Personally it was also a memorable year as I was taking my quilting "career" to the next level - participating in a National Quilt Festival as teacher and quilt artist for the first time...... The only dark cloud was that we were moving again as Willem was transferred to work in Phuthaditjaba in Qwa-Qwa and we would live in Harrismith. The property market was extremely limp as South Africa was anxiously awaiting the birth of the Rainbow Nation, so the kids and I had to stay behind in East London to sell our house. ....
In the meantime life went on for us and I threw myself into serious work. I had to prepare for the Ndebele Machine Applique workshop at the 1994 National Quilt Festival in Cape Town........! I was excited yet also extremely anxious. I was worried about my level of expertise and how I would fit in amongst the well known quilters and teachers.......... I was in awe just mentioning their names... Paul Schutte, Jutta Faulds, Odette Tolksdorff, Lee Hackman, Rosalie Dace, Sue Akerman, Suzette Ehlers to name a few.... I had a serious case of stage fright...!
As I was a new kid on the block, I felt compelled to enter a quilt in the competition to showcase my work to establish some credibility. The festival theme reminded me of the shrub (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow), so a floral themed quilt was the obvious choice. After finishing the bird quilt the previous year, I became very interested in realistic themes for my quilts. I chose the protea as theme because Cape Town/Western Cape is synonymous with fynbos. I used my group as sounding board and the consensus was that it would be too difficult and I was crazy even to try.... Well, I just love a challenge... My idea was to incorporate the proteas with Ndebele designs to give the quilt a distinctive South African flavour.
Making the bird quilt the previous year, established a process or recipe of how I make these quilts. The first and most important ritual is the mental process. I will sometimes do mental gymnastics for over a year before starting a quilt. I can only start such a quilt once I had a "visual flash", I feel very blessed that I have this ability. I will mentally do all the problem solving before I actually start the quilt, so once I start work, it flows quite easily. Once I had my "news flash", I firstly determine the finished size of the quilt, width of the border and secondly do the layout of the blocks and other fillers. When preparing patterns for all the different elements, balance, scale and proportions are very important.
For African Heritage, I machine appliqued all the floral and Ndebele panels and embellished the flowers with hand embroidery. At the time, silk ribbon was very new on the market and I used it very effectively for spiky leaves and Ericas. When I had to plan/make the border, I was very frustrated that I could not find suitable fabric. Plan B was to make my own fabric - I used a good quality calico and painted proteas on it using a stencil which I made...! It looked awful, so I tried another piece in a more abstract way using all the different colours of the flowers in the quilt which seemed to work. This was the very first piece of fabric which I painted for a quilt and the start of my painted fabrics.
African Heritage/protea quilt took about 4 1/2 months to make. I hand quilted around the motifs and the background of the 4 floral blocks, the border was machine quilted in straight lines.