Last Monday, our team had the opportunity to interview Meghan, her mother Heather, as well as the quilter Stefy Desouza about a beautifully woven ribbon quilt. Heather had Stefy make the quilt as a graduation present for Meghan.
Meghan has participated in many events held here on the Markham Fairgrounds, one being the EastGen competition through the 4-H program, a non-profit youth organization that allows young people to develop various skills including animal husbandry. The quilt is woven with the numerous ribbons Meghan has won throughout the years, and has caught the eye of us here at Markham Fair.
What was your inspiration for this quilt?
- Stefy: Heather wanted to surprise Meghan with a graduation gift from high school using all the ribbons that she had achieved during her time with 4-H. So I got to learn a bit about 4-H through Heather and Meghan. When Heather wanted something done with the ribbons in the form of a quilt, it was a bit mind-boggling because when you do something for somebody, you get a bit anxious. You don’t want to botch it because this girl achieved so many great things. I had to look up some ideas, but at the same time I had to be creative in utilizing the smaller ribbons. It was quite a challenge, because every ribbon was utilized and because of the variation in sizes in the ribbons.
Do these symbols and patterns signify or represent anything?
- Stefy: I used smaller ribbons for the outside, and the longer ones for the center for the chevron pattern. I tried to keep as much detail of the labels on the ribbons as possible. Because it was all related to cows, I put a fabric with cows on this backing. I dismantled the rosettes of some of the ribbons and I created a flower pattern. The background is a four-leaf clover. In the back of the quilt, there is a pattern of cows, which represent Meghan’s 4-H competitions.
- Meghan: I’ve been participating in 4-H for 8 years, and I’ve showcased cows and some bunnies. There are actually more ribbons than this.
Why did you start quilting?
- Stefy: I started quilting in 2001, and I went to the Quilting Patch in Scarborough. I also learned with the [Markham Guild of Village Crafts]. I was fascinated with quilting. My mom was an excellent seamstress, but she never quilted. I somehow took to quilting. I’m a registered nurse; I retired last year, and I do quilts sporadically as a hobby. Now that I’m retired, I have the time, so I’m all gung-ho about quilting!
How long does it take to make one quilt?
- Stefy: I must always have a parameter. You must give me a deadline. I must feel the pressure! This quilt took me about 3 weeks. There was a lot of thought and handwork, especially with the applique, for the quilt, instead of with a machine, so the timeline was a little tight.
- Heather: And all the patterns were hand-cut.
How do you choose patterns and colours when making a quilt?
- Stefy: I pick and follow a pattern. I’m not really creative!
- Heather: But clearly you are! (laughter)
- Stefy: These ribbons have important titles like Grand Champion. Heather helped picked which ribbons were more important, so I showcased those ones on top.
- Heather: I looked up some ideas and handed Stefy a box full of ribbons. We then picked out the fabric and the backing with cow patterns. Then… Stephie just did it! Before we gave it to her, I was anxious because I was worried Meghan would be angry that the ribbons were being taken apart because this was a surprise gift.
- Meghan: Obviously now I love it! I don’t know what I would do if I had to hang up over 100 ribbons.
- Heather: She’s going to university now… I wouldn’t know what to do with so many boxes of ribbons! I left the most important titles out of the quilt though, especially the ones kept in shadow boxes. She’s going to Edinburgh, Scotland, for school, so she might not be able to complete the 4-H program.
- Meghan: I’m going for a vet program. It’s accelerated, so it only takes five years. I’m really nervous, but excited too.
Do you have any plans for future quilts?
- Stefy: I’m more than happy to do, because I have the time. Currently I’m working on a quilt through the Markham Guild.
- Heather: I think you should enter into the Markham fair. Then you’ll have your own ribbon when you win! (laughter)
- Stefy: I’ve never done this previously with the Fair. There was a lot of maths involved. I had to make sure i utilized everything, but thats what quilting is about, using every scrap there is! And I’d love another challenge.
Many thanks to Stefy, Heather, and Meghan for showcasing this awesome quilt! And on behalf of all of us at Markham Fair, good luck in school this fall, Meghan!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.