Fish Skins in Glorious Colour

Our first full day in The Faroe Islands.

John, our excellent driver/guide was impressed that we were ready 5 minutes early, ready to leave for our morning tour. As he says, the earlier we are the more he can show us. And there is a lot to see and learn about these unique islands. 

We toured around Torshavn visiting the old buildings with grass as a roof. This is where the first parliament or Tinganes was held over a thousand years ago.


On the other side of the hill, another scenic drive away was Kirkjubou, a small hamlet with lots of history. I loved this door on the wall of the culture centre.


Arena had arranged for us to visit Poulina, a Faroese weaver. We enjoyed looking at her looms, beautiful woven samples and traditional costumes she had woven and sewn. 



We were fascinated with the fish skins the looked and felt like chamois leather. But oh what glorious colours! Of course they had to be purchased and will be used in appliqué, bags and clothes.


Threads in silk, cotton and linens as well as wools in fabulous hand dyed colours were also bought. Some of the silk threads were used in our handstitching workshop this afternoon.

It is 9.45pm and this is the view from my bedroom window. The grass is actually the roof of the bedrooms below and across the water looking like a whale is the ‘disappearing island’. I have given it this name as we sat fascinated during dinner, watching it appear and disappear, changing every few minutes, depending on the cloud formations.

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Ready to go home

Sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for our coach to the airport we can reflect on two wonderful weeks in South Africa thanks to Arena Travel their excellent tour director Karin Hellaby.

Our adventure began in Cape Town where we met our guide Sarah and her driver (who we later found was her husband) Izak. Some of us did suspect an affair!

A chilly trip up Table Mountain, where the views were stunning, followed by exploration of the surrounding area and the Cape lead us to a visit to the wine lands and then to Pniel, near Stellenbosch where we were greated by local quilters who gave us delicious cakes and showed us their quilts.

After a night in Outshoorn we visited an ostrich farm and an aloe factory before two days in Knysna, where the recent fires had devastated huge areas.

Finally Port Elizabeth gave us more of the lovely warm sunny weather we have enjoyed for most of this winter trip and time to look at quilts at the National festival.

The group of 18 ladies and one brave husband has become a group of good friends with Karin providing constant support and help. She also had time to instruct us in two quilting projects which many of us have worked on in our few spare moments. This has certainly added an extra dimension to a top quality holiday staying in 5 star hotels.

Thank you Arena Travel and Karin for looking after us so well.       

Here we are waiting for our airport transfer.


Rachel H

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More from the Quilt Show

Last night, we had a show and tell of purchases from the first day of the show. Of course, you can all guess what happened today. What we had missed yesterday we bought today. There are some wonderful traders here, with South African fabrics, threads and embroideries. These were some of our favourites including – Langalapua, fabrics4africa.




We wanted to support Tambani and bought many of their hand embroideries. Such an amazing worthwhile project, creating jobs for Venda women to help them support their families.


I love bumping into Rosa at the various shows all over the world. She is from Spain and the only trader who had made it over from Europe. Quilters here, avidly watched her apliquick techniques and many of our group just had to have the tools.

The Egyptian tentmakers display, was much admired and you can watch a video of them on my Facebook page.

Several of us attended the lecture on the Keiskamma art project. This is an indicative that helps unemployed rural women earn money by learning embroidery and other craft skills.


And there was time to relax in the sun. Note the shopping bags, I hope they can get all their purchases into their suitcases!


Tonight is our farewell dinner and we have invited Renee de Beyer to join us as she has done much to make this tour such a success. Thank you Renee, it is thanks to you that we have met so many South African quilters.

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First day at the South African Quilt show

We have been warmly welcomed at this show in Port Elizabeth, having become celebrities as we travelled from Cape Town. From my previous blogs of this tour you have been able to read about the local quilting groups and their wonderful hospitality.


One of our group is learning from Jenny Bowker and several others have booked in for lunchtime lectures. Jenny once stayed with me in the UK and it was lovely to see her again.


What I love about attending quilt shows all over the world is the differences! This show is no exception. Despite having considerable fabric stashes at home we still found plenty that we needed or was it wanted? I purchased from Amafu and Pam Stallebras, hand dyes and painted fabrics.

