Inspiration - Strata
Inspiration - Strata

How long have you been quilting? Well, I started quilting seriously about 20 years ago, but looking back Id been doing it unconsciously for many years before: Id made patched bedcovers for my five children, for instance, using fabric samples given to me by a neighbour who was in the textile business.

What got you started? My grandmother taught me to sew when I was quite small and Ive done it ever since. I worked in the fashion industry, and when I retired I found that quilting satisfied my need to sew. From there on it was the usual story - I became hooked!

How did you go about learning to quilt? I taught myself from books, although Ive recently finished my City and Guilds course in Patchwork and Quilting, which I did on-line with Linda Kemshall.

Yellow Fungi
Inspiration - Yellow Fungi

Did you join any groups or guilds? Im a member of the West Australian Quilters Association and the Roleystone Quilters, which both meet on a monthly basis. I also have a small group that comes to my home on alternate Thursdays and I enjoy sharing my passion for what I do with them. Im willing to teach them anything I know how to do in fact, weve just had a very successful one-day dyeing workshop.

And whats been the best workshop youve attended as a student? Without a doubt the one run by Nancy Crow that I attended about eight years ago. It was a one-week residential course and we worked until we dropped, but I learned so much. Nancy made me realise that I could do things with my quilting that Id never dreamed of before I met her. Just as shes taught the art world that textiles are an art form too rather than something that little crafty people do, Nancy liberated me from all the formal boundaries of quilting. Ive never looked back, and for that reason alone, I think that Nancys probably the quilter that I admire most.

Do you have many quilt books? About 80, so itd be hard to choose my favourites Heirloom Machine Quilting by Harriet Hargrave or Mariners Compass Quilts by Judy Mathieson perhaps, or maybe Jinny Beyers Designing Tessellations.

Old Lighthouse Keepers Cottage - Machine piecing and appliqué. Hand dyed and commercial fabrics. Machine quilted
Old Lighthouse Keepers Cottage - Machine piecing and appliqué.
Hand dyed and commercial fabrics. Machine quilted

Where do you sew? I share a studio with my husband (he has one small corner!) which has a beautiful view of the garden. Because I mostly work by machine, I have a Mitsubishi flat-bed industrial machine on which I piece. My machine-quilting which I absolutely love and embroidery are done on an 18-year old Pfaff Creative 1469 which Ive had from new. I have a moderate stash that I keep in drawers and on shelves in my studio, several hundred reels of thread, and around 30 hand-quilting threads.

How long are you able to spend sewing there? Although Im retired, I still have the home to run and a very large garden to tend, but I like to spend at least 20 hours a week sewing.

Where do you get your inspiration from? From my own photographs. Im an avid photographer, and have all my pictures filed by categories texture, landscape, flowers, and so on.

Diana Vincent at work machine quilting, 2003
Diana Vincent at work machine quilting, 2003

Is there a colour that you like using most? No, I dont have one favourite colour.

What sort of colours do you enjoy working with, then? Strong colours: I love blues, greens, reds, purples and burgundies. I find it hard to resist buying any fabric or thread that jumps out at me; anything bright or unusual that I think I may be able to use in either quilting or embroidery.

So do you find . . . Pastels difficult to work with? Definitely!

Do you ever produce your own coloured fabrics? Ive been dyeing my own fabric for about 10 years now, and have got to the point where I can produce the exact shade that I want rather than the colour that the dye bath decides to give me. I also do some airbrushing with dyes, and printing and rubbings on fabric.

Strata II - Machine curved piecing, machine embroidery and quilting. Hand dyed and commercial fabric
Strata II - Machine curved piecing, machine embroidery and quilting.
Hand dyed and commercial fabric

Do you have any preferred materials threads, fabrics, or what have you? I prefer rasant cotton-covered polyester core sewing thread, and use Hobbs Heirloom wadding. Its 80% cotton and 20% polyester, and I find that it makes a perfect batting for machine-quilting it clings to the top and backing and lies beautifully flat after quilting. It washes well too.

So whats your current project? A quilt depicting my father-in-law, who worked all his life as a blacksmith: Im just roughing out my ideas from a photograph we have of him shoeing a horse in the early 1900s. The piece will be almost life-size, and I expect it to take me most of this year to complete.

Is there anyone who encourages you when youre working on these long projects? Yes, my husband Colin is invaluable. Hes given me so much help and support, and hes also very handy at producing large scale drawings on the computer!

The Elements Series Earth, Free cutting and machine piecing. Machine quilted
The Elements Series Earth, Free cutting and machine piecing.
Machine quilted

But theres no-one else in the family who wants to quilt? Not at the moment, no. I have two daughters who are textile artists, though, and who use a small amount of quilting in their art. I also have a six-year old grand-daughter who likes to sew, so maybe one day . . .

And which quilting moment will you recall with most pride? Having three quilts juried into international exhibitions in one year.

What top tip would you give to other quilters? Cut any left-over strips of fabric into log-cabin pieces and throw them into a basket by your cutting table. When you get time, put these pieces in plastic storage bags according to size so that when you need to make a quick gift whether its a cushion or a quick quilt you have all the pieces ready to hand.

And what would your advice to beginners be? Begin with simple designs and work up to the more complicated quilts, but have a go at everything along the way thats the only way to find out what you like most.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 11 Number 9 - September 2003