The latest and accomplished quilter, Jenny Hermans, is my 4th Star of the Sew. I have called this post Heart Quilts instead of Art Quilts, you will see why later in this post.
It was an honor to meet and spend time with Jenny as she is an extremely busy lady. Her warmth and friendliness shine through and I felt immediately at home with her.
Jenny’s love of sewing was ignited when she watched her German Grandmother making beautiful hand embroidered cloths and other items for the Rand Easter Show which is an annual event held in Johannesburg. Usually, her Gran came home with prizes.
The Rand Easter Show is a huge affair and goes on for three out four days over Easter each year. It is thrilling to go there as see all the wonderful new things on the show. Household goods, (sewing machines!) animals being judged… So many things happening at once. One is spoiled for choice. Oh, it is such an exciting event and is usually crowded, which adds to the excitement.
Jenny’s Mother, Roma Bishop, also sewed but not to the same extent as her Grandmother. Jenny was one of three children and as her father was an Anglican Minister they moved about the country quite a lot, sometimes they moved every 18 months or so. Not easy with a growing family.
The moves were between the Transvaal (Gauteng) and Natal (Kwa Zulu Natal) and finally Cape Town. This meant changing schools with the different curriculum – the joys of being PK’s (preacher’s kids). Jenny recalls that everywhere they went to live, her Mother made a garden. What a wonderful legacy to leave behind for the next Minister and his family to enjoy.
Money was tight, which is usually the case in the Ministry, so it was not easy to get hold of extra things that were deemed unnecessary. Birthday gifts were usually things that were needed, like new shoes, etc. However, when Jenny turned 10 she was given by her Mother a piece of fabric, a pattern and a pair of scissors. She made herself a skirt.
One of the many moves was to a very small country parish in Melmoth. Situated between Melmoth and Eshowe there is a General Dealer Store, where Mr. Louw, the owner used to measure goods by the thumb. If one bought a plug of tobacco, he would measure off a piece using his thumb to measure the 1inch. It was from this store that Jenny used to buy her Shwe Shwe fabric to make her first quilts.
As you enter the Herman’s home, one is immediately struck by the beautiful, colorful quilts which are hung up amongst the lovely artwork. This warm and charming home is filled with interesting items. It is hard to concentrate as all your wants to do is look, long and hard, at all the beauty surrounding you. Everything is displayed with elegance so although there is a lot to see, it doesn’t appear cluttered in any way.
The Old and the New
One of Jenny’s interests is collecting old and antique sewing machines which are on display as you go into the house. Jenny inherited her Grandmother’s old Treadle Singer sewing machine with which she sewed her wedding dress. This was the beginning of the collection of this fascinating group of machines. She also has two small, portable, Elna machines which she takes along with her when going to workshops. The bigger and heavier machine, her Bernina, is safely ensconced in the sewing room.
The Hermans family moved to Pinelands 38 years ago. At that time, the late Shirley Wittridge gave quilting lessons which Jenny attended. She enjoyed it so much and joined Pineneedles run by Hazelmay Duncan, my 2nd Star of the Sew. This passion for sewing, hand sewing and quilting lead her to teach quilting from home. She keeps extremely busy quilting but as her eyesight is rather poor she prefers to crochet in the evenings.
Using Interesting Techniques
What astounded me was the variety of different techniques used in the making of these works of “Heart”. When most people think of quilts some of the more well-known patterns spring to mind, for instance, the log cabin or flying geese which are lovely but what I am talking about here is vastly different. As besides the piecing of the quilt, it is also the hand embellishments that go into making these quilts so special.
Each quilt Jenny makes is labeled and if a quilt is given as a gift a note goes with it with instructions on the care that went into the making of it and the care that should be given to it. Here are some of her tips for caring for quilts:
Caring for your Quilt
- Wash by hand with warm soapy water.
- Rinse well, squeeze out excess water.
