I have met Liz a few times, either at the WAQA contemporary group or at Quiltwest and have seen some of her work, I thought she would be a great person to contact to share her story with other readers, so without further ado, over to Liz.
I’ve always sewn, making my own high school dresses under the guidance of an Aunt, work dresses followed and then my wedding dress and sisters’s bridesmaid dress. The fabric was purchased in Sydney, in a shop in Angel Arcade, which was in a very old part of the city. I paid for the patterns to be drafted for me and as I wrote this, I remembered these patterns, and I actually found them, sometimes there are benefits to being a hoarder.
Those dresses were made while I was living on my own and waiting for my husband to return from deployment in Vietnam, we were married just five weeks after that, somehow he managed a trip to Kalgoorlie to collect his car from his parent’s house in that time. We’ve been married 51 years and have three sons.
When my husband retired from the Army in 1984 we came to live in Perth, eventually we moved to York and lived there for sixteen happy years. We moved to the Hills in 2001, mainly to be closer to medical facilities.
I joined WAQA about 2011 . My first entry to Quiltwest was 2012, I was thrilled to win
prizes and also have my quilt selected to be hung at AQC.
Around that time I started sewing for Aussie Hero Quilts and Laundry bags, I have many of these for Australian Defence Force personnel serving overseas, motivated by the treatment received by Vietnam Veterans on return to Australia. I like to do what I can to thank these young veterans and their families for their sacrifices.
I feel very fortunate to have one prizes at Quiltwest. I’ve had two quilts selected to
represent WA at AQC and had a piece accepted in the annual AQC Challenge. My local
library in Kalamunda has exhibitions during the year and I’ve been lucky enough to sell my work there and elsewhere to private buyers. Liz has also had her work exhibited at the Zig Zag gallery in Kalamunda.
Have you always been creative?
I always say that I can’t remember when I couldn’t sew. My mother had an
old singer treadle machine that had been her mothers. A lot of our
childhood clothes were made on that machine. When my mother died
unexpectedly in childbirth, I was 11. Mum’s cousin who was also her best
friend would come to visit and help me make my doll’s clothes, what a
thoughtful lady she was. I was learning to knit at the time and remember
trying to knit bootees. I lived in the outer western suburbs of Sydney when I
first started work, most of the girls on the hour long train journey into the
city knitted, we also made our own clothes and shared tips and tricks while
Your first foray into the quilting world was?
I started my first quilt, probably in 1968 while my fiancee, now my husband
was serving in Vietnam It was cut out with scissors and guess work. I bought
thick polyester wadding and poly cotton for the backing and attempted to
quilt it on the singer machine I had at the time, a brown one with a knee
control. You could buy fabric in a shop on the ramp going into Wynyard
Station in Sydney in those days. Eventually the quilting was unpicked by my
husband, he has always encouraged me to sew and used to be my chief
unpicker and yes eventually, the quilt did get finished.
Your first quilt or first piece of craft was ?
The first quilt I ever finished is an hexagon quilt, which I started while living in
Papua New Guinea around 1974. I saw a pattern in a women’s magazine and
cut the templates out of cereal boxes. My middle son recently reminded me
that I should still have the templates. When I found the few I do have I was
surprised by the change in the sugar content of cereals in those days, and to
think we often added more!
Both of those quilts travelled with us from posting to posting, complete with
cardboard in the hexies, until my husband retired from the Australian Army
and we came to live in Perth. Eventually we moved to a small 200 acre farm
east of York and I met some quilters who inspired me to finish that quilt. It
tells a lot about my sewing in those years.
The centre has remnants of my eldest sons first ‘proper’ shirt as well as scraps from my husbands shirts and school fund raising bits and pieces. It all contains fabric from my maternity dresses and then board shorts for my third son. Finally finishing with quilting fabric bought in Northam in 1994.
Have you won any quilt awards? Locally, nationally, international ?
Some time after the Toodyay bush fires in December 2009, I was asked to
exhibit quilts at Avalon Homestead for a fund raising exhibition where I won
“Viewers Choice”, that prize was sponsored by Handcrafters House, I was
thrilled! The quilt chosen was one I had done of our York farm. It shows a lot of
the activities, buildings, animals and farm machinery and has become a
coveted family heirloom.
I was very happy to win a prize in the first Quiltwest I ever entered in 2012. Luckily I’ve won other prizes since then. One of the quilts I made for the families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan is in the collection of the Australian War Memorial.
In your spare time you enjoy……..?
When I am not sewing, we love to go on long drives around the country. We
love quick trips within the state and into the bush around where we live in
the Hills. Birdwatching, searching for native orchids and wildflowers, sitting
on the tailgate of the ute in the bush with a simple sandwich and a mug of
We both love to read and are regular visitors to our local Library. In the last
year or two I’ve read “The Forgotten Explorer” taken from the journals of
Edward John Eyre. Peter Fitzsimons “Batavia” and also his “Bourke and Wills”
were books I found of great interest as well as” William John Wills. Pioneer of
the Outback” by John Van Der Kiste.