I am able to post general photos of the wonderful quilts as individually they are not to be uploaded to the internet.


Finally, I must mention the beautiful rosettes given to each prize winning quilt. These were made by Angie Franke, as was the aloe flower display.


The fabrics were donated by Da Gama produced by Kowie. Many of us have purchased several of the shweshwe fabrics during this tour, including me. Today, I saw a quilt I would like to make with them.

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Swellendam and Oudtshoorn

Our days have been so full and interesting that I have had no time to write a blog. Today is Friday and last Wednesday was a long and fascinating day. We left Stellenbosch to drive to Swellendam to visit the Drostdy ( magistrate) museum. A local quilter, Dione gave a funny presentation of her quilts, some of which I videoed and uploaded to Facebook.


We spent sometime looking at the rooms which featured 18th and 19th Cape furniture. The local guild had draped quilts in many of the rooms especially for us.



A short walk away was the conservation room, full of old embroidered and quilted clothing as well as some quilts.

We then drove on to Outshoorn, crossing a dramatic mountain pass into the Klein Karoo which reminded me of Arizona. On the way we saw groups of zebra, a giraffe, many different types of antelope, the cape blue cranes, hundreds of ostrich and much more.
The Queens hotel where we were for the night is so named because our Royal family stayed here in 1947. Wilma from the local Outeniqua quilters guild (name of mountain behind the town of George) gave us a very warm welcome and we spent the early evening with her group as they did a Show and Tell. We were served delicious canapés, including ostrich carpaccio with a local sparkling pink wine.







Thank you Wilma and friends!

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On to Stellenbosch

After four fabulous days in Cape Town, we drove to Stellenbosch via Pniel, which is a small town a little further into the mountains. Here, we were hosted by the Boland Kwilters. They had set up a lovely exhibition of their work and a table full of food, typical of the area. We met up with coloured (this is the correct term) and Africaans quilters who had started to meet in 2012. This was reflected in their sampler and colour wash quilts on display.


They spoke to us about how many of them were descended from slaves and others had an Indian ancestry.

One of their teacher, Els, was using my book Sew a Row Quilts, which she had bought in for me to sign. She proudly showed me one of her row quilts.

We were impressed with Els’s fabric book of techniques.


The Boland Kwilters meet in the church hall and alongside is the Pniel Congregational church which has Simon’s mountain in place of a church tower. We stood in awe looking at this magnificent mountain.

After lining our stomach with the delicious food we drove a few minutes down the road to the Boschendal Winery. A wine tasting had been arranged for us.

We all managed to get back onto the coach without incident! Tonight we are staying in the centre of Stellenbosch in the attractive Oude Werf Hotel. At 5pm we have two local quilters coming over to do a ‘Show and Tell’. Photos will be posted to Facebook.

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Standing at the bottom of the world!

After a short night we went down for the most amazing breakfast buffet – sushi, oysters, scones and clotted cream, every fruit you can think of, scotch eggs, etc. They start early in South Africa, so at 8am we were on our way to the Cape of Good Hope.


Who needs a safari? On our picturesque journey we stopped for baboons blocking the road, a family of wild ostriches, whales spouting in the distance, eland, amazing birds such as ibis, flamingoes, guinea fowl and cape sugar birds.


A funicular railway took us up Cape Point with wonderful views. 


Then on to Simonstown, which has one of only three land based African penguin colonies. Seeing penguins in the wild has always been on my ‘bucket’ list. A bonus was the Saturday street market, full of crafts and black children singing and dancing.

The gardeners amongst us loved the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens and we enjoyed a guided walk, before heading to a quilters home. 


We were privileged to be invited into Margie Garratt’s home, a listed building full of artefacts that she had collected from all over the world. As this was a private home no photos were taken inside.


Members of FACT (Fibre Artists Cape Town) provided us with traditional afternoon fare, sherry and tea before a show and tell which incorporated traditional quilts and quilt art. An interesting occurring theme was the depiction of fire in nature. I have place an album of many of the quilts that we were shown on my Facebook page.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

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