a challenge to make a “Row by Row” over a 12 month period by seven participating quilters. Each quilter chose a “theme”. Some of the themes chosen by the other patchworkers were: Vegetables, Granny Smith, Fairies and Clowns. I chose Margaret Rolfe’s “Australian Houses in Patchwork” book containing patterns for her “Country Town Bungunning Quilt”. I loved the idea of a “country town landscape”, but the finished quilt needed to fit a particular wall. I redrafted all the patterns to a much smaller scale, and provided redrafted patterns to my fellow quilters in a box with fabric samples. We also included in our “Box” the type of patchwork preferred (most of us chose buttonhole appliqué) and colours preferred. A final requirement was that we needed to complete a Row, to be included in the “box”, to indicate the type of thing we liked. I completed the top row, consisting of two miner’s cottages, a church and a patchwork shop. I added a few trees, but did no more to that row.
During the following 9 months the boxes were handed around the participants (usually being worked on for about 3 weeks or so). A great deal of collaboration was necessary to get some form of consistency going in the individual quilts and rows. A great deal of discussion between conspiring quilters is a thing to behold. Lots of hushed comments and behind hand conversations. At times there was a “show and tell” where everyone else saw your quilt, but you. You had to wait till the challenge was completed. So…..9 months later we had our show and tell. All the rows had been completed, and the rows “tacked” together to give a good idea of the work done. Well, it was a fabulous day. Every one of those quilt tops was a stunner, incredibly thought out and problem solved. Each was a true masterpiece and a credit to the “fellowship” of the group. I received my rows with delight and dismay – they were so gorgeous, how was I going to complete the quilt and keep it looking so wonderful?
As with most people, life and time passed and the rows sat in a calico bag in my fabric stash, only to be taken out on the odd occasion to show a fellow quilter. It took almost 3 years before I got up enough courage to have a go at completing it. All of the rows needed lots and lots of embellishing so I commenced with the top row, adding lots and lots of trees and bushes and embellishments of plants, grasses and the like. I added fences where needed, the little knoll and trees were added to fill in the space. A very happy cow and sheep (buttons) reside on that little knoll. I found some miniature quilt patterns which I turned into miniature quilts and strung them between a post and the tree next to the Patchwork Shop.
The second row consisted of a row of attached dwellings and a hotel. On the Hotel I added some black lace for “lacework” and embroidered a stained glass window above the front door. Apples in the tree and tub completed that row.
The third row included the Post Office, the Cenotaph, a Tea House and the Police Station. A flag pole was added to the Post Office. It took me almost 12 months to find a fabric patch of the Australian flag!! I ended up having to purchase a very expensive Koala that was carrying just the flag I needed.
Then the fourth row consisted of a school and the town memorial gardens. The gardens had been beautifully embroidered by one of the best embroiderers I’ve every come across (Mrs Ailsa Smith), so I only needed to tart up the school. I added the bell and games on the wall of the building.
The fifth row was an interesting one consisting of the Railway Station and two Railway employees’ cottages. I added the palm trees, gates, flora and climbing ivy on the verandahs.
The final row had the Fruit Shop, Bakery, the Bank and another miner’s cottage. I added a tank to the cottage (what country town cottages don’t have a water tank?), grilles to the bank windows, and lots of flora embellishments. I even found a few “vegetable” buttons which sit proud in the Fruit Shop Window.
I had the most wonderful time added bits and pieces as I went along, and it grew to be a real passion for me.
Finally, the quilt top was completed and handed to the wonderful ladies at B&B Quilting who performed their usual exquisite work to complete the quilting. I was so proud of the efforts of a wonderful bunch of quilters and myself, and of course the professional long-arm quilters, so I entered the quilt into the Quilt Show in 2005, in the Collaboration Section and it took 3rd place. I can’t express the joy it gives me every time I look at this quilt (it hangs in my kitchen). The combination of ideas and skills by a number of women from all walks of life, joined by the common pleasure of making with their hands, never ceases to amaze me. Aren’t we blessed!!!!