Never underestimate the amount of work and creative skill that go into creating a beautiful quilt. Kerry Wakely has a love and affinity for patchwork and shares her talent and passion with others at the Taree Craft Centre. If you’d like to experience some beautiful examples of patchwork for yourself, Kerry invites you to attend the Manning Valley Quilt Exhibition, which runs from April 12 – 20.
What was it about patchwork that first interested you?
I was at my desk one day and a friend was on the phone booking into a workshop to make a ‘quilt in a day’. I said without thinking, “I can I do that”. I was dressmaking for myself, but had never ventured into any crafts. In fact, I had no idea of patchwork and quilting and had never been interested. I did some research prior to the workshop and when the day came around, I was quite excited. I can remember sitting in the workshop thinking: “What have I been missing out on all these years?” That was the year 2000, and I cannot remember a time since when I didn’t have a quilt in the making.
Who/what has been your inspiration – that have encouraged you to keep up your interest in your craft?
After that workshop, I wanted to learn as much as I could. I enrolled in classes at my local patchwork shop and made a sampler, a quilt that has many different patterns and techniques. I thought that once I did that, I would know it all. Well … 13 years later, I am still learning and hope I never say I know it all. My first teacher always encouraged me to try something new and extend you. I made a rule that every quilt I make has to have some feature about it that I have never done before − a new technique or a particular style of fabric. There are not many quilts I make that don’t comply.
Patchwork fabrics today are generally my inspiration. The colours, the designs, you do not have to make anything; I get pleasure from buying them, looking at the fabrics to think about what to make, folding them up again and putting them away. Every quilter has a ‘stash’. There is a saying: “She who dies with the most fabric wins”.
Describe (and name) some of the traditional patterns we can find in quilting …
I have a book by Jinny Beyer, one of the world’s foremost quilters titled “The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns”, featuring more than 4,050 pieced blocks. Some of these patterns date back to the 1800s and can have multiple names, as different quilters have used the patterns and given their own version of a name. One of my favourites is the Ohio Star; in the book, it has 23 different names. There can also be different patterns with the same name. It is endless, the patterns available to quilters.
How long would it typically take you to create a quilt from concept to completion?
There is no one answer to this question, as it depends on the type of quilt you are making, the size and techniques being used. There is a quilt we have been making this year called a Jelly Roll Race or 1600. It can take as little as a day to make the quilt top, but then it has to be quilted, and if you do that yourself you can add days and even weeks to the quilt.
I have made a large quilt that was hand appliquéd and took twelve months to complete the top. Making this quilt was an absolute pleasure, and time wasn’t an issue. It became a friend, a family heirloom in the making.
We generally make quilts for a reason, a special person, a birthday or a newborn. Some of us also make quilts because we love making quilts, the satisfaction of creating something beautiful, trying out a new pattern or technique. We make quilts for a lifetime and hope that they will be passed down to future generations.
How much of the work is done by hand (if any) and how much by machine?
Today, nearly all quilts are made by machine, with only the last stage of a quilt, the binding, being stitched by hand. Even this can be machine stitched.
Some of the more traditional quilters still like to hand appliqué and piece some of their quilts, and also complete the quilting by hand. There is a different set of skills required, and it is really satisfying to complete the hand work as our ancestors would have many years ago.
When and how often do you teach classes at the Taree Craft Centre?
Patchwork classes are held every Wednesday morning at the Craft Cottage Complex from 9.30am to 12.30pm. I specialise in beginners; to take people that would like to learn and introduce them to the wonderful world of patchwork. Some people want to get back into patchwork and some have a ‘UFO’ (unfinished object) from years ago and want to finish it. I use the term ‘people’, rather than ladies, as I have had male students over the years. Everybody is welcome.
What’s the history behind the Manning Valley Quilt Exhibition?
I commenced patchwork classes at the Craft Cottage just before the extensions were commenced in 2010. In discussion with Pam Eyb from the Craft Centre, we came up with the idea that we celebrate the opening of the extensions with a quilt exhibition. The first exhibition was March 2011 and ran for a week. Quilts were exhibited by groups and classes meeting at the Centre, as well as members. This year will be our second exhibition.
What is the venue, date and time for the exhibition this year?
The Manning Valley Quilt Exhibition is 12 April to 20 April 2013 at the Craft Cottage Complex, corner of High and Pulteney Streets, Taree. The exhibition is open every day between 10am and 3pm except for Saturday 20, when it will close at 1pm. Entry is $3.
What will people experience at the event?
There will be approximately sixty quilts on display, from large quilts to wall hangings and table runners. A special feature of the exhibition is a display of older quilts; one is 120 years old and was made by the grandmother of a member. It really is a good example of quilts of a bygone era. The Craft Cottage Complex has a coffee shop, so visitors can have morning tea or a light lunch and of course, there are craft items for sale.
A special quilt will be raffled, with the proceeds going to Rotary to help the eradication of polio in third world countries.
for more info
Information is available on the Craft Centre website at
Phone Anne Bloomfield
on 6553 2602.
For general class information and Kerry Wakely on 6556 0265 for more details regarding patchwork classes and the quilt exhibition.
This article can be found in issue 74 of Manning-Great Lakes