Surge in quilt-making across Christchurch

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a surge of people reaching for a sewing machine to try their hand at the craft of quilt-making.

Christchurch Quilters president Maria Rohs said the club’s biennial exhibition last week had more than 200 entries.

“We used to struggle to get 100,” Rohs said.

“We’ve got a lot more quilts in the show than we usually do because people have had two lockdowns, this year and last year, so everyone’s had more time.

“People are keener on getting back into traditional things.”

The exhibition ran at Papanui High School until Sunday under the theme “vivid.”

A wide range of styles from traditional to modern were on show, with three non-members selecting prize-winners.

Roh was among the exhibitors, although she had been to busy organising the event to enter any major works.

Christchurch Quilters president Maria Rohs with her ‘vivid’ themed quilt. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Christchurch Quilters president Maria Rohs with her ‘vivid’ themed quilt. Photo: Geoff Sloan
However, her handiwork earned her a national award in the Aotearoa Quilters’ Great New Zealand Quilt Show earlier this year.

She was thrilled when her piece, Night View at Sunset, won the small quilt section.

The piece was inspired by the view from her Huntsbury home, and she captured the intense light by using metallic thread.

In over three decades of the craft, she had only ever made one quilt for herself, she said.

“I’ve only ever had one of my own, when I had my 60th birthday I got some floral fabric and got everyone to make a block each.’’

Several sewing machines were set up as around 50 people pitched in with their contributions, and each person also signed their fabric.

This favourite quilt of the many she had made, and received a lot of use, she said.

Maria Rohs with her prize-winning quilt, 'Night View at Sunset'.  Photo: Geoff Sloan
Maria Rohs with her prize-winning quilt, 'Night View at Sunset'. Photo: Geoff Sloan
She first discovered quilting 35 years ago after hearing that her local church ran craft sessions, charging just $1 to cover cups of tea.

A keen sewer since her school days, her curiosity was aroused.

“I’d heard about it and I thought: ‘That sounds interesting, I’ll go along and try it’.”

Three years later, she became one of the earliest members of the Christchurch Quilters.

Scraps of old, handmade clothes, as well as specially bought fabric, were used to make her first piece, a “pretty basic” bed quilt for one of her daughters.

Over three decades later, she had much more material to hand.

“You see lovely fabric that you like and then you buy it and gradually you build up quite a collection.”

Maria Rohs' birthday quilt. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Maria Rohs' birthday quilt. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Her current stash included pieces from the early days when she was just starting, as well as fabric from her family’s native Austria, and hand-customised fabric she had worked on during craft classes.

Most were cotton, the standard quilting fabric because of its longevity.

The creativity of the craft was her favourite thing about it.

“It’s an artistic outlet. I’ve got more into art quilts and I’m not making so many bed quilts now.”

This was common for quilters who had worked their way through all of their family members, she said.

All her grandchildren were equipped with personalised quilts, so she had turned to make smaller, ornamental works of her own design.

Nature was a constant inspiration. A forest scene depicting kōwhai and kererū was currently under way, and she had recently finished a piece based on fallen winter leaves.

Another quilt she had recently finished was based on leaves she noticed on the ground over winter.

“I don’t think it is hard, you just need to decide you want to do it and find out how.”

Learning the craft was easier than ever these days, especially because of online tutorials on sites such as YouTube, she said.

However, it was a time-intensive hobby.

“Only once did I actually take a note of all the hours. It was a queen-sized quilt that I made for a friend. It was 90 hours, and that . . . was just making the top of it.”

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