In the studio with Deirdre Bond-Abel
In the studio with Deirdre Bond-Abel
By Erica Spinks
Since settling in her farm-based studio, Deidre Bond-Abel’s creativity has expanded. We visit her at Hat Creek Quilts in Tasmania to explore how a long-held dream has become real
A copy of the American Country Living magazine set Deidre on a creative path that enhanced her life. “That was a momentous day in my life; the magazine was full of houses that had quilts everywhere,” she recalls. “Something happened in my heart and I knew I had to learn how to make a quilt.”
That was about 1982, when patchwork and quilting were becoming better-known in Australia. Deidre enrolled in a traditional sampler course at a local patchwork shop and loved it immediately. A few other classes followed and soon she was engrossed with this new craft.
While browsing in the patchwork shop one day, Deidre saw Country Threads, a book by Mary Tendall and Connie Tesene. “That book was full of quilts that combined appliqué with pieced blocks,” she says. “I fell in love — that book changed my life, seriously. Their appliqué was naive and folky and I loved it, as well as the colours they used. I made several of the quilts from that book and still love them.”
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When she learned that Mary’s farm was the location for the authors’ Country Threads business, a seed was planted in Deidre’s imagination. “I thought it was a fabulous idea to have quilts and animals as the focus of a business,” she says. Fast forward to 2015, and Deidre made her dream come true on her family’s farm, Hat Creek.
“I have a large, sunny sewing room that has windows on two sides and overlooks our paddocks where our sheep graze,” Deidre says. “For 18 years this room was all mine, but two years ago I decided to run a business from home so now I share that room and the one next to it with friends and customers. As I have a huge amount of fabric to pick from, I don’t really have a personal stash. I just cut off the bolt what I want, when I need it.” Many quilters would envy such convenience!
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Deidre’s fabric bolts are stored on shelves, in old meat safes and cupboards, in babies’ cots and old suitcases. “It all looks lovely and cosy and I enjoy my beautiful displays every day.”
The appeal of traditional pieced blocks is obvious in Deidre’s quilts and she loves to combine these with appliqué. She previously used cotton fabrics for appliqué but changed after she discovered woven wool fabric. “I did a workshop with Sally Korte and Alice Strebel from Kindred Spirits and they introduced me to the wonders of working with woven wool,” she says. “I fell in love again, quick and hard. I loved the look and feel of the wool, the texture and the fact that it is so dead easy to achieve quite intricate designs with it.” This love led Deirdre to assist Marcus Fabrics with colour selection for their Woven Wool collection and she has also worked in the past with them on two cotton lines.
Although Deidre’s style is different to that of Kindred Spirits, she credits this introduction to woven wool fabric as providing freedom for her designs. “When you look at my designs, you see that I have a ‘thing’ for symmetry,” she explains. “I love to see the patterns that can be achieved by repeating a design or turning it into a mirror image. I see appliqué designs in ironwork on old buildings, ceramic tiles, old wallpapers, the art on the spines of old books — many places, really. I love botanical art as well as Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.”
Antique quilts are another inspiration and Deidre adds to her small collection of these treasures when she sees a quilt that “speaks” to her. “For the last eight years I have been travelling to the USA to attend Quilt Market and teach at various shops around the country. I am always on the lookout for antique quilts to buy when I am there.
They have an abundance of quilting history and the variety of antique quilts that they have for sale is staggering,” she says. “It is hard to decide which ones to buy but I work on the ‘if it makes me cry, I buy’ philosophy.
For me, it is the historical nature of quilting that appeals. We may use different tools and techniques nowadays but I still feel connected to the quilters of the past. That is why I love to own antique quilts. I also love to look at the prints used in the quilts. You can tell so much about the maker from the fabric used.”
It’s this fascination that led Deidre to her latest venture: designing a collection of reproduction fabrics for Leutenegger. After examining the prints used in her antique quilt collection, Deidre and Leutenegger decided to use some of these prints as the basis for their range of reproduction fabrics. “Deciding which way to go with our first collection took some thought,” says Deidre. “Do you take prints from just one quilt and then reproduce the quilt, or do you take prints from several quilts? We decided to use one quilt that had a great variety of prints in it for our first collection. I will be designing quilts to help promote the line as well as remaking the original antique quilt.” This fabric collection, called Cumberland County, will be released in May, 2017.
“To say I am wildly happy is an understatement,” enthuses Deidre. “Reproduction fabric is a very big part of the quilting world and, until now, all the fabrics we use have been sourced from overseas. Leutenegger is an old Australian company, established in 1891, and it is moving into a new field by manufacturing our own reproductions, as well as other fabrics. I am thrilled to be part of that.” Several more collections are also in the planning stages and will be released over the next three years.
But it is Deidre’s family home at Hat Creek farm where her heart is. Set on 60 acres near Campania, 40 minutes from Hobart, the farm is the base for Hat Farm Quilts, her online and shopfront business. Not only is part of her home organised with fabrics, quilts and other goods for purchase, but Deidre also invites groups to visit for sewing days. “I love to share my home and my quilting knowledge with people and help them on their quilting journey. To be able to do that without leaving my front gate is pretty special,” she says. “I think people who come here to sew and/or shop enjoy seeing quilts in a real home setting; there is such warmth connected to it that way. We can chat and laugh and have cups of tea and coffee and yummy food — what more could you want?”
Deidre also conducts workshops in nearby Campania. “I am very lucky to live in Tasmania — it is a beautiful place. I would love to have more quilters from interstate come and visit me here at Hat Creek Quilts. It is pretty amazing to look back and remember how the Country Threads book that I bought so long ago had a shop on their farm and now I have a shop on my farm. Life is certainly a cycle.”
Deidre acknowledges she has been fortunate in her quilting life. “I have travelled and made many friends,” she says. “It is wonderful to share my passion with other like-minded people. Now I get to still do that and stay home a lot more and enjoy my beautiful surroundings. I just want to continue to do that and help get others to become as passionate about quilting as I am.”
However, Deidre is not content with staying still and will publish a new book of quilt patterns in April. “The quilts all feature woven wool appliqué. I use my studio space as well as my lounge room to stitch. At night I like to set myself up at the end of the dining table to draw my appliqué so that I can still chat with my husband while we watch TV — well I listen, I don’t watch much,” she says. “I love to stitch my appliqué by hand; the rhythm of the action is as good for me as meditation.”
For other stages of her designing and stitching, Deidre is pleased to use her studio. “I have everything I need: my trusty Bernina 1130, my light box, my rulers, my CD player and stacks of CDs,” she continues. “The only other thing that I need is more time — 48-hour days would help!”
Deidre may be contacted through her website www.hatcreekquilts.com.au