ID Number: TQ.2015.36
Name of interviewee: Marica Marais
Name of interviewer: Jan Clifton
Name of transcriber: Jan Clifton
Location: Local café?
Address: Crayford, Kent
Date: 4 August 2015
Length of interview: 0:20:43
Marica made her first quilt, a farm theme cot quilt, for her nephew who was born in South Africa. She designed the quilt herself, and was helped to make it by a friend and her husband. Marais joined a local sewing group to make friends, keep busy and learn a new skill, she talks about what she has learnt and her future plans in quiltmaking.
Jan Clifton [JC]: [Interview introductions] First of all thank you for allowing me to interview you today. Why did you make this quilt?
Marica Marais [MM]: I made it for the birth of my nephew, it’s my husband’s brother’s son and I made it as a gift. We were in England and they were still in South Africa. And it was our gift to this first grandchild in the family.
JC: Can you describe it, its size, colours?
MM: It’s 34 inches by 37 inch quilt. It’s got a white theme with a white background and it’s made up of squares. So you have squares made of cow hide theme material, then you have white and orange striped blocks, you have green blocks with white dots on them. There are some blank white squares that are for the grandparents and parents to write a little message on. There are blocks with farm animals. And there are blocks with farm pictures, farm implements and such.
JC: What are the colours predominately?
MM: Black and white, green and orange. Yep.
JC: And what animals have you put on there?
MM: I’ve got pig, a chicken, a cow, a duck, a horse and a sheep.
JC: And what other things have you got on there, some farm implements on there?
MM: So I’ve got a windmill, which was actually the first thing I thought of to do, I’ve got some wheat, a white picket fence, a shed, a fork with some hay and a tractor.
JC: And how did you transfer those designs onto your quilt?
MM: I first cut out the white squares and then I drew the designs with a pencil onto the squares so I did a pencil and then I did the animals in a fabric pen that is not supposed to wash out. It’s a black fabric pen and some details in green and orange on some of the pictures. And then the ones that a friend of mine, did the embroidery for me. So I drew the pictures with pencil and she then embroidered the outline of the pictures in black and did some fill-in embroidery in green and orange. A little bit of yellow.
JC: And what influenced the design and colours of your quilt?
MM: I knew that the mum, the mummy-to-be at that stage, wanted some minty green in her room, or the baby’s room, and so we were aiming for minty green, but even before I started doing, thinking of doing this quilt, I saw the material in the shop, which was the cow hide material which caught my eye and it was a nice cotton, white and black, black and white, and I decided from that to make the quilt and then we found some minty green to go with that and decided to liven it up with some orange as well.
JC: How did you design it, did you plan it ahead?
MM: There was quite a lot of planning that went into it. I think I got the idea and started playing around with it in my mind and I sat on the train one day and I started drawing the pictures for the squares with the animals and that became, sort of the base that I worked from and then eventually I drew out the number of blocks and from that I decided how big the quilt could be and most of it happened, I think about 80% of the planning was done beforehand and then as we went along I adapted it. My husband also actually helped a little bit.
JC: When you drew the pictures, did you just draw them freehand or did you have reference books to look at, copy them?
MM: Most of it was drawn freehand. I had a bit of trouble with chicken so I went onto google for some inspiration for that.
JC: What kind of stitching did you do, hand stitching, machine stitching?
MM: It’s mainly machine stitching. I also did the quilting with the machine and I used a walking foot for that on the machine. Some hand stitching at the back to pull it all together.
JC: How long did it take you to design it?
MM: I think the actual designing of it took about a week from starting to draw the little pictures to actually having a picture of what it might look like. The order of where the blocks went changed over time. I didn’t actually say how many blocks there are. There are six blocks by six blocks… [JC: So 36 blocks?] So its 36 blocks in total [JC coughs] and eventually I wanted it to be random, kind of green and orange and white and then I realised I didn’t like it if it’s too random, I wanted it to be a bit more in a bit of a pattern. So in the end I had one white square and one coloured square, then one white square and one coloured square. So there is a row, a vertical row with… a column, a vertical column with the cow hide square and that has the animals with it and then a column with the stripey orange and white squares and that has the farm implements in between, and the green square with the spots they have the blank squares for the writing of the grannies and the parents.
