Saturday, April 17, 2021

Twelve months ago today, I lost one of my dearest friends; Di Ford Hall.

This all sounds a bit clichéd, but one of life's amazing women left us all, far too early.
Di was loved by all who knew her, particularly her gorgeous and devoted husband Brian, her children Jason and Nicci, her grandchildren, her brother Neville, her sister Wendy and their families.

I miss Di every day, as there are reminders all around my house, namely quilts, that spark memories of conversations, sewing days and time at Primarily Patchwork in Canterbury.

I knew Di for over 30 years; firstly when I was a student at Primarily Patchwork where I wanted to refine my stitches, and then, over time, we became friends. I occasionally helped out in the shop, helped with the class and requirements list, and eventually joined the inner sanctum as a friend welcome in her home. Any time spent with Di was always happy.

Di always welcomed friends into her home, but not very often did she celebrate her own milestones. However, in 2011, Di and Brian invited us to their home to celebrate Di's 60th birthday, well sort of. We should have guessed that something was afoot (Barbara did) as Di always played down her birthdays. In fact Di and Brian were to be married, and we were all surprised and honoured to be a part of their very special day. How gloriously happy everyone was that day!!  I don't think they were ever apart after that!

Brian spent every day of Di's hospital visits, either as a day patient or an inpatient, by her side. That's no mean feat when you live about 70km from the hospitals, and we never heard a grumble from him. My sewing friends and I tried to visit as often as we could, but with the tyranny of Covid, that was a hard road to navigate. We discovered that Di hated the evenings in the hospital, as Brian had gone home by then to tend to his chores and feed the animals, so Merri and Deb came up with a plan that one at a time we would keep Di company every evening until she fell asleep. They were special time; sometimes we would chatter about god knows what, other times we'd watch TV together, and sometimes we'd just sit. It was an honour to be able to help our dear friend in whatever ways we could.

At the time of Di's death there were a couple of her quilts that lay unfinished, so with Brian's blessing, my gorgeous sewing friends and I completed them for her: "Chesapeake" and "Windermere". What an honour!! Luckily for us we had been with Di as she designed and talked about these quilts; there were no patterns to guide us, just a few squiggly drawings, but we'd listened long and hard and felt we knew exactly what Di would wish for. "Chesapeake" was "almost" done; just needed a dozen or so blocks and a border print to finish it off.

"Windermere" was a bit more of a challenge, as Di had completed the centre panel and only sixteen of the surrounding forty blocks. To be fair, Ann and Merri had already completed their versions of "Windermere" and many of us had started making endless hexagon flowers so we knew what was involved, but of course we all wanted to make sure our stitches were up to Di's impeccable standards; near enough just wouldn't do. As quilt makers we all know, of course, that there is more than just blocks; there are sashings, corner stones, borders, backing and bindings. So many decisions still lay ahead of us, so we asked the person who knew Di and her quilts best, Brian. He really had paid attention on all those shopping expeditions, conventions and shows, and he knew exactly what was required! With our new found advice, "Windermere" was up and running again and finally ready to be quilted. 
The very talented Helen Hayes has been quilting Di's quilts for many years, so of course it was to her that both "Chesapeake" and "Windermere" were sent for magic to be done. Di always put a lot of energy and thought into the design of her quilts, and Helen knows exactly how to apply the final polish. Di and Brian were a match made in heaven, and I think the match of Di and Helen is just as heavenly.
It has been an absolute honour, delight and pleasure to be able to complete these two magnificent quilts with my friends for our mentor and great friend Di, her beloved husband Brian and her family.

Today I am going to have lunch, and sew a stitch or two, with my sewing friends, and celebrate that we able to share in the life of a generous and courageous woman.
I don't want to be sad, although I'll probably shed a few tears; I want to be thankful that I am one of the lucky people who shared such a fulfilling, (and sometimes expensive passion) with Di, and that through her I have some much cherished friendships (you know who you are!!)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The "Sisters" are back

Hi everyone, we’re back, well at least for occasional postings.  I am Clare Cross, one of the Secret Sewing Sisters, and thought you might like to see what we occasionally get up to. I make absolutely no promises that there will be frequent or regular postings. 

Since Meghan wrote our last post in 2016, there has been a lot of “movement at the station”, as A.B. "Banjo" Paterson would have said. There have been many new quilts; some finished, others not, several overseas trips for individual members to quilt shows in Europe and the States, quite a few new fabric lines from Di, a collaborative book between us and Quiltmania, a very unwell Di (who seems to be making a healthy recovery), and a trip earlier this year to France and The Netherlands for several members to attend and represent ourselves at quilt exhibitions, “Pour L’Amour du Fils” in Nantes, France, and “The Secret Sewing Sisters Quiltmania Tour” in Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

2019 has been a HUGE year for The Sisters. Firstly, our gorgeous Di was diagnosed with a nasty illness that has kept her out of the public eye, (she’s now so much better, and hoping to make an appearance again very soon) so we suspended regular sewing days in order that Di did not miss out on our get togethers. We are all still lovely friends who have an ongoing connection to each other via our friendship and quilting. We miss our days out sewing with our “sisters”, perhaps one day our sewing days will recommence.

