Helen Draper’s
Quilting Journey

This is the second of our in-depth conversations with the girls you might meet at Berry Quilt and Co. Today my conversation is with resident teacher Helen Draper. Helen teaches with us twice a month (in non covid times) teaching StashCPR, a machine sewing class all about breathing new life into your stale or forgotten stash and ‘ByHand’ a hand piecing and hand quilting class. Helen is a popular and relaxed teacher, her love of stitching and teaching skills is clearly evident when you see her in action in the classroom. 

Each of these articles are tagged in our blog as: Meet the Team. Over time, using this tag will pull up all the posts with our staff and teacher’s stories. Yes there are pics! Scroll on down to the bottom of the article for the image gallery. 

Helen’s Quilting Journey

For as long as Helen can remember she has loved to sew by hand. Two of her fondest memories are stitching a rainbow of colourful threads onto huckaback in the 1st grade and embroidering a tray cloth. The joy she felt then is still with her today. At the age of seven, Helen knew she never wanted to stop sewing. Luckily for Helen, she found patchwork which gives her the opportunity of stitching every day.

Helen thanks her grandmothers for her love of hand sewing. Her paternal grandmother patiently taught her all the needle crafts and how to sew wearing a thimble. The joy of sitting with her grandmother as they both stitched is strong and this feeling continues today in Helen’s classes. One of her greatest pleasures is sitting with her students to show them the skills they need and to encourage them to find their own creativity — the same way her grandmother showed her. Helen truly believes finding the time to sit and sew, whether we’re on our own or in a group is good for the soul.

Many of us have stories to tell about the influence of their grandmothers on their quilting and sewing journeys. But not everyone’s grandmother made quilts that were destined to be featured in a major survey exhibition held in a state art galley! Helen’s maternal grandmother Elizabeth Mary Evans is such a woman. Two of her stunning scrap quilts from the mid 1940s were hung in Annette Gero’s “Making The Australian Quilt: 1800 – 1950” which hung at the National Gallery of Victoria July-November 2016. (Read more about Helen’s grandmother on Helen’s Patchwork Bliss Blog. Read one of the press-releases about the exhibition at the NGV site.)  So you might say Helen has quite a quilting pedigree. Yes although Helen muses that it wasn’t the quilts in the family or her paternal grandmother patiently teaching her to sew that made her a quilter. It was the fact that she fell in love with the action of sewing. She says “It’s not about the quilts, it’s all about the stitching!”

Sewing was an everyday activity for Helen with a young family during the 70s and 80s but it was not until the early 90s that she made her first quilt. This first quilt was a traditionally hand quilted sampler completed in a class with Roslyn Taylor in Sutherland. The sampler was exhibited and won first prize in the beginner category at the Sydney Quilt Show. Helen says that looking back, her blocks were dull but the hand quilting was magnificent! I can not imagine her blocks being dull, because Helen can use pink orange and lime green like no-one else I’ve ever seen but I can imagine her stitching being prize winning! Helen has now made more quilts than she can count and her original designs are often featured in Quilters Companion magazine and are sought after by quilters. Helen sells her original patterns under the name Patchwork Bliss at Berry Quilt & Co and through her own website. 

In Helens words: “Both of my grandmothers live on in this wonderful legacy. My love of sewing is a tribute to both of them. I am living a life that they both would have loved. Being able to sew every day and showing other women how to sew is a pure joy. The threads that stitch my grandmothers’ lives to mine are a blessing. Everyday I give thanks to both of these beautiful women.”

Don’t forget that we’d love to hear your story too! Your first sewing project, a memory of someone who inspired you,  a hilarious fail or mistake, your first sewing machine or early lessons. These are often experiences that draw us together and are sometimes the reasons why we keep doing what we’re doing. Maybe it’s the memories we have of our lives and the happy memories we hope to create for others that in part drive us to make quilts! So send in your stories and memories. We’d love to hear about how you  got started and how you’ve got where you are on your sewing journey. You can email us through our contact page.

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Helen’s grandmothers’ legacy lives on in her quilt designing career. 

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