Interview with Michelle Marvig – Travelrite International Tour Leader
What inspired you to get into patchwork and quilting?
I had always been happy stitching garments and toys. But in 1991 my parents and I opened a shop in Mudgee, NSW, and incorporated patchwork fabric. It did not sell well, as we had no samples made from the fabrics. I did not live in Mudgee, but worked from home with two small children making garment samples, cushion and toys for the shop. So I went along to my local store to learn how to make a Log Cabin quilt to sell the fabrics that we had in the shop. And I was hooked from the very first quilt top. It was made by a sewing machine and I loved all the gadgets, the rotary cutter, rulers and mats that made life so much faster and easier than working by hand. That was 25 years ago and hundreds of quilts later, I still can’t stitch fast enough to make everything in my manic brain.
What can our travellers expect on the upcoming tours?
Fun and friendship from like-minded quilters. We always explore the tourist highlights of a location, plus the quilt or textile highlight of an area, and just a little bit of shopping (understatement)! I travel with luggage scales to help us distribute weight before our flights.
Depending on the tour we will visit quilt museums, quilt shows, quilt shops, visit stunning locations and eat at fabulous places. I also include two stitching projects in every tour that we do. The first is a smaller project on the land tours that the customers can keep as a monento. I provide all the fabric, etc that they need. The passengers just need to bring needles, threads and pins. The second is an embroidery design block for them to stitch, pertinent to location of the tour. At the end of the tour we collect the blocks from those that wish to participate and hold a “Block Lotto”at the farewell dinner. The stitchery block has now become a very competitive challenge to some of our girls, and it is a lot of fun to see the end results.
What are your favourite things to do when touring and while cruising?
When Travelrite asked me about doing a cruise, I honestly did not know how I would go, but have to say I love them! Cruising allows us to unpack once and explore the different destinations, while sewing in between. The Craft Fair at Sea gives us the ability to use sewing machines in one workshop, so we can get more done. But once class has finished you have so many different areas on the ship to meet up with the girls and sit and stitch, or coffee and cake outside of class times. And the live shows at night are fabulous.
Regardless of which type of tour we are doing, we always visit quilt or textile shops. My favourite thing is to help the customers pick fabrics and projects, maybe pushing them outside their normal comfort zone of choices. And, as I type this, I realise that I also love the teaching aspect of the tours. The first Inside Passage of Alaska Cruise that we did I taught American Hand Piecing with templates, and using a circular block. Most people had not completed anything using this technique, or this complicated, but it started new love affairs for a different style of stitching.
What aspects of your craft do you find the most challenging, and the most satisfying?
The most satisfying is definitely the teaching and being part of the whole process of making a quilt from purchasing the fabric to end product. Margaret from WA came along on one of our tours to Europe armed with a pattern that she wanted to make. She found a vintage toile in the flea markets in Paris, and we picked up other fabrics as travelled, but especially at the Birmingham Quilt Show. Margaret has finished the quilt and sent photos and loves it, as do I . The quilt has so many memories of our trip.
The most challenging would be when making luggage weight for flights!!!!!!!!!! Quilters are shoppers.
What do you love about travelling?
Exploring new destinations, new food and making new friends. We found the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle by accident and it was fabulous! One year we stayed in Colmar, France and the hotel had a Michelin Star restaurant on site – wow! The memories made in each destination are richer for sharing with fellow quilters. You never know what unexpected pleasures we will encounter.
What were the highlights from the last tours you led with Travelrite International?
I have been busy and lead three tour in the last 6 months. Our tour to Houston last October went via Canada, which was stunning . It was my first time in Canada and High Tea at Lake Louise was icing on the cake. All of Canada was beautiful, but Banff and Lake Louise were special. We saw a bear and fox from the bus while were driving around. I never tire of seeing the biggest quilt show in the world, Houston. The variety of quilts on display, the vintage quilts available for purchase and the show and tell back the hotel at the end of the day is fantastic.
I also lead a tour to Japan in November. It is autumn at this time and the colour of the leaves at the Hida Village, Takayama and the garden at Kanazawa were stunning. Inspirational colour and texture for future projects. But a highlight of this tour would have been sitting on the floor in a small, traditional restaurant in Takayama eating Hida Beef cooked on a magnolia leaf on a small BBQ burner at the table. Very traditional, very tasty and lots of fun. This travel thing is not good for my waistline. And it is the unexpected experiences that enrich the whole tour. Like the hexagon lessons on a Shinkansen fast train between cities in Japan!
Michelle Marvig is leading multiple Patchwork and Quilting Tours for Travelrite International in 2016 and 2017. For full details click on the links below.