QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: “Illawarra Improv” by the Wollongong MQG

by Kate Cosgrove, Charity Challenge CoordinatorIllawarra_Improv

At our April meeting, the Wollongong MQG decided to participate in the 2017 MQG Charity Quilt Challenge. In the last two years, we ran two very successful Australian Modern Quilt Shows but, since we have temporarily handed that over to our sister guilds, we thought this would be a great opportunity to complete a guild wide project together. We regularly make quilts together for local charities, but have not previously worked on one in a MQG challenge.
Although we are the Wollongong MQG, our members live across the Illawarra region and, as this is our first entry in the Charity Challenge, members voted overwhelmingly to make a stylised representation of the region. Our design team divided the quilt into vertical sections to represent the escarpment and farms, the towns and the oceans and beaches.
We wanted to include as many members as possible, so decided to do an improvised quilt as this would allow for greater flexibility. Further, we wanted to give members the opportunity to learn a new skill, specifically free form cutting and piecing but we didn’t want to force people to work outside their comfort zone. As a result, the farms were done as wonky log cabins, the towns were a mixture of approaches and the ocean was constructed with free form curves.

Fabric was combined into bundles with instructions and members were able to choose which aspect of the project they wanted to work on. Some tried a few different blocks, some did the binding but almost 30 members contributed in some way. It was rewarding to have so many members hand in their blocks and tell us how much they enjoyed the freedom of just cutting and piecing. It is always fun to try new techniques!
During the project, we gave updates at monthly meetings and via email. This was a great way to keep in touch. All blocks were handed in by the August meeting so the construction team of Kerrie, Ros and Kate got to work on the design wall. It was surprising how quickly the quilt took shape. Filler blocks were constructed if needed, as we had decided to avoid cutting members’ work where ever possible. A second construction day put it all together.
The Illawarra is known for its beautiful beaches as well as the remaining pockets of temperate rainforest. It also has rich coal seams so the bush has rail lines and mines along the mountains. When we took the quilt to our quilter Jenny at AngelCake Quilting, she quickly grasped what we were doing and she made a huge effort to let her quilting reflect the region. Members were delighted with what she did. They had the chance to view the quilt at out November meeting and were very quick to play Spot-My-Block.
The final stage was sending the quilt on a camping weekend with some members who volunteered to sort out the binding while they were away.
This has been a lot of fun and I would encourage any guild which hasn’t tried it to give it a go next year.Final1