- Dry flat or pegged to the wash-line.
- Do not use bleach or colorants
- Do not rub or wring the quilt.
- Do not tumble dry.
- Never iron the quilt.
- Harsh sunlight can fade the colors.
- Store in a dry place.
- When not in use – open up and air the quilt regularly – then fold on the diagonal – this helps to displace the creases caused when storing.
Recipe to make your own acid-free fabric
Boil 1-2m of 100% cotton fabric (calico works well) in a large pot of water for 5 -7 minutes.
Throw the water out and fill the pot again with fresh water – repeat the boiling process 2 more times.
Rinse and hang the fabric out to dry.
Press when the fabric is still damp with a dry iron.
The cloth is now free from any chemicals, stabilizers acids, and dye.
Use the cloth as a wrapping sheet or make up storage bags for your quilts. Heirlooms like christening robes, embroidered cloths, and lace will benefit from being stored in this way.
Note: You can wash the fabric in a washing machine at 50 degrees but often there is soap or detergent residue that is not ideal to make it acid-free.
Tip – look out for and buy used bed sheets in cotton or linen at fetes or second-hand shops. They are usually well washed and can be the perfect acid-free fabric covering for your quilts.
If anyone who gets a quilt knew of the hours of loving work, from the careful choice of the fabrics, threads, batting, design, color, they would cherish it with care. These are truly a labor of love.
Bags of Love
These bags are so beautiful and perfectly made, I felt I just could not leave them out. Am sure you will all enjoy seeing them and perhaps even get inspired to try to make your own.
Outreach – The Dorkas Project
In 1997, Jenny and a friend started an outreach group called The Dorkas Project teaching others in less privileged areas to teach quilting. There are still two of these Dorkas Groups going after all this time.
The South African Quilter’s Guild
At present Jenny is the President of the South African Quilters’ Guild. She is one of a team of tutors involved in the Quilt Teacher Accreditation Course for quilters to study to be quilt teachers. The course runs over a year. The SAQG also offers a course for training Quilt Judges, which is a further two years. The Guild has many accredited and recommended teachers in SA and beyond our borders and a pool of 32 accredited quilt judges.
From Art to Heart
Jenny has 5 quilts on display in an exhibition called Inspiration in Bloemfontein in May 2018.
1. Guiding Light – tribute to Leah and Desmond Tutu – for his 80th birthday
2. Icon – Nelson Mandela – To celebrate this great man’s life
3. One flag , many Fans – South African Flag – made for the World Cup
4. Hahlala eAfrica
5. Koi Pond
The reason I changed the name of this post from Art Quilts to Heart Quilts is because all Jenny’s quilts epitomize either a person who has touched her in some way, or inspired her, and the things in nature which resonate with her soul.
I was very moved seeing all the lovely work she has done. I obviously didn’t have nearly enough time to see it all which I would have loved to do.
What moved me most of all was a quilt she had made for her beloved Mother, who was a poet. This quilt was inspired by the poem her mother wrote which is written on the back of the quilt.
Imagine by Roma Bishop
Imagine, There’s no colour, not even
black or white,
Imagine, there’s no Xenophobia,
Famine or reason to fight,
Imagine tone is hope
light is love and peace is shade
Imagine All of this
and a rainbow could be made.
Imagine all colours mix and blend
Imagine balance, unity, joy
freedom and harmony in the end
Imagine, dream, believe
Words by Roma Bishop
Jenny’s Sewing Room Essentials
These are the things Jenny can’t do without in her sewing room:
1. Bernina sewing machine
2. Needle and thread
3. Her readers (this work is very taxing on the eyes)
4. Cotton and Silk fabrics
5. Sharp, good scissors and a rotary cutter and mat
6. Loomtex or cotton batting
I wish you were able to pop around to Jenny’s home like I did and see her heartfelt work first hand. It is a sight to behold. I hope our pictures have done her work justice.
Please leave a comment below.