As you may have noticed by now, the common challenge international quilters face in countries where quilting is not a tradition is finding appropriate fabrics and supplies. Most often, they face additional (and high) shipping costs, sometimes paying more for that than the product itself . Astrid, our invited guest today, knows this only too well. But that hasn’t stopped her from indulging in this passion and creating strikingly beautiful quilts! And when you get to live in as lovely a place as she does… I guess that’s the price you pay! 🙂
1.Very quickly, tell us where you are from and how long you have been quilting.
I’m from Norway, but moved to the tropical island Mauritius (East of Madagascar) in 2003. I’m married to a Mauritian.
2. Is quilting part of the tradition of your country? If so, tell us a little about the customs. If not, how is it you became interested and took on quilting?
Quilting is not part of the tradition in Mauritius. I believe it is slowly catching on, because I have heard there is one woman teaching quilting to a very small group of women. I have yet to get in touch with them. Quilting is popular in Norway though.
3. What fabrics do you use? Is it difficult to purchase the cotton fabrics most often used for quilting in your country? Do you buy locally? Are there fabrics you use that would be considered unusual throughout the quilting world?
In spite of Mauritius being a textile country (making and exporting clothes etc), cotton fabrics for quilting is not available. When I started quilting (4-5 years ago) I could get imported quilting cotton from a very small shop in Port Louis (the capital), but that shop isn’t there anymore. There are tons with all other sorts of fabrics: polyester, viscose, silk etc, but not cotton. I have spent a fortune buying cotton fabrics from the US, but I buy backing locally, or I use from my stash, or old bed sheets if they are of good quality. The fabrics I buy here for backing, is mixed cotton.
Compared to quilting cotton, the “cotton” available here is kind of “stiff”, even after washing. I can get flannel, but the variety is limited. Since there are so many other beautiful fabrics here, I’m playing with the idea making a quilt out of silk or any other “Not cotton” fabrics…
4. What do you use for batting? Once again, are you able to find this locally or do you have to order it online?
The only batting available here is polyester, which I have used in most of the quilts I have made. I think the thinnest one is approx. 1-1,5cm thick, but there’s also another one – very thin – I use for tablecloths, wall quilts etc. I haven’t tried upholstery shops though.
I’ve bought cotton batting from the US, but the shipping is far too expensive and often end up more than the batting costs. We have tried to import a bolt (batting) by sea freight from the US, but didn’t succeed.
5. What about other supplies? Threads, stabilizers, fusible web, etc? What are you able to purchase locally and what do you have to obtain from outside your country?
So far I have found what I have needed, but if I need something special, I have to buy it from the US.
6. Do you use “modern” quilting tools, like a mat, rotary cutter and specialty rulers? Have you had to improvise and adapt tools?
I bought one ruler, mat and rotary cutter in Norway before I settled here. That ruler is in cm, and I struggled a lot to translate it into inch patterns – it never became as “perfect” as I wanted it. I have purchased rulers (inch) from the US now, as well as a better rotary cutter. Cutting mats are available here. I’ve seen rotary cutters, but spare blades were not available at that time.
7. Is there a particular technique you prefer over others or that you feel has become your specialty?
I still consider myself as a newbie and I like to try out different blocks/techniques. I bought EQ6 a couple of years ago as well as the update EQ7, but I haven’t had time to sit down to learn it properly. I would like to learn applique, and I have decided to try my hand on hand quilting. And there’s landscape quilting and photo quilts, etc. So much to learn! I love to do bigger projects, but small projects are fun too. I go more for traditional quilt patterns. Art quilts are gorgeous, but they are not “me”.
8. What about other quilters? Is there a group or association that meets in your city/country? Do you plan events together?
As I mention above, there is a small group of women quilting, but since I haven’t met them I don’t know what they are doing. My friend and quilting buddy is from South Africa, we met one year ago (She lives here). She’s the only quilter I know here – so far.
9. What would you say are the biggest challenges or difficulties for a quilter in your country?
To get suitable fabrics and notions.
10. And what are the greatest opportunities?
I’m very happy with what I can get, and I hope quilting becomes more popular in the near future so that we have the possibility to buy what we need locally and don’t have to spend a fortune on shipping.
11. In one short sentence, what is your quilting philosophy?
My quilting philosophy…. Quilt and have fun! Enjoy what you are doing with the possibilities you have. After I started quilting I have learned a lot about colors. I love to mix and match, and in my opinion all colors go together – just take a look in our wonderful nature! There’s no ugly fabrics, all fabrics are beautiful in smaller pieces. I’m amazed by how a quilt changes by using different colors/fabrics.
Listen to your heart – and you will succeed.
12. Is there anything else you would like to share that you feel is central to who you are as an “international” quilter?
Crafts has always been part of my life – a lifestyle. My mother taught me sewing, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, needle point, stitchery and hardanger. I learnt to sew dolls clothes at a very young age, continued one year at technical college; sewing etc. I discovered quilting when I worked at a bookshop in Norway, and one of my colleagues attended a quilting course. I bought some Norwegian quilting books, but it was first some years after I settled here I started quilting. I’m self taught. I have never attended any courses, what I have learned is from books and magazines and later on I-net, as well as trials and errors. I started quilting in 2005.
In addition to being an avid quilter, Astrid also enjoys other crafts. Other passions are gardening, cooking, and hiking around the beautiful island where she lives. Oh, yes… she is also an excellent photographer. So please take some time to visit her at one (or both) of her blogs: