Sanctuary Point quilter Pam Brockwell claims Australia’s top prize

WHEN Pamela Brockwell started quilting in 2001 she never dreamed she would one day have the best quilt in Australia.

But that’s the incredible journey the Sanctuary Point quilter has undertaken.

Her quilt Canzone Rosso, “Red Song”  has been crowned the “Best in Australia” at the Bernina Australia National Quilting Awards.

The announcement of the best quilt for 2015 was part of the Australian Quilt Convention.

Eight quilts from around the country, having won their various state competitions, were national finalists and pitted against each other. Three judges picked the overall winner for the tag “Best in Australia”.

“I never expected this,” said Pamela, who took more than three years to complete the quilt.

“I originally entered my quilt in the NSW event and it placed third. I won a couple of first placings for my applique and quilting but didn’t get the overall top place.”

She then entered the ACT show and took out the top gong, qualifying for the national competition.

“I went to the awards in Victoria with no perceived ideas,” she said.

“I didn’t think I would win, which made be the eventual prize even more special.

“It was an incredible experience. All the work was sensational. It was really was the best of the best.

“I was happy just to be a finalist.”

Canzone Rosso is now touring the country being displayed at a number of quilt shows.

“It will be on the road until November,” she said.

It was a labor of love, taking three years to complete after a “hiccup” during the machine quilting, which she does herself.

“I had put the quilt together and started quilting it but I had a faulty bobbin casing and after 400,000 stitches I wasn’t happy with the tension.

“I was downhearted about it as I had put so much work into it. I put it away for two years.”

It took her two months to painstakingly unpick the work.

She solved the tensioning problem and started all over again, taking six months of machine quilting to complete the two million stitches.

“It wasn’t going to get the better of me and it was worth the work and the heartache,” she said.

The $5000 prize money wasn’t bad either.

As well as  creating stunning fronts, Pamela is almost as well-known for the amazing stitching she has on the backs of her quilts.

They are an artwork on their own.

Her work has been valued up to $10,000 although she said people aren’t willing to pay that much for a quilt.

“They offer $500 or $600 and when you tell them the quilt is valued at between $5000 and $10,000 they get a real shock,” she said.

“Not that I sell any of my work.”

Interestingly, her favourite quilt is not her award winner but the first one she even made.

“It’s absolute rubbish when you look at it now,” she said.

“There are lots of mistakes in it but it means so much to me.”

She said quilting saved her life.

“I had to undergo a couple of major operations in 2001 and had to give up work,” she said.

“Not being able to go to work I got very depressed.

“I was in Lincraft one day with my husband and I saw a quilt and said ‘I’d like to try that’

“My husband said ‘go for it’.

“It has been a therapy for me. I just love it.”

She didn’t start entering competitions until 2011.

“I’m a slow quilter,” she said.

“It takes me time - I suppose I’m a perfectionist.

“I still suffer terribly with migraines which hampers how much time I can actually quilt.

“While it is a hobby it has grown into a passion. Many people think its is just a hobby but it is an art form.”

Some of her other works are just as stunning - Fiore Della Vita, “Flower of Life” is made of fabric she hand dyed in purples and golds and features 2.25 million stitches.

Night Flight featuring a stunning phoenix design, is her own creation and has just over a million stitches.

Her current creation features modern fabrics.

“I’m actually using my stash. All quilters will know what that means,” she laughed.

“Apart from the backing fabric I haven’t had to purchase anything.”

A member of Nowra Quilters, she also regularly attends The Quilting Patch at South Nowra.

“Quilting is just so wonderful and I would encourage everyone to enter works,” she said.

“A lot of women think their work isn’t good enough but if they actually entered they would probably be pleasantly surprised how good their work actually is.”