Rita Cassar has been quilting for decades, stitching patches of fabrics together to gift family and friends with one of a kind quilted gems they can treasure forever.
Not only making but also teaching, Rita describes her love for quilting as an “addiction” that she finds not only satisfying but therapeutic. She has a deep appreciation for the craft and still often stitches by hand, although quilters these days can do much of the work on machine.
Rita’s passion for the art of quilting made her the perfect fit for our latest project – Gorman Upcycle. When Rita’s daughter, a veteran Gorman designer, asked if she could make use of collected fabric remnants from over the years she jumped at the chance. Keeping it all in the family felt right for such a special project.
Rita has approached Gorman Upcycle the same way she does when making quilts for her loved ones, patiently sewing together printed pieces of archive prints to create quilts that feel like Gorman family heirlooms.
Who taught you how to quilt? / How did you learn to quilt?
I moved to the coastal town of Port Fairy on the South-West coast of Victoria from Melbourne in 1988 and that's where my quilting obsession began. I had always loved craft work but mainly knitting, crocheting and embroidery. I stumbled across a quaint cottage in Warrnambool that provided classes in patchwork and quilting. That sparked an interest and started me on the journey of my own fabric/quilting addiction, which then led me to open two patchwork stores in Port Fairy where I was able to share, teach and grow my passion, everyday!
What do you find so special about the craft?
I am fascinated by how the piecing of different fabrics can lead to so many designs! I've also loved to watch how the craft has evolved from the early days where everything was hand stitched and hand pieced, to now being able to use machines, meaning I can make more, and faster. I also love how patchwork and quilting brings people together, I have made a lot of friendships through our joint addiction of craft.
What do you most enjoy about the process and the results?
It can be quite therapeutic for me to sit and sew (especially, when things are working out!) and I get a real sense of satisfaction and pride when I see the outcome of my creating.
How did quilting for your friends and family evolve into making the Gorman Up-Cycle quilts / working with Gorman?
I have made many a quilt for friends, family and commission work, with almost all of my children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, brothers/sisters and close friends owning one of my creations! I was approached by gorman actually via my daughter Kayla who pitched the idea to work on this fab upcycling project. I couldn't think of a better way to put good use to these gorman fabric remnants, it's been so great to work with all these fun prints and colour.
How long does it take to make a single quilt?
Depending on the size of the quilt, the design and the method used varies...an average queen sized quilt pieced together on a sewing machine can take many hours! The cutting of the fabric is as time consuming as the piecing. I would say these 2 processes could take approx 6-8 hours. The actual sandwiching of the quilt together (piecing the back of the quilt to the front with a stitched pattern) could add another 10-12 hours depending on the complexity of the quilting pattern as I will often stitch the design by hand. So you really need to have passion to be able to see your quilt to the finish, as sometimes you’re in for the long haul!
Do you have a favourite quilt from the collection? And / or that you’ve ever made? And why?
My favourite quilt in the Gorman collection would have to be the Flying Geese quilt, which are rows of printed triangles pieced with baby pink linen, and was the first quilt I made for the project all those months ago! There are 2 other designs that are memorable which I have made for myself in the past. The Wedding Ring, which I vowed I’d only ever attempt once as it was so time consuming, lots of intricate piecing and hand quilting. I guess that quilt gave me the most satisfaction of completing as it was the most intense sewing I have done to date, I sleep under it every night! The other was a quilt called Kaleidoscope. Which is really amazing how one piece of fabric can result in 12 different blocks. Really, each quilt I have made ends up usually being a favourite. Quilting can be a real addiction! And not a cheap craft by any means so each quilt becomes special in its own way.