Secondly, our book, “Labors of Love” was launched at the “Pour L’Amour du Fils” quilt show in Nantes, France.

Thirdly, our quilts have had a lovely year travelling around the globe. They have been to Nantes in France, Amersfoort in The Netherlands, Cornwall in England, Washington DC in America, and back to France for an exhibition in Alsace.

And last but certainly not least, the quilts will arrive home very soon, and some of them will be exhibited at a show, here in Melbourne, as a fundraiser for the Leukaemia Foundation. Some friends of Di (she has so many), asked Di to ask some of us to display a selection of our quilts at a show that is being held on 5th October 2019 in Blackburn. 
Of course, we said YES!!

What a year, and it’s only September!!!!

Ok, now to tell you all about our trip to Europe

No one actually invited any of us to go to Europe for the launch of our book, “Labors of Love”, but a few of us decided that we were important enough to be present! Without too much consultation amongst us, we told Carol Veillon from Quiltmania, and Petra Prins from “Dutch Heritage Fabrics” that we were coming, booked flights and accommodation, and off we went.

Of course, we had fun!! When we all met up in Nantes, it was like a reunion, as if we hadn’t seen each other in such a long time. Everyone had stories to tell of their exploits since leaving Australia; Merri and her husband Patrick had been visiting relatives and travelled to Spain and Portugal, Clare had travelled solo in Paris and the Normandy coast, Sue and her husband David, on their very FIRST overseas trip, had first been to England, and then crossed the Channel to France, Meghan had visited family in England, and then Deb and Meghan caught up in Paris before travelling to Nantes.

The 5 intrepid Sisters who invited themselves to Nantes, in front of Di’s gorgeous quilt, “Mary Anning’s Sea Shells”.
 Sue, Merri, Clare, Meghan and Deb.

By now you’ve probably all seen the Quiltmania #132, about the Pour L’Amour du Fils 2019 show, but here are some photos of our quilts on their very first international stage.
Merri, and her quilt “Merino Downs.

Meghan, and her “Floral Farrago”

Kerry Roe’s “Atlanta Botanica”

Sue’s “Curtain Call”
Clare’s “Kew Gardens”
Ann Ransom’s “Pheasants Among the Stars”

Deb and her “Wandering Minstrels”
 There were visitors from many countries, and although quite a number of them didn’t speak any English at all, and I can speak a little bit of French, (I'm still hoping that what I said, was what I meant to say), we did all speak the same language; Quilts.

There were utterances of “Superbe” and “Magnifique” which of course we did understand. 

Merri took great delight in showing off the backs of the quilts, much to the delight of the visitors. The “Sisters” seem to put as much effort in to selecting the backing fabric as they do for the front; that perhaps isn’t always the case with other quiltmakers. Most of us try and have some correlation between the front and the back, although our gorgeous sister Ann always tries to go for “WOW” rather than correlation.

 A “selfie” of us sitting down in the midst our very busy book signing schedule.
We were amazed at the attention we received from the many of the show; many photos of us taken alongside our quilts and multitudes of copies of our book were signed. We relished being “minor” celebrities for a moment

Deb and her “friend” who obviously have the very same excellent fabric appreciation

Following our visit in France, we met up again in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, a week later, to meet and greet our many dutch (and other nationalities) “fans”. By now Deb’s husband, Geoff, and my husband, Anthony, had arrived, so all the husbands got to see their wives in the limelight.
Sint Joriskirk (St George’s Church), Amersfoort.
The venue for this display was the absolutely gorgeous church; St Joriskirk (St George’s Church) a medieval church right in the middle of the town square.

 The feel of this display was so different from the Nantes exhibition, which is how we usually expect quilts to be displayed, this time the quilts were hung in the arches of the church, which meant that you could see the quilts in all their glory; this exhibition was a lot more intimate.

The absolutely gorgeous Carol Veillon, (Quiltmania Publishing Director), who convinced the Secret Sewing Sisters to take up the challenge of reproducing or reinterpreting some of the vintage quilts owned by and published in Quiltmania’s “Meanderings of a Quilt Collector” by Jane Lury

 Whilst in Amersfoort we got to meet many of our “friends” who also had quilts in the book. Unfortunately I didn't take photos of all our friends and their quilts, But I assure you we had a lovely time meeting and making new friends.

Renée Ferré  

Renée's quilt,  " Ah! Les belles toilettes"    

Petra’s “Queen Victoria”
Apologies to our new friends that don't have their photos here. If I do come across some photos of these gorgeous people, I will certainly address the issue. 

Deb and Clare having a laugh

We certainly had the most wonderful time away together. We shared some wonderful times and meals together, and loved exploring both Nantes and Amersfoort. The only dampener on the trip was that our friend Di was unable to join us; she was holed up in hospital for the whole of our time away. The BEST news though, is that Di is feeling so much better, and very keen to get on and make some more quilts.

I hope you've all enjoyed this update; we've been busy as usual, and I'm sure we will have more stories to tell you in the future.