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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Good morning Capetown!

The start of our South African quilting tour! We were met at the airport by Sarah our tour guide, Izak the coach driver and Renee de Beyer from the Cape of Good Hope Quilters Guild. Renee welcomed us with gifts of fabric and quilts. 

Within an hour, we were on top of Table Mountain, admiring the views in all directions. 



Sarah pointed out a dassie sitting on a ledge below, and told us it was related to an elephant. How can that be it looked the size of a rabbit! 

Lunch was in Company’s Park in Capetown and we had time to admire vegetation and birds that we have never seen before. Then it was off on a coastal coach ride through Camps Bay, Clifton and round to the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. You should have seen the real estate. We arrived at the 5* Table Bay Hotel mid afternoon and just look at the view from my bedroom window for the next 4 nights. 

Tonight we have a welcome dinner at The African Cafe. We will be eating a ‘communal feast’ 14 taster dishes before the dessert!


This was a memorable meal. We were also impressed with the interior decoration of the rooms, a few photos will have to do but I struggle to convey how different it is.



During the meal we had our faces painted.

And Renee showed us two quilts from an African challenge. More about this in the next few days.



We only left London 24 hours ago and more than half that time was spent on a plane. We can’t believe how much we have covered on our first day. It has been wonderful! Thank you Arena Travel.

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Quilting on The Harmony

So what was it like living and working on the largest cruise ship in the world? It was amazing!

Several people had mentioned to me, that being on a ship with nearly 7,000 passengers, was not their idea of fun. All I can say is try it, the benefits and facilities far outweigh the numbers. I was impressed!

Royal Caribbean had embarkation well planned with no standing in line and once onboard there was so much ship to explore that it took me 36 hours to realise that I had not seen the third of the ship at the back!

The conference room in which the Stitching Heaven quilting classes were held was 4,000 square feet of space. A Bernina machine for each student and teacher, plenty of irons, water and ice and fresh cookies delivered daily.


I shared a cabin with a lovely teacher, Amy Ellis, and each evening we would go to a different show on board The Harmony. The musical Grease, a beautifully costumed ice show, a fantastic ventriloquist and my favourite the daring outdoor water show, The Fine Line, were just some of the entertainment available.

With over 20 restaurants to choose from, the eating choices were mind blowing, with many healthy eating options. It helped that Jackie Kunkel and I would do a 3 mile walk, most mornings, on the jogging trail deck 5. One morning Deb, the owner of Stitchin Heaven, had all three teachers taking part in a TRX training.

Jackie Kunkel, Amy Ellis and I taught on the three days we were at sea. The students were very appreciative and often could be found in the sewing room working until late at night. Sometimes we would join them, working on our own projects. There was a good deal of camaraderie and laughter. Some were on their 6th cruise this year and others were new to quilt cruising.

There were three ports of call on this Western Caribbean cruise. The first Labadee in Haiti was a beach resort, developed by Royal Caribbean, and looked pristine, the perfect island paradise. Amy and I spent a couple of hours swimming in clear blue waters and then browsed the craft markets.


The next day we docked in Falmouth, Jamaica. I joined an interesting 6 hour tour called, Native Jamaica which took me to the oldest church in Montego Bay, through fruit and vegetable markets, up to Mount Olive where we visited an elementary school and a plantation.  Here I am holding a bunch of very baby bananas.


Our third port of call was Cozumel in Mexico. Here I chose to try Segway touring. It was great fun touring around a residential area with no tourists, visiting a Mayan house and garden and tequila tasting. I finished the visit with the largest Marguerita I have ever drunk in Senor Frogs, a famous bar by the pier.


On our last night aboard ship we just had to try The Abyss, a 10 deck descent through an enclosed tunnel. You start off on a glass platform overhanging the back of the ship on Deck 16, before minutes later shooting out of the tunnel on deck 6. I hope my sons are proud of me!


Thank you Deb and Stitchin Heaven for a great week! And a special thanks to the super students and lovely fellow teachers on this quilting cruise.

I am now in Mount Laurel, outside Philadelphia spending a week with family before I leave for The Paducah Quilt Show on Monday.

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Magical Moments in Madeira

The penultimate day of our Quilting Retreat and we have decided to share some of our more memorable moments.  The group visited the local market in Funchal, in the entrance was a beautiful tile collage in the typical Portugese blue and white colours.  

There were so many varieties of flowers including Birds of Paradise at 50 cents each; shame we couldn’t fit them into our cases.  We sampled different flavours and colours of Passion fruit and custard apples to name but a few.


Funchal has an old area where students, young and old, design and paint the doorways – some of the imaginative ideas were stunning.


Some of the group decided to risk the famous Wicker Basket Monte Toboggan run, 2 kilometres at speeds of 48 KPH. How did we stop or slow down?  The Carreiros wore thick rubber boots that were used as brakes!


The Madeiran Folklore evening was at a restaurant above Funchal, the views on the drive up were spectacular, twinkling lights going all the way up the mountains. We were entertained by a local folk group doing traditional Madeiran dancing and a Fado.


The trip to Rita’s village Gaula, included a walk around Levada Dos Tornos and lots of history about village life before electricity and running water.  After a delicious afternoon tea, Rita’s aunt demonstrated spinning using a simple wooden implement.


The group have worked very hard on exciting projects including Bargello, Exploding Pineapple, Hexi flowers and little bags.  There was some time to enjoy coffee on the terrace and lunch in downtown Funchal.

This blog was written by Hilary Harrison(tour manager) and Karin Hellaby (expert).

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