The South African Quilt Festival

Yesterday, in Cape Town, South Africa, the Good Hope Quilters’ Guild (GHQG) kicked off day 1 of the 21st South African Quilt Festival. This is Aurifil’s first year as a sponsor and we’ve absolutely loved getting to know more about the festival, the guild, and what it all means to the local quilting community. We couldn’t help but take a moment to highlight this wonderful event and perhaps introduce you all to a future quilty destination!

This year’s festival comes with a gorgeous logo quilt pattern, which is available for free via the button below.

Our very own Kate Brennan is in progress on her version and we’re loving it so far! She’s currently auditioning fabrics for the leaves on the tree and we can’t wait to see what she ends up with! Will you make one of your own?

We’re thrilled to report that two vendors at the Festival will be carrying Aurifil thread — Fabric Centre & The Fabric Contessa. They’ll also have Aurifil in store, so if you’re local to the greater Cape Town area, you know where to find your forever favorite threads!

Learn about the GHQG through guild Secretary, Wilma Havenga:
Our guild is the Good Hope Quilters’ Guild (GHQG). Although our 250 members are primarily based in the greater Cape Town area, we have members that are up to 500km away. There are many more quilters both here and nationally that do not belong to a guild. A rough estimate would be that there are more than 10,000 active quilters throughout South Africa. There are also several active quilting groups in Southern Africa, increasing this number.

Our quilters come from varied backgrounds, races, religions, cultures, and ages.  One of our youngest quilters is 6 while the oldest active quilters are in their 90s.  Although many quilters are traditional quilters, we have several modern and fibre/textile quilt groups too. 

We have an umbrella quilting body, the South African Quilters Guild (SAQG) that promotes quilting interests in South Africa and oversees the National Quilt Festivals. Good Hope Quilters’ Guild is one of the 11 regional guilds and 6 country guilds affiliated with SAQG. Two of these country guilds are in our neighbouring country, Namibia. Individual members may also join SAQG.  

The National Quilt Festival is held biennially and is hosted by the 4 large regional guilds on a rotational basis. This makes it accessible to quilters across the country.  The first National Quilt Festival was held in 1986 when the SAQG was formed.  This year, we are the hosts and organisers of the 21st National Quilt Festival and will hold the Festival from October 5-9 in the historic town of Stellenbosch. The next National Festival will be renamed as the International Quilt Festival and will be hosted by KwaZulu Natal Quilters Guild in 2024.  We will be the hosts again in 8 years’ time.  

The National Festival has two parts. The first is a judged quilt exhibition of approximately 500 expected quilts with categories ranging from Traditional Bed Quilts to Wall Art Quilts. Monetary prizes as well as ribbons are usually awarded.  Several past winning quilts have gone on to be exhibited or included in international competitions. 

The second part of the Festival has an educational focus with classes to suit all styles, levels and tastes. This year, we have classes in everything from applique, Kantha, and slow stitching to machine piecing, free motion quilting, and ruler work to art/fibre quilting classes including creating 3 dimensional objects & thread painting.  Students either learn or a technique or, more popularly make an item while learning the technique. Some of our larger sponsors also provide their Brand Ambassadors to teach classes using their products.

We are privileged to display one of the oldest quilts in South Africa, known as the Sara Dreyer quilt from 1805, at our National Festival.

Sara Dreyer Quilt, 1805

We have challenged quilters to make replica or derivative quilts which will be in a special exhibition next to the Sara Dreyer quilt.  I have seen quite a few of these hand stitched quilts being stitched with Aurifil 12wt during one of our quilting retreats!

Huge thanks to Wilma and Good Hope Quilter’s Guild for giving us a peek at both their organization AND this year’s festival! Make sure to follow along with them on Instagram & Facebook to stay informed! If you’re reading this and are attending the festival this week, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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