Jo Farmery, Keirunga Quilters president

The Keirunga Quilters Annual Exhibition is being held at the Havelock North Function Centre from 14 – 21 August (entrance by gold coin donation) and the group’s President, Jo Farmery tells me that members have been really busy making a range of items, big and small, to ensure that this year’s exhibition will be one well-worth visiting.

“We all really look forward to the exhibition,” says Jo.  “It’s an annual highlight for us to share what we do with members of the public and this year we’ll have around seventy items on display as well as a sales table of craft goodies and a raffle.”

Money raised from the exhibition will go to a yet-to-be-named charity. In previous years, profits have supported Kids Can, Nourish for Nil and Re-Source. Other charity work is ongoing throughout the year with rest homes, teen mothers and Women’s Refuge regularly receiving quilts.

I visited the Keirunga Homestead recently to find out a bit more about quilting and what members get up to.  The room was buzzing as about thirty ladies were occupied, stitching brightly-coloured fabrics of all shapes and sizes and chatting cheerfully while nimble fingers worked their magic.  

Although creating beautiful quilts and other patchwork items is what the group is all about, there are also many social benefits for members. 

Maggie Brown mentioned how hugely important the camaraderie, companionship and support between members is and how knowledge gained when people share their skills motivates others. Committee members shared her sentiments with Penny Ferguson chipping in that, “Sometimes there was more talking than stitching!”

Midwife, Lucy Stephenson, who has been a member for twelve years, is the ‘baby’ of the group. While there have been no ‘surprise deliveries’ to test her professional skills, she has been on hand to provide medical assistance and advice to members on a number of occasions.  ‘There is a strong connection to the quilting world and we all share an interest,” she tells me.  “Age doesn’t matter.  There are so many creative and skilled people in their eighties and we can all learn from each other.”

Not knowing anything about quilting, I was interested to hear that the group was formed almost forty years ago, has a membership of nearly sixty, mostly older ladies, and meets twice weekly. There is also a library of quilting books and equipment.

The Quilters’ Cottage at Keirunga is the venue on a Monday evening from 7 pm – 9.30 pm; the homestead is a hive of activity every Wednesday from 9.30 am – 12.30 pm and, on the second Saturday of every month, a smaller group meets in the Quilters’ Cottage from 10 am – 3 pm. There are also quarterly quilting weekends at Keirunga.

I learned that there are two main phases of making a quilt – the patchwork of the top and the quilting of the layers together and there are two main techniques when it comes to patchwork. “The most time-consuming is ‘hand piecing’ when little shapes of fabric are sewn together by hand and then added to, making larger items.” Jo explains.  “Then there is ‘machine piecing’ which is obviously a lot quicker and the most popular method for making larger items like patchwork quilts.” 

A quilt is made up of three layers.  The top, the backing and the material in the middle, mostly cotton, which is called the batting.  While light in weight, because of the layers, quilts provide a surprising amount of warmth.

Computer designs for machine quilting take the guess-work out of pattern design and large quilt tops can be quilted by professionals on long-arm quilting machines in hours rather than months. The machines can also be manually driven to cater for unique designs. 

At this year’s exhibition, there is a ‘Going Green Challenge’ where members are making a variety of items using pre-loved materials, such as clothing, linen and ties.  It will be judged and prizes awarded but on the day I visited, to keep people guessing, members were keeping their entries close to their chests.

Keirunga Quilters is one of many local groups which step up when the need arises.  Children’s quilts and knitted items such as beanies, socks and other woollens were included in the luggage of New Zealand Aid Workers who responded to the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal which killed over 9,000 people and left countless others homeless and destitute.

A selection of hand-made-with-love items were sent to Christchurch after the 2019 mosque shooting tragedy and cotton dresses were made and sent to India to clothe girls living on the street to help keep them safe.

There is a real sisterhood among quilters, not only locally but nationally and globally.  Currently, quilting, like other creative crafts, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

Keirunga quilters at work

Prospective members of any of the groups which are part of the Keirunga Creative Hub pay an annual fee of $57.50 to The Keirunga Gardens Arts and Craft Society (Inc) which provides the facilities. That payment entitles people to belong to as many groups within the hub as they like.  

Keirunga Quilters only charge $2 per session and that includes a scrumptious looking morning tea.

New members are welcome. “Everyone has something different to offer so each person brings new inspiration to the group,” Jo enthuses. “And it’s lovely to see new quilters develop their own style.”

Want to know more? Just pop into the homestead on a Wednesday morning or e-mail:- keirungaquilters@gmail.com

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