In the Studio with Cheryl Filby
Moving some 20 years ago into the seaside village of South West Rocks on the mid-north coast of NSW, Cheryl Filby caught the quilting bug. She had previously been engaged in a challenging career as a senior laboratory technician for a pharmaceutical company, developing new drenches and dips for the sheep industry. Quiltmaking has since expanded her interests and proven a very different challenge. WORDS by Michael O’Neile
Having previously concentrated on dressmaking, a chance purchase of a quilting magazine started Cheryl on a quiltmaking journey that has spanned the last two decades. The magazine’s cover quilt had caught her eye and appealed to her sense of a challenge. She read the project’s instructions and decided to “give it a try”. Cheryl remembers that the cover quilt was predominantly of pastel blues and yellows with appliquéd teapots in the centre. Expressing a streak of independence with the confidence to match, she chose to broadly follow the instructions and make her quilt using royal blue and golds with a centred floral appliqué she had designed herself. It was this experience with her first quilt that prompted an ongoing interest in raw-edge blanket-stitch appliqué, something she still enjoys doing today.
Her quilting output since she started with the craft amounts to more than 400 quilts, wall hangings and table runners, many of them having being published in various magazines. The opportunity to have her quilts published allows her to cover her costs such that she can afford to give many away, donating close to 150 quilts to local charities and fundraisers for those in need. Friends and family also benefit from this “quilt hug”. Cheryl says that a favourite expression of her philosophy is that “you can always find comfort in the folds of a quilt”.
Cheryl also believes that quilts are utilitarian: that is, they are meant to be used. For this reason she does not retain many herself. However, there are clearly some that are special to her and are packed away. One of these is a quilt labelled Made to Last, made from a block she designed, which she called Lasting Legacy. She was captivated by the need to see the block when pieced together with others of the same design – and you can see the outcome to the left.
With so many quilts to be made, Cheryl was at one time spending at least eight hours per day sewing. She has slowed her pace in recent times, and while still enjoying the process, also enjoys the opportunity to relax with friends for a morning coffee. Her evenings are still given over to her appliqué projects, which are hand stitched and need to be worked at a relatively slow pace.
Cheryl describes her quilting style as a mix of traditional block designs or blocks she’s designed herself, combined with raw-edge blanket-stitch appliqué. The patchwork varies from the use of a range of reproduction fabrics to brights, and colours chosen as the design dictates. Interestingly, Cheryl has never entered her quilts in a juried quilt show; instead, she finds that her creative style and the publication of her quilts in magazines is a “good fit” for her and a process she enjoys.
The sewing space that Cheryl occupies in her home is not large, but cherished; one which allows her a view of her garden and the bush beyond through the window under which her sewing machine is located. There is a large work bench in the middle of the room, and a much needed air-conditioning unit on the wall. There is a lot of shelving for fabrics, magazines and other relevant miscellanea. Believe it or not, Cheryl has only one book in her collection: Jinny Beyer’s The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns. The book has been an inspiration to Cheryl over the years and one from which she has learnt a great deal. A must have, in Cheryl’s opinion, is her Oliso Pro iron, which raises and lowers on small feet so that she is not constantly lifting and lowering the iron, saving time and arm effort, and perhaps strain.
Cheryl has been inspired by many talented and creative quilters and fabric designers throughout her quilting life and is forever amazed and awestruck by their new creations. She also acknowledges the great support to her, and her quilting venture in particular, provided by her husband Merv, and her family at large. In future years, she hopes there will be the opportunity to continue what she has been doing; to create quilts that “give one joy and satisfaction” that can be shared with others through Quilter’s Companion and our sister magazine, Australian Homespun, and then made available to charitable groups.
Cheryl’s parting advice to those contemplating quilting, is: “If you want to quilt, try! Go to a class and ask questions; don’t be overwhelmed, just enjoy.”