Growing up in the USA, Leslie began her stitching journey at the very young age of eight when her mother taught her embroidery. “At 10 she sent me to a sewing class in the summer to learn how to make clothing. Both embroidery and sewing clothes became an important part of my life, until I discovered quilting. When I look back on it now, I see that mum made us learn to sew so that she didn’t have to make our clothes!” recalls Leslie.
A trip through East Africa as a young lady is what kindled an interest in quilting for Leslie; she had never tried the craft previously. This trip saw her stay in Africa until her funds ran out after nearly five-and-a-half months. The journey really ignited her passion for African history, culture — and fabric — and she is still passionate about those things today.
Her stash expanded radically during another trip through West Africa. “The colours and patterns on the African wax fabric were so luscious I couldn’t resist them, and I came home with over 80 yards of fabric,” she remembers.
This exciting time in Leslie’s life was also when her passion for quilting really began. “My first quilt was all hand-sewn. I didn’t know much about rotary cutting and all of the quick techniques one could use. Shortly after that first class, I took a block-of-the-month class with Julie Wallace at her barn. That hooked me as I learnt how to paper piece, rotary cut, and quick piecing techniques.
Leslie, Glen and their two cheeky cats, Coco and Ruby, live in the Melbourne suburb of Kensington. Leslie is in her studio almost daily. Having her studio in Mansfield, Victoria also allows Leslie to study, practise and teach another of her passions, textile arts, in particular eco-dyeing, which involves transferring the natural colour of plant material onto fabric.
Leslie has become an avid leaf collector and uses leaves to print with and she says that eco-dyeing “is so much fun as I can source from the property”. In addition to eco-dyeing, Leslie also prefers ice dyeing with Procion powders and low- and high-immersion dyeing.
So has being able to dye fabric any colour you want stopped Leslie buying fabric? “Unfortunately no — I still buy heaps of fabric. It’s something of an illness!” she admits. Her favourite colour, mustard, is quite difficult to achieve with eco-dyeing but she is still experimenting. Mustard is used in most of her quilts; “can’t quilt without it!” she says adamantly.
Leslie has also been president of the Patchworkers and Quilters Guild of Victoria for the past two years — “a lovely group of ladies; I enjoy being a part of their community. Since I became active with the committee, we have started an art group which meets once a month to explore different art techniques.”