Perth born and raised?? Or was born and raised somewhere else?
I was born in the Nepean District of New South Wales, my parents lived in
Emu Plains at the time. I continued to live in the outer Western Suburbs
until after my marriage. My husband was posted to Papua New Guinea to
work with their Defence Force in 1970 where my first son was born.
We went to PNG twice, we lived in Queensland, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and
Darwin before settling in WA in 1984. I’ve lived in WA longer than anywhere
else, my husband was born in Perth and raised in Kalgoorlie.
A bit about your family ? are they supportive about what do you do?
I have a lot of support from my family. Recently, during the lockdown my
daughter-in-law rang from the goldfields to ask about my favourite place to
buy fabric. I was very pleased with the voucher I later received for Mothers
Day, organised by Handcrafters House.
Do you belong to any WAQA small groups or any other craft groups?
I belong to the Contemporary Quilt Group and have been a member of WA
Inspired Art Quilters. I thoroughly enjoyed travelling to Mount Magnet with
friends from the Mount Magnet Quilt Project in September 2019 and was
very pleased to be asked to be involved in the Pathfinders group.
Favourite place to holiday?
Anywhere in Australia. Preferably outback.
Favourite quilting/sewing tool you can’t live without?
My first Bernina sewing machine was bought in Boroko, Port Moresby PNG in
1971. I’ve been a Bernina girl ever since. I have all the basic tools but don’t
like to have too many specialty tools. After initially feeling quite daunted by
the task of making drunkard’s path blocks with the Pathfinders group, I
found a circular ruler and cutter by Fiskars fun to use. Precision is not
something I do well.
I can’t live without?
I love my garden, living near the forest and travelling to other parts of WA
including the Goldfields to visit my eldest son and his wife….. Mostly I sew
Do you follow patterns or like making and designing your own things?
It’s a long time since I stuck to a pattern, maybe I never did! I’ve always
changed something. I like to use my own designs referring to my collection
of wildflower and bird reference books.
Your favourite part of the whole quilting process?
I do enjoy the beginning of my landscape quilts, going through my
photographs and finding, painting or dyeing fabrics suited to the idea I have
in mind. The final stitching of the binding, hanging sleeve and label are
always good moments. I like to get them done before I put the work aside.
How much has quilting changed for you over the years? ( as in your style/do
you follow trends ( look at pinterest and things/blogs for inspiration) quilting
tools/fabric selection that is available now?
When I first started quilting seriously I thoroughly read every magazine I
bought and tried a lot of different methods and techniques. I still buy an
occasional magazine, I much prefer those to the digital magazines. The
internet is a great resource but I try to limit my time there, I’d rather be
sewing. I used to buy a lot of fat quarters in all sorts of colours and designs.
Now I’d rather buy a full bolt of white fabric for dyeing or a roll of wadding.
Maybe that’s why I’ve grown out of my original sewing space!
Your number one tip you can pass on to another quilter is?
Enjoy what you do. If it’s causing you stress, change to a different way of
doing it. The beauty of being a member of WAQA is there is always someone
who can help if you ask.
Do you have a preference for ( applique/contemporary/scrap quilts/
paperpiecing/English paper piecing/modern quilts/machine quilting/hand
quilting…….. ) what do you enjoy doing the most?
I love applique sometimes embellished with hand embroidery, I also like
playing with colours for scrap quilts. I do both machine and hand quilting,
occasionally both on the same quilt. Hand dyeing and a little fabric painting
help me keep my work unique.
• Do you have a “fabric/ribbon/buttons/thread stash”
Cotton machine and embroidery threads are sorted by colour into boxes.
Polyester thread and machine embroidery threads are kept separately.
More decorative, heavier threads have their own tin. Ribbons have a small
drawer and I retain my Mother-in-law’s button tin. Fabric is kept on Ikea
shelves in boxes, mostly sorted by colour.
Are you lucky enough to have a designated space in your home, to be able
to close the door behind you and leave the mess?
I have grown out of the small bedroom which was my sewing room. It is now
a storeroom for my stash. I have two folding tables pushed together in our
front lounge room, the computer is there and my husband can comfortably
sit and read there. If I need to do a lot of cutting the taller than average
kitchen bench is in the next room and the ironing board is in the laundry
next to the kitchen. All my friends and family know I sew, if any one calls in
unexpectedly what they see is what they get. I do try to stay organised in a
casual sort of way but often have several projects on the go at once. There
is a door that can be closed. My design wall is the family room floor, my
family is quite used to walking around anything laid out there.
Do your prefer working on bigger quilts or pieces or smaller items?.
These days I rarely make very large quilts. Everyone I know who needs a bed
quilt has at least one. I like to make single bed quilts for the community
occasionally and mostly work on landscape style quilts. This year will be the
seventh year I have provided a quilt for the “Families of the Fallen of
Afghanistan”. It is usually taken to their annual dinner where the name of a
mother or widow of a fallen soldier is drawn and receives the quilt.
Elizabeth, it has been a pleasure to get to know you, thank you for sharing your quilting story with me and our readers.