Local quilter’s life’s work at Sidney Museum

The foot of the bed is unworthy of her quilts, so instead they are being showcased to the public in Sidney.

Local quilter Lenny De Groot, 82, has been quilting almost obsessively since 1993 when a friend of hers brought her to a class.

“I went that night and I was hooked since then,” she says, while touring her own exhibit at the Sidney Museum.

More than 100 pieces are in the exhibit, a collection of De Groot’s work over the past 25 years. All of the quilts and cross-stitchings came from De Groot’s home and without them, she says her home is bare and feels empty.

The work featured can take De Groot anywhere between two weeks to six months to finish. One of the larger projects that took just over six months is a multi-coloured machine-sewn quilt measuring around 10-feet by 8-feet. This piece can be purchased for $10,000.

De Groot is retired and actually left her former job at the Victoria International Airport five years ago to focus on her art. Although leaving her position as an information agent, she was able to gain inspiration for a quilt. One of the quilts in the exhibit is of a Cowichan Bay marina. De Groot saw a pamphlet at the airport with a painting of this scene and contacted the artist for permission to quilt it. When it was completed she donated it to the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre, where it has been on display since 2010.

De Groot mainly uses her own designs and draws inspiration from almost anywhere, including her travels to Arizona, Hawaii and Europe; although she says of it, “I wake up and it’s just there.”

Her work has been featured in national quilt shows and even sold in other countries.

And like her inspiration, De Groot scours for materials all over.

“She buys material anywhere and everywhere,” says her husband Tom. “And I have to wait in the car,” he jokes, adding his wife is very patient and supportive of his gardening.

With the foraged material, De Groot specializes in a combination of traditional and modern quilting, using techniques like bergallo, appliqué and piecing, along with decorative ideas using zippers, belt buckles, cording and gold metallic material. Her favourite method, and perhaps the most tedious-looking, is free-motion stitching. This involves intricate stitching details in any direction on the surface of the quilt. And not surprisingly, De Groot says she is on her third Bernina, a Swiss sewing machine.

The best part of quilting for De Groot, next to free-motion stitching, is the colour process.

“I love colour,” she says, in her Technicolor quilted jacket, surprisingly not made by her.

Her husband hints this might be a bit of an understatement, saying his wife sometimes spends up to five days just deciding what colours to use.

De Groot is part of the Victoria Quilters Guild and has also taught private and public quilting classes. Most of her students are around 20 years old.

Although quilting has consumed a quarter-century of De Groot’s life she is slowing down and giving her Bernina a break.

“I’m getting out of (quilting), I’m too old,” she says.

De Groot now has arthritis in her hands and quilting is becoming more of a frustrating task. She’s still in good spirits though saying she plans to spend her free time going for walks with her husband, shopping, and revisiting travel.

“Right now, I say let’s just relax.”

De Groot’s work will be on display until April 30. Admission is by donation.

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