Crochet, leather work, pottery, tatting, oil painting, knitting and cross stitch — Anne Sommerlad has tried her hand at all of them. She also describes herself as a credible dressmaker and has made most of her own clothes over the years as well as wedding dresses and costumes for school and community theatre productions. However, her life changed when she discovered quilts.
She says: “Like everyone else, I was hooked! Dressmaking fabrics soon gave way to fat quarters and the bookshelves rapidly filled with patchwork books.”
Her greatest good fortune in her quiltmaking, Anne believes, was having Susan Harris as her first patchwork teacher. She attended classes at Susan’s shop, Hearts and Hands, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in 1990, and describes Susan as “both a superb designer and a wonderful practitioner. She taught me sound techniques and methods that have continued to stand me in good stead and I find myself modelling my own teaching very much on what I learned from Susan. Her wise words at my machine piecing efforts still echo in my ears: ‘Slow down — you’re not dressmaking now!’ I constantly repeat this mantra to my students and it’s possibly the most important advice I can give them: take time and the results will reward you; rush and you’ll be disappointed.”
Anne’s first quilt was what she describes as “the inevitable sampler”, which she gave to her late father for his 80th birthday. “I’m happy to say that unlike many people’s first quilts, it is still enjoying life with my nephew, niece and great nephew — well worn and much loved.”
She then tackled an appliqué sampler and, even though she had been quiltmaking for less than a year, a Baltimore album quilt! “I became quite obsessive about it all (as one does). I remember doing a five-week machine-piecing course with Susan. Each week we made a sample block using a different technique and each week I went home and made a whole quilt using the technique.”
Since those early days, Anne’s interest in making quilts has led her to design and teach and she was commissioned to make the raffle quilt for the Springwood Quilt Show in 2007. “I wanted to create something a little different and designed Hanazono, which incorporated hexagon flowers, embroidery and appliqué using Japanese fabrics. The quilt was popular, the raffle raised lots of money and I sold heaps of patterns for the quilt.”
As a teacher, she enjoys the challenge of meeting the very varied needs of her students. “I always incorporate the teaching of techniques — both hand and machine — in every project that a student is working on, as I feel very strongly that, as a teacher, I have a duty to give my students the skills to become independent and creative in their own right. My mission statement is to give my students the skills to make their own choices work for them — especially fabric by placement, tone and value. I believe that every person is creative if given the right environment, skills and encouragement.”
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