It's finished. I started it over 20 years ago and now it is finished. This is my quilt of dreams. (Hanging on the clothes line sideways. This is also a long saga so get a cup of tea. Well it took over 20 years!)
It had it's genesis back in the late 1980's when I read an article about the origins of candlewicking embroidery. Soon after this I came across a scrap of this type of embroidery in Ballarat Victoria. Ballarat was the centre of the gold rushes in the 1850's in Australia. Many of the diggers had come from the goldfields in California USA and the women brought this embroidery with them. I have always been fascinated by these women who came to the gold field. Some of them were miners in their own right, the field at Bendigo being discovered by two women. My friend Lennie's great grandmother had been a midwife on the gold fields and had been present there at the time of the Eureka Stockade uprising. (Some of the eye witness accounts are quite different from the official ones.)
Back then (1980's 90's) I was very into the outdoors life. We did a lot of camping and hiking and I was looking for some kind of embroidery that I could do by the camp fire at night. It had to be able to fit into my Mapac and be able to be seen in the low light of overnight cabins and tents. Candlewicking seemed to fit the bill, hadn't it been done by women sitting around the campfire at night? The only draw back being it was white work and camping and trecking are not known for keeping things clean and dry. But, we also spent time every year over on this island. This was the kind of work I could easily pack and bring with me. So I decided I would make a candlewick quilt.
I thought about buying a kit but I wanted it to be more original than that so I went looking for designs in books. (The internet was just getting on it's feet back then and not great for images and I had no confidence in my drawing skills at that time.) After a year or so of trying to find designs I came across Jean Jensen's books that included Australian Native Flowers, that was what I would do. (You can still find these books around the ridges.)
The next challenge was thread. At the Embroiderers' Guild some women were stitching this technique. They were using a fine thread and some were using colours. Not what I wanted at all. I wanted the stitching to be chunky, with a fairly high profile. The women who had originally stitched this has done so at night and much of the work must have been done by feel. This was frowned on but I kept pushing on, despite the criticism. Then I came on the work of Sandie Meldrum from Western Australia. Some of her books are still listed on Amazon.
Her designs really resonated with me, they were of Western Australian wild flowers. Many of these had never been seen in the eastern states. (Today there is a huge tourist trade surrounding the flowering of the wild flowers in W.A) She was also producing a cotton thread called Ozcott for stitching candlewicking. Made from Australian cotton (it was a new industry at the time) it was soft, had a high sheen and could be stranded. (I used the last of mine back in 2012. ) So I bought some good quality homespun, wrote away for the cotton, cut out the blocks and started stitching. I also started my Masters Degree around this time. In addition I had three young children and was working full time. I only got to stitch when we were on the track or on the island. Progress was very slow but here on the island I would stitch and dream. Dream about the time when we would build our house here. Dream about it's design and how it would be furnished. This wasn't the only piece I worked on for this dream. Over these years there were also bedspreads worked in Swedish Weaving along with cushions, rugs and other pieces.
As the years dragged on the dreams were just that, just dreams. I gave away most of the things I made as I despaired of ever reaching my elusive dreams, but, I hung onto the pieces for this quilt.
I put all the blocks together and decided that there needed to be sashing between the blocks to balance the design. It wasn't balanced. When I finished the sashing I decided that it needed to be embroidered. So pulled it apart again. The sashing strips fitted just fine in the pocket of my Macpac.
They were stitched on the Alpine tracks in New Zealand and in India . Some were stitched in Hong Kong and some whilst traveling in the USA and in the UK. Then finally I pieced the quilt all again. Layered it and put a pieced backing of Australian flower prints on the back and hand quilted it.
I hated the finished quilt.
It was nothing like what I had dreamed about. It went into a bottom draw. It was just too painful to look at. A couple of years later I retrieved it from its dumping ground and unpicked it. Took the backing off, which I used as another quilt and put a plain backing on it. I just couldn't give up on my dreams. Time went by and I pulled it out of the draw and quilted it again. And again I hated it. It just didn't match my dreams. So it was unpicked once again and into that bottom draw it went. My dreams about moving to the island were fading into the distance and it seemed we would never move here. Both the dreams and the quilt were a terrible disappointment.
Then, two years ago we decided to renovate and sell our home and move to the island. This quilt surfaced again during the sorting and culling of my possessions. Maybe it could be saved or maybe It was destined for the bin? I was determined to give it one more try, maybe. So I took it up to Toowoomba to ask my friend Angela's advice before I took the last step and threw it away. I had sort of given up on it and was resolved to donate it to the opportunity shop. We both looked at that quilt and Angela thought I could cross hatch the backgrounds and outline the embroidery. She also said she couldn't quilt it. I hadn't expected she would it was advice I was asking for. So I took it home to decide if I could do this.