My love affair with quilts started when I was 10 years old. When I’d go to my friend’s house for a sleepover, her mom would tuck us in under a gorgeous hand-tied patchwork quilt made by her grandmother. I remember lots of colors and textures and 1970s polyester! It was obvious she was cutting up old clothes and the result was stunning. It was also super heavy. I loved everything about that quilt. I can’t help but wonder where that special, utilitarian quilt is today.
My infatuation with quilts continued into my 20’s and since no one in my family quilted or sewed for that matter I realized if I wanted to have quilts in my life I would have to learn how to quilt. I bought a basic model Janome and signed up for a beginner quilt class and I was hooked! I’ve been quilting ever since.
Shortly after that lesson, I moved to Canada’s high Arctic and so began to teach myself by trial and error and pouring over quilting magazines that I’d pick up on my trips “south”. Our small hamlet of Kugluktuk had no roads in or out and of course no fabric shops to feed my new obsession. Fabric shops weren’t online yet in 1999 so I joined a fabric-of-the-month club and I would get little samples of fabrics sent to me every month. If I liked any of them I’d call the fabric shop and order them. But more often I’d tell them what I wanted and they’d ship me fabrics sight-unseen. When I’d fly south twice a year I’d head to any quilt shop I could find and stock up on fabric and then lovingly pack it up, duct tape it shut and either fly it up as cargo in a Rubbermaid container or ship it to myself by mail. My mom worked in long-term care and would get me a selection of adult diaper boxes – the people at the post office must have really wondered why I was shipping myself so many adult diapers! Lol…
I moved from Kugluktuk to Nunavut’s capital city, Iqaluit on Baffin Island, where, as luck would have it, I met a woman who would become a dear friend. The minute I learned Nancy was a quilter and had taught lessons in Nova Scotia I convinced her to teach me a new technique. Nancy is an award-winning quilter who makes stunning quilts often with paper piecing technique so under her mentorship I learned how to paper piece during the long dark days of Arctic winter. Our husbands both worked for the RCMP and so we recruited a couple of other women and every Sunday afternoon we would haul tables and sewing machines and supplies and quilt to our hearts content in the mess hall. It was so dark outside during the day and the mess hall wasn’t well lit so we even had to bring lamps from home in order to see what we were doing. It goes to show to what lengths I would go to learn a new quilting technique.
When I left the Arctic I had one stipulation wherever we moved it had to be near a quilt shop. And so I was finally able to take a class and meet other quilters – I learned machine quilting and how to design my own quilt blocks. Over the years as I raised my 3 kids, the amount of time I devoted to quilting ebbed and flowed. I entered some of my quilts and quilt blocks in the local Port Perry Fair and won ribbons! That was exciting to see my quilts up on display with a 1st place ribbon even if it was just a small-town country fair.
Like so many people, the pandemic spurred me to be creative during those many months in lockdown at home. I began quilting again with vigor and somewhere along the way discovered improv. As a recovering perfectionist, it was scary at first to cut through fabric without a ruler to guide me but I quickly fell for the free-spirited, intuitive approach. When I got diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, quilting became my refuge and part of my healing journey. I began experimenting and letting go of everything I had learned. Soon I was throwing all the “rules” out the window and began developing my own style. I’ve always been inspired by Canadian folk art and my work is cheerful and playful. I’m an optimist and want to convey that in my art. Life is short and my art reminds me to “live-out-loud” and not to take life too seriously.
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