STACK and wack. Basting. Binding. Sashing. Square up. Stitch in the ditch. Applique. Cross hatch. Four-patch block. And yes, a UFO.
These words reflect prolific quilter Zahlia Wilcox’s (74) threading passion for quilting. She stitches her way to unique bed coverings that keep her warm in more ways than one. All thanks to a book about patchwork some 40 years ago.
A hobby just for grandmas? Think again.
The vibrant Wilcox is a far cry from the stereotyped image of a little grandma sitting in a rocking chair sewing pieces of fabric together.
“I am not old. I have been 28 years for many years and still have a lot of life left in me and countless years to live life to the fullest.”
Where it all started
With a lifelong artistic impulse fuelling her creative endeavours, Wilcox became excited about diving into the art of quilting after discovering a book about patchwork some four decades ago.
Trying her hand at patchwork for five years, Wilcox joined a quilting workshop presented by a professional quilter from Canada.
After her first attempt, she was hooked. Quite to her surprise, although she grew up with needles and threads, she was never able to master the art of sewing herself.
“My mother, a perfectionist and wonderful seamstress who made everything herself, would be thrilled to see me doing this,” says Wilcox.
Her house is a showroom of sorts, with completed quilts in a variety of sizes and colours and pillows accenting her seating. And of course, her bed is dressed in one of her quilts she made 30 years ago. So are the other two beds in her house.
However, there is one room that stands out - her sanctuary, her happy place.
Filled with endless pieces of fabric - some already cut out in different shapes, others waiting to form part of an artwork - this room is dedicated to her passion. A sewing desk takes up an entire wall.
She gently traces with her fingertip the pattern of a piece of work in progress, “I get all excited when I touch the material.”
Her eyes sparkle when the conversation shifts to the significance of quilting.
“While there are some similarities and a few old-fashioned techniques still in play, quilting has become much more sophistica-ted with the use of a computer, gillions of patterns and fabrics.
“I usually work on more than one project at a time. A typical quilt from start to finish can take anything between two weeks and se-ven months to complete. The most tedious part is cutting shapes and sizes and sewing them together. The fun part begins when you do all the decorative stuff. Each square has a story.
“Although it is tedious work, each stitch is made with love. A quilt is love. It is a way of passing down love.
“Usually by the time I have almost finished with a quilt, I am already thinking about the next one.
“Each quilt project is different and the cost depends on the size of the project, as well as what a person wants on a quilt. The quilts I make are meant to be used and it not only for show.”
She says completing a quilt still leaves her feeling elated after all these years.
Spreading the love
Spreading her love for quilting, Wilcox started a social group at her house that meets every Monday. The only prerequisite is that those attending must crochet, quilting or do needle work.
“As a craft, quilting, and needlework for that matter, bring people together. Not just in the physical sense, but in an emotional and spiritual way that can’t be measured or quantified,” she says.
From passion to charity
Quilts she has completed - all for charity - include the Pony Express, the Disappearing Nine Patch, the Letter from my Beloved, and Jacobs Ladder.
Wilcox laughs. “And then there are the UFO’s - the dreaded unfinished objects.”
Her latest creation was raffled off in aid of the local SPCA and some R5 000 were raised.
“All thanks to the hard work of the personnel at Bohemian Scrapsody at Equinox Mall,” says Wilcox. Connie du Preez, Zelda Koegellenberg and owner Annette van der Westhuizen did a sterling job in selling the bulk of the raffle tickets. Without their help, we would not have been able to raise much-needed funds.”
Most of her quilts are in aid of charity: Choc, Hospice, SPCA, and churches.
Her latest creation, called the Disappearing Nine Patch, will be raffled off at the annual Jeffreysrus bazaar on the first Saturday in October.
Wilcox only takes R500 from the money raised to help her pay for the material for her next quilt. She does not charge for the labour and love that goes into each quilt.
“Quilting is both a passion and addiction, but I would not have it any other way,” says Wilcox who is leaving a legacy one stitch at a time.
To share in her passion, contact Wilcox at 083 285 7492.