Workshops, Windmills and the Joy of Making

Herma de Ruiter

ECT: You describe yourself as ‘a quilter’. When did your interest in textiles begin?

HdR: I have been doing things with pieces of fabric for as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to have a mother who made all our clothes, so there were always scraps of fabric to work with. I was given my first sewing machine – a Singer hand crank – when I was 9 and made clothes for my dolls and myself. When I wasn’t sewing, I was knitting, embroidering or spinning. Now it’s impossible for me to imagine a life without fabric and thread in it.

Herma de Ruiter Quilt


ECT: You have obviously got the bug – what’s the appeal?

HdR: The material itself is a big part of it. Even if you don’t know what you’re going to do with a piece of fabric, you can still take it home with you and stroke it! And then there’s the process of making something new. Sometimes this can be blood, sweat and tears – in fact, if it’s not, the thing you’re making is probably not much good – but at the end of the day you can say, ‘this is something I made’ and that feels wonderful. It can really pull you up if you’re feeling down.  

ECT: You have led workshops inspired by the traditional dress worn in the small Netherlands' village of Staphorst. Tell us a bit about that.

HdR: The small village of Staphorst is one of the last remaining places in the Netherlands where you still find women wearing traditional dress on an everyday basis. They make these costumes themselves and the thing I really like - and which has inspired the workshop - is the multi-coloured 'stipwerk’, or dot-work,  which they use to decorate their workday caps, as well as other areas of the costume. They make it using nails and fabric paint and we used embroidery to create something very similar in the workshop. The students stitched the fabric onto book wraps so everyone had a little notebook to take home as a nice reminder of their trip to the Netherlands. It’s really important to me that my students leave the class with something that makes them happy.