JC: And have they written on them yet?
MM: No, unfortunately they haven’t had the time yet, we borrowed this, the quilt to have a talk about it before they had a chance. But they will do so. I hope they do before his first birthday at least, cos they haven’t had time to get round to it.
JC: Where did you get your fabric from?
MM: I bought it in Goldhawk Road, in the Shepherds Bush area and it was on the advice from the lady who leads the sewing group, in the local area, which is you [laughing]. So I didn’t know where in London to buy any fabric. I have looked at Hobbycraft and bigger shops like that but I wasn’t able to find the big range that I was looking for. Then she told me about it and it was wonderful so this friend who helped me with embroidery, Anelda, she went with me and we browsed and while we were browsing we saw this fabric that was the inspiration.
JC: You didn’t have a clear idea of what you wanted until you browsed?
MM: Yes, I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do. I didn’t actually… I knew I might want to make a quilt, but I didn’t know for whom and I didn’t know what it was going to look like at all.
JC: Until you saw the fabric and it went from there? [MM: Yes] So it was like a build-up process? [MM: Yes] What’s influenced you to make a quilt, to sew, did your mother, grandparents, aunties sew?
MM: My, both my Grans did some sewing, but more my Mother’s Mother. And my Mum’s sisters, do all… my Mum and her sisters all do some sewing to some extent. Mostly they made things for the home, like curtains and things like that, they do some dressmaking on occasion. And my Father’s sister, my aunt on his side, she does a lot of quilt work and a lot of, she was married to a farmer so she lived out on the farm and she did hand work, needlework, sewing, crocheting, lots of things.
JC: What was your experience of sewing, did you sew as child, did you learn at school?
MM: I did not learn at school. I think when I was in high school in South Africa they replaced our curriculum for sewing with hotel catering type of subject so I don’t think you were able to do any more although I don’t think I would have chosen to do it. So I didn’t really have much of an interest in it apart from some knitting that I did when I watched Wimbledon. So I mainly did one small two day course with a lady at the Bernina shop in South Africa and I made a little bag for tissues which I don’t think I actually made myself. I think she made it and just made me feel like I made it and apart from that I haven’t done a lot of sewing at all. None actually, And I only got my sewing machine six months or so before I started making the quilt.
JC: How old were you when you had that lesson?
MM: Think about 14 years, 13 or 14 years.
JC: I know you come from South Africa. Is quiltmaking a tradition in South Africa?
MM: Not so much. I think there are people who make quilts but they are few and far between and I don’t think they come together as they do in England with the Guilds and the groups that are going on. And as I said I didn’t have a lot of interest in it so I might just not have know about this. As far as I know it is not a quiltmaking kind of culture
JC: What made you go to the sewing group?
MM: At the time, I wasn’t working, so I was wanting something to learn, like a new skills, and also looking for some company, to meet some new people, get out of the house a bit. At that stage we had been in England for just over a year I think, so it was really my first social club that I joined.
JC: How long did it take you to make the quilt?
MM: It took about, I think about around 4 months. We worked sometimes during the day, sometimes my husband helped me in the evenings. So on and off for about four months. I think we started in the summer and ended around November 2015 [background noise, talking pauses until it ended].
JC: Did you go on to make other quilts?
MM: I did, I made a smaller quilt for a friend’s baby who was born around the same time with the material, fabric which was left over from the quilt, first quilt. I changed the design quite a bit. It was now a black background instead of a white one and it had the little baby girl’s name on it and it also… it had, it didn’t have pictures of animals or anything, it just had the words of ‘Old MacDonald had a Farm’ on the different blocks in between.
JC: How did you put that writing on the blocks?
MM: I wrote it with a fabric marker once again. So I wrote it in a black and I designed it on paper first, and then I did in pencil again and I then went over it with the marker.
JC: And that’s a permanent marker?
JC: Are you going on to make some more quilts?
