Quilt Symposium 2022 Will Be Sew Huge

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COVID-permitting, New Zealand’s next quilting symposium is destined to be one of the world’s biggest quilting events of recent times. Scheduled to be held in Lower Hutt, Wellington between October 4 and 9, 2022, Quilt Symposium 2022: A Quilting Fiesta is already drawing strong interest from within the local quilting community and further afield. If all goes as planned, owners of quilting machines from all over the globe will assemble and compare their work, and discuss a topic very close to their hearts.

The pre-registration website for the event went live at 9 am on Saturday, November 7, and within just 10 minutes there had been a staggering 238 registrations. By the end of the day,  registrations had reached 725 and it is expected that around 1500 attendees from all over New Zealand as well as from Australia and the United States of America, will descend on central Lower Hutt for a series of classes with international quilting tutors, lectures, exhibitions and special events.

Quilting is a huge business worldwide. Billions of dollars are spent on quilting machines, fabrics and accessories, as well as hundreds of hours in the creation of each piece. It’s not an activity for the faint-hearted given the amount of money and time involved, and this passion is reflected in the enthusiasm already being displayed for Quilt Symposium 2022. Of course, in the COVID era, there may be a (patchwork) cloud hanging over the event but if it all goes ahead, then New Zealand seems like the perfect venue.

Quilting symposiums and exhibitions are common in New Zealand and are some of the most popular events within the local craft community. But quilting in New Zealand has come a long way, literally and figuratively. 19th-century British settlers brought quilting to New Zealand along with a range of other textile crafts including sewing, spinning, knitting, weaving, embroidery, lacemaking, crochet and tatting.

Traditionally, quilting was done for practical reasons although there was always a strong decorative element in the work as well. Patchwork quilts for beds were a good way to use up fabric scraps left over from sewing and making garments, and during World War 2 when fabric was in short supply, cotton sugar bags were cut up and used to create bed coverings.

In a more prosperous and abundant post-war society, a quilt was considered to be far more than a warm bed covering. Instead, it became an artwork which was created to liven up a dull room, and then passed on as a family heirloom. The changing status from practical item to a more decorative one is reflected in the fact that many quilts are now held in museum collections all around the country. For example, The Auckland Museum has a collection of around 50 quilts, ranging from traditional European and American bed quilts to Pacific Tivaevae. Tivaevae has evolved from techniques passed on by missionaries in the 19th century, with bright and bold Cook Islands Tivaevae being very well known in New Zealand after migrants brought the craft to the country in the 1950s.

After all these years, New Zealanders still love making quilts, as this specialist in quilting machines will confirm. If COVID allows, all the international visitors coming to Quilt Symposium 2022: A Quilting Fiesta will feel right at home in a place where their preferred craft is as popular as ever.