When I first met Erna in the mid-1990s, she immediately struck a chord with me: I always regaled my students with stories of how I had been all thumbs when I started out as a quilter, and promised them that if I could have turned into a reasonably adept quilter, they all would be able to make the quilts they were dreaming of. And here in front of me, I saw Erna, clearly a younger version of myself. Although her sewing skills at that stage were also limited like mine had been at the ouset, she was passionately interested in every aspect of quilting I was teaching at that stage… and so she courageously worked her way through the beginner’s course, always willing to “un”sew and re-do until she was happy with the end result. Step by step she mastered all those traditional techniques of hand piecing and –applique, machine piecing, English paper-piecing, paper-based piecing and strip piecing. In those years most quilting in South Africa was done by hand, as machine quilting the quilt sandwich in all sorts of wild and wonderful ways, was only starting to take off in the USA.
She soon also caught the fabric bug too. At that stage I kept a quilting fabric on consignment, as there were no quilting fabric shops in our area, and Erna enthusiastically began to feed her growing addiction to “lappies” (the Afrikaans word for small pieces of fabric).
I believe that Erna still to this day has not completed her beginner’s quilt, but she enthusiastically threw herself into other classes and projects that members of our home group were working on. We tackled smaller projects at times and even did a Mystery Quilt together once. The latter was a pattern for a table runner from Ladies Circle Patchwork which I turned into week by week clues. Debbie Mumm’s creations were also a firm favourite in those years, and we could never wait for her new books to be published.
Classes and project mornings would be started with coffee on arrival and followed by teatime later during the session. To that end I used to freshly bake something to eat and perhaps that contributed in a small way to the camaraderie that started to develop between my students and fellow-quilters. This was also an aspect of the quilting scene into which Erna threw herself wholeheartedly, and she was sorely missed when she and her family moved away from the Vaal Triangle, to the beautiful Cape and even beyond.
I was astounded when we caught up on facebook a few years ago and I saw the amazing quilts she is producing these days. But more than anything else I am admiring her machine quilting skills, which is still an area that I am hesitant to explore. This student has truly surpassed her first teacher, and isn’t that wonderful? I treasure the knowledge that someone who learnt the basics from me, has gone on to produce such amazing work.
Therefore, Erna, best of luck with your machine quilting business. Reach for the stars, Girl!