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Profile: Rebecca Hastings

Pops of colour, spectacular piecing and flowing curves give Rebecca Hastings’ creations an intriguing appeal.

Rebecca Hastings has always had an affinity for craft, exposed to varying handcrafts from a young age. “My mother crocheted Afghan blankets, designed tapestries, cross stitch and embroidery, as well as painting with oils and watercolours,” Rebecca explains. “I used to watch her sew on a chunky old Elna and it was inevitable that I would develop a passion for fabric.” Rebecca’s passion for handmade continued to flourish as she began to experiment with her own creative pursuits, trying her hand at making clothes, curtains, cushions, soft toys, Manchester — even chunky knitting. Rebecca purchased a computerised sewing machine with her first work bonus, which saw her passion for sewing bloom.

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Rebecca attended her first quilt show with her mum about 20 years ago and was enticed by the beautiful patchwork designs on display. “I was drawn to the amazing range of novelty print fabrics and patchwork magazines and books,” she explains. It took her a few years to attempt her first quilt, starting with a basic four-inch-square design in a colourwash pattern about 15 years ago. With her demanding life caring for children and elderly parents, Rebecca’s sewing time was limited. When her parents passed away about seven years ago, she suddenly found herself with spare time to start experimenting and developing her quilting style.

Vibrant colours and interesting textures are signature components of Rebecca’s designs. “I tend to use coarse linens, upholstery weight fabrics and shot cottons,” she says. Curved piecing, circles and needleturn appliqué are favourites for Rebecca, with her best designs featuring clamshells and circles. However the self-taught artist loves to mix things up with a variety of shapes and combinations. “I sew like I cook, which is to say I don’t like to follow recipes and prefer to make things up as I go along,” she says. “I rarely make the same quilt twice and have experimented with triangles, hexagons, Orange Peel, Applecore, Pickledish, Flying Geese and New York Beauty blocks”.

While some quilters add their own touch with the quilting, Rebecca prefers using the piecing to make her projects unique. “I am trying to teach myself to enjoy free-motion quilting, but I still love the piecing process the best and consider quilting the finished tops a chore,” she explains. Rebecca’s projects feature both machine and hand piecing. After her husband semi-retired two years ago, they purchased a camper trailer and began doing trips around Australia. “I can only take small, hand-sewn projects on our travels, so I now incorporate decorative stitching, needleturn appliqué and English paper-pieced blocks to keep me sane on the road,” she laughs.

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Life experiences and travels have provided more than just physical influences on Rebecca’s projects, with the world around her providing significant inspiration for her creations. “I enjoy bushwalking and find inspiration from wildlife, nature and experiencing other cultures,” Rebecca explains. She has travelled extensively overseas, including trekking in Nepal, and did an overland trip through Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Iran. “I like Persian and Indian miniature paintings and am currently working on my first medallion quilt using Amy Butler Splendor fabrics,” she says.

Adventures near and far are a big part of Rebecca’s life, however most of her creating still happens at home. “I’m afraid quilting has invaded most rooms of my house,” she says with a smile. “I have a cosy, cluttered sewing room and a house with plenty of floor space that I tend to use as a ‘horizontal’ design wall.” Rebecca has a variety of machines she uses to bring her designs to life, including two domestic machines and a Simply Sixteen mid-arm machine, but it is her 20-year-old Elna sewing machine that has her heart. “It is super temperamental and if it was a car it would have at least 300,000km on the odometer,” she laughs. “I spend a fortune on servicing but it’s like a dear old friend I can’t bear to replace.”

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This sentimentality extends to Rebecca’s projects as she loves sharing her quilting with others. “Quilting gives me a creative outlet and a sense of wellbeing,” she explains. “I also like the joy that people experience when I surprise them with the gift of a quilt.” Rebecca has a few special pieces in her home, either hanging or as bed quilts, and the rest she gives away to family and friends. One of her most memorable was a recent project for a special lady in her life. “In January, my mother-in-law turned 90 and I made her an appliqué quilt,” Rebecca shares. “She absolutely loved it and that made me feel great.”

Rebecca is an active member of the Australian quilting community. She joined the Eastwood Patchwork Quilters (Sydney, NSW) about 15 years ago as an absolute beginner and has been an active member of the QuiltNSW guild since 2013. She enjoys contributing to the community, making new friends and sharing her passion with others. “I enjoy mixing with a large group of like-minded women and have met many talented quilters helping to organise the annual June Quilt Show at Darling Harbour,” Rebecca explains. Joining the Sydney Modern Quilt Guild last year has further widened her circle of friends, while also allowing her to think about the future direction of her work.

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The feeling and precision that goes into Rebecca’s designs has not gone unnoticed, with her quilts winning numerous awards over the years. Her most recent creation, Animalia, won a number of awards at the Eastwood Patchwork Quilters’ quilt show in May, including Viewers’ Choice. It then went on to win the Best Contemporary Quilt (Amateur) award at the 2019 QuiltNSW Show in June. The award-winning design featured Tula Pink and other animal prints and combined needleturn appliqué and decorative hand-stitching.

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