Reluctant quilter admits she found her passion

By Zoe McMaugh

When Janet Mathewson was introduced to the art of quilting, she admits to being a little reluctant.

It was the mid-1980s, she was in her thirties but her mother Evelyn Lewis insisted her daughter accompany her to classes being held by well known local Mary ‘O’ Roberts.

‘‘And then I was hooked,’’ Janet admitted.

Quilting has showcased a side of Janet she never even knew she had in her, and it’s been her life’s passion since those early lessons she eventually did enjoy with her mother.

Janet has been a member of the Deniliquilters & Friends from soon after its inception more than 30 years ago and is its official technical advisor, and she was a founding member of its BBQ Quilters sub-committee — which makes quilts specifically for patients at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.

‘‘I think I resisted because it (quilting) looked like hard work, and I had no patience,’’ Janet said.

‘‘But mum didn’t drive and I had to take her, so ...

‘‘In the end I actually found the process of stitching and hand sewing — because there were no machines in Mary’s classes — very therapeutic.

‘‘I love hand quilting and I still do a lot of it today.

‘‘I used to go like a bull at a gate with the machines but my sister Gai, who does patchwork too, was so methodical and her craftsmanship was so beautiful.

‘‘After watching her I slowed down and now take my time.’’

It’s difficult for Janet to estimate how long it takes her to make a quilt, because she’s always starting new designs and projects before she can finish the others.

‘‘I have at least 25 unfinished quilts in the house, and I am slowly working through them,’’ she said.

‘‘I also work on quilts for the Very Cuddly Quilts project, for the Children’s Hospital.

‘‘I must have about 30 finished quilts that just sit there. That’s why it’s great to be part of the BBQ Quilters — I can still put a lot of time in to a quilt and know that it will not go to waste.

‘‘I find it very fulfilling and I get a huge amount of pleasure making them. I also get a huge amount of pleasure knowing they are going to someone who needs them.

‘‘I also make a lot of quilts for friends.’’

Four of Janet’s finished quilts will be showcased at the Deniliquilters and Friends’ annual Threads of Friendship Quilt Show starting today.

‘‘One is a children’s quilt featuring big animal heads, which is really lovely.

‘‘Another is a block of the month challenge quilt which I have titled ‘My Mother Was Right Afterall’, because I named all the patches and the one named Janet gave me the most trouble.

‘‘The third is a re-creation of a block challenge quilt I made two years ago. I loved it so much I made another, but this one is all hand sewn.

‘‘The final one is called ‘Leftovers’ which is just random colours; and I love it.’’

Janet has also made a table runner for the quilt show challenge competition, for which all entrants were given a piece of maple leaf fabric by member Mary Lindquist who shares her time between Canada and Australia.

As part of the three-day show, Janet and other BBQ Quilters members will be demonstrating their children’s quilt techniques from the front of the hall’s stage, and she urges anyone who wants to learn more to come and say ‘hello’.

Patchwork and quilting is not the only creative outlet for Janet, who is also an active member of the Deniliquin Creative Writers and contributed a piece on the formation of the BBQ Quilters for its latest book, ‘From The Dusty Plains’, which was launched in May.

She is also well known for her role with the Deniliquin Lions Club, where she has held the role of secretary for many years.

Janet said she gained her sense of community from her parents, and particularly her father and former South School principal Arthur Lewis.

‘‘My dad always said to me that to get something out of your community, you have to put back in.

‘‘And I get so much back in the way of friendship by being part of the Quilters, Creative Writers and Lions.

‘‘Being involved with them has changed my life.’’

The Threads of Friendship Quilt Show will be held in the Deniliquin High School’s multi-purpose hall, from 10am to 4pm today and tomorrow and 10am to 3pm Sunday.

Entry will be $6, and raffle tickets are $2. The raffle will be drawn at 2.30pm Sunday.