Over 3,600 admired Netherlanders’ quilted masterpieces
By Gord Whitehead for the Strathroy Age Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.
Who were most impressed? The more than 3,600 visitors who descended on a tiny village ‘international’ destination for quilt viewing, the first-ever Dutch quilt creating delegation to Canada or the many hard working Ailsa Craig area volunteers who successfully sewed up their Quilts of the Netherlands show? Gotta
say all of them.
Targeted attendance of 3,000 for last week’s Monday through Saturday exhibition was surpassed by Friday afternoon and reached more than 3,600, co-organizer Raven Emslie reported at week’s end. “A woman came from B.C. specifically for this show.” Committee member Cathy Mitchell added, “They came from Washington State, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and all over Ontario.”
Jeanne Hamers, president of the Dutch Quiltersgilde, told Focus the 137 quilts her group brought to the show are “the cream of the crop” selected by the guild’s executive committee from thousands of prospects. Founded in 1983 and now with 14,000 members, Holland’s is the largest quilting guild in Europe, said Hamers who lives near Amsterdam. Twenty Quiltersgilde members made the journey to Ailsa Craig where they were billeted at the homes of area families.
“Everybody’s happy. We’ve had a wonderful time. The community has done its utmost to make us welcome,” the guild president said. An average 60 volunteers a day worked at the show, Emslie recalled. Hamers noted several of those volunteers are Dutch descendants and “it was very warming. A few even cried when they could speak Dutch again.” Of seven vendors of fabrics and other quilting supplies, two came from Holland and sold virtually every stitch of merchandise.
Petra Prins of Den Haan & Wagenmakers was so pleased she offered to return to sell at Ailsa Craig’s next international quilt festival already booked for May 1-5, 2012. “People like Dutch fabrics which are quite different from Canadian fabrics,” said Hamers. They are a type of cotton with reprinted patterns, old traditional costumes, mostly red, white and blue with a bit of purple. Prins featured original Dutch designs from the 17th and 18th centuries. Vendors also conducted workshops for visitors.
The quilters also found time to tour with visits to Stratford, Shakespeare and New Hamburg. “Canada is for us enormous,” enthused Hamers who recalled her guild’s only other ‘international’ exhibition was in neighbouring Belgium whose geographic expanse is equally as tiny as Holland’s. Emslie said community volunteers provided homemade food from the Ailsa Craig Recreation Centre’s kitchen during the week-long festival. “To be fiscally responsible we needed the (kitchen) profit to make it viable. It’s about building community.”
The festival wrapped up with a Saturday evening banquet at which Richard TerVrugt, Consul of the Netherlands in London (ON) made an entertaining speech. Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Maria Van Bommel, North Middlesex Mayor Don Shipway and Ward Two (Ailsa Craig) Coun. Brian Ropp attended to deliver greetings and MP Bev Shipley voiced his government’s best wishes in a letter. The committee announced the quilts of Denmark will be featured in next May’s festival. In the words of member Cathy Mitchell, “We’re setting the standard this year. Hopefully we’ll reap the benefits next year.”