The members of the Strathdale (Bendigo) Quilters initially came together because of their passion for creativity but from there have developed solid friendships and nurtured a desire to give back to the community.

By Sue Turpie

It would be fitting to insert a pun in here about their crafty-covered car stopping traffic. It certainly does. But to reduce the effort of the Strathdale (Bendigo) Quilters to just that doesn’t do their work justice.
Underneath the colourful fabric is a 1950 Morris Minor called Patsy. Named after its owner. The car is used as a way of creating public interest in the group’s upcoming biennial exhibition, and it’s easy to see why it’s successful. Just looking at the car you can’t help but smile and want to know more about it and what the group is about.
Standing by the car chatting with Bendigo Magazine are Strathdale (Bendigo) Quilters members Pat Clarkson, Marily Lynch, Suzanne Bell, Chris Bourke, Ruth Turner, and Jane Leahy; also members of the exhibition committee.
Chris explains that the group introduced the car as a different way of promoting the quilt, as suggested by one of the newer members.
“We’d seen similar things on the internet, of cars covered in patchworks and then Pat offered her vehicle,” Jane says.
“Well, it was reasonably small and only had two doors to worry about,” Pat jokes.
It’s car coat of many colours was made up of orphan blocks donated by members; essentially random bits and pieces left over from other projects.
One member laughs and says she misheard at first, thinking that they were being asked to donate “awful blocks”.  But there’s nothing awful at all about the quilt-covered car. It’s retro, quirky and certainly eye-catching.
“We’ve had a few people ask whether it was for sale,” Chris says. “Or if it was a raffle prize. Down at Lake Weeroona we could have made a fortune on Australia Day if we charged everyone a dollar who took a photo. It’s certainly created a lot of interest.”
“And everyone smiles who sees it,” Pat quips. “Even when it was only half finished and in our workshop, in bits and pieces, being fitted, someone came up and said ‘Oh, this is great.’ “
Becoming a celebrity in its own right, the car will be parked out the front of the exhibition and most likely will be a feature in this year’s Easter fair.
The group also uses its talents to serve a greater purpose, such as raffling off its quilts.
“We also do community quilts,” Chris says, “which gives us that sense of giving something back.”
“The profit from the raffle will go to Quality Living Options, which is a group who purpose-build a residential facility for adults with disabilities,” Ruth says.
The upcoming exhibition will feature more than 100 quilts of varying sizes, shapes and colours. It’s the culmination of two years’ work and there will be many quilts on display that haven’t been shown before.
“The raffle quilt will also be at the exhibition.” Jane says, “Tickets for the raffle are on sale already, but that’s usually a highlight.”
For almost three decades this group has been creating, forging friendships and helping the community. The club recently celebrated its 27th birthday, reflecting on the history of a club that has grown from seven founding members to some 141 today. However, while members have come and gone over the years, no doubt they would all share the same views as those held by those here today.
When asked what they get out of being part of the quilting group, these women are all quick to laugh.
“Therapy,” Jane says, to which the others nod in agreement. “Friendship,” says another. “Playing with fabrics and having fun.”
“Creativity.”
“Sanity.”
“It’s a good escape from the everyday.”
“Given the longevity of our club, I think that demonstrates that quilting has always had an appeal to people,” Chris says. “And when we have an exhibition, just watching the reactions of people as they walk around, smiling and commenting on stuff and becoming enthusiastic about it and how it’s done, and wanting to find out how they join.“
“When a woman retires, this is something that she can spend her time doing,” Jane says. “Also people from out of town, who move to Bendigo, can join and walk in and are immediately surrounded by like-minded people who speak the same language.”
But you don’t have to be retired to join up. The group meets each Thursday from 9.30am to 10pm, and members can come along for as long or short a time as they like, although most information sessions are held in the morning, such as show and tell.
“It is an obsession; an addiction,” Ruth says. “There is no middle ground, we don’t just dabble.”
“It’s my escape, my retreat,” Marilyn says.
“It’s all of our happy place,” they agree.
Strathdale (Bendigo) Quilters present its biennial exhibition, A Parade of Quilts, at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, 26 Myers Street, Bendigo. Entry is $5, with primary school children and under free of charge. There will be morning tea, light lunch and afternoon tea available. The times and dates are: Friday, April 14, noon to 5pm; Saturday, April 15, 10am to 5pm; Sunday, April 16, noon to 5pm; and Monday, April 17, 10am to 3pm. For information, email strathdalequilters@gmail.com