MM: I think so, yes. I am planning a baby quilt in my head and I am thinking of maybe eventually making a quilt for us for our room when we are back in South Africa. So I have seen so many beautiful things that people do at quilting shows, and things like that, it’s quite inspirational and you can really make something you can truly love.
JC: Will you design it yourself?
MM: Yes, I do enjoy designing it myself. So I will probably do the design myself. Probably try something a little bit more complicated than blocks and squares, or rectangles and squares. And I probably would start with the fabric again, I think if I have to think about how I would do it, I probably would go in search of nice fabric and from that [JC: Do the design?] do the design. Yes.
JC: You obviously enjoy the designing of the quilt, would you say that is the most enjoyable part for you?
MM: Yes, I think I do enjoy the designing bit. I really had fun drawing the pictures and seeing it all come together and I think that’s for me very much the creative part of the quilting process. I like that especially because I am not very skilled at the rest of it. I think that was the most comfortable part for me but it was also nice to learn the new skills and see it coming together with the hand work in the end.
JC: What did you find difficult?
MM: Definitely the hand sewing and that came in when I did the binding of the quilt, so finishing off the quilt and putting it together. It’s one thing to see how someone else does it but once you have to fit it all together, it’s a bit more challenging than it seems, so I think that would be the most difficult for me.
JC: You have learned a lot of skills by making that quilt?
MM: Definitely, like I said before, I didn’t really have any sewing background, so I learnt about my machine, I learned about using a walking foot, I learned some hand sewing techniques to put it together. Yes and the design and planning and ironing, I didn’t actually know how to iron. Something that you are working on. I also learned about fabric shopping, types of fabric and things like that. I really feel I have learned quite a lot.
JC: What make of machine have you got?
MM: A Brother. I don’t know the number of it. I think it’s the Brother LS14 which I think I bought for, my husband bought it for me for £69 at the Hobbycraft across the road.
JC: Why did you choose that one? Did you have experience of sewing machines, did you know what you wanted?
MM: I knew my Mum had a Bernina in South Africa, I don’t know if that’s a make you have over here. So she had a Bernina but it’s a cheaper version, I think it’s a Nina or not a Bernina, I’m not quite sure what she had and she had a Singer before which gave her problems, so she wasn’t interested in this Singer so when I started asking her for advice and I saw what was on the market I eventually decided to go for the Brother. There was actually one other reason why we chose the Brother, there was an Olympic’s edition which had the British flag on it, on that same model but I wasn’t able to find one as it was out of stock, so we saw it online but there wasn’t any left. So that kind of pushed me in the direction of the Brother and I started reading up about it. I decided to go for that
JC: Do you do other crafts?
MM: I haven’t really sewn much, other things, but I do a little bit of knitting and at the moment I’m actually making a crocket granny square blanket, so yes I do a bit of that.
JC: When you gave the quilt to the person, how was it received?
MM: Well, I wasn’t actually there in person when it was handed over. Because my husband was the designated go-er to South Africa to be there for the birth, because it was his brother’s baby who was born. So I just received some lovely photos of him smiling and they gave me lots of thank you’s and they were very pleased with it.
JC: How did that make you feel?
MM: I felt quit proud of it. And also, because I did the sewing, but my husband also did some of the sewing, especially when we put the binding together sometimes I was be too scared to start it off and he would start it off and my friend also helped. So it felt like a team effort almost. And it all came together, it was very nice. A nice good feeling.
JC: Thank you. Is there anything else you want to tell me about your quilt that I haven’t brought up?
MM: Not really. I think really it was, for me, a very informative experience. I really felt like it was enriching for me and I started off really not knowing anything, not being able to do anything and in the end I gave a very nice product to someone that I love. So I think that it was a very good process for me, for myself as a person and I really think it was very therapeutic and also a very social thing. Like I said it was at a point when I felt a little bit isolated in a new country and it was a way of meeting people.
JC: And does the new Mum sew?
MM: Not at all. She is a business woman
JC: So she really appreciated it?
MM: I think so
JC: Is there anything else you want to add?
JC: Thank you very much Marica. That is the end of the interview.