Monday, July 23, 2012

Quilting In Russia

Several weeks ago, Handi Quilter asked me to go to Russia with them to teach how to use the HQ 18 Avante and HQ Sweet Sixteen.  I jumped at the chance, but not because it was not a life-long dream of mine to go to Russia.  I had actually never considered going there; I have never considered making a trip to the moon, either.  Both places seemed equally out of reach for me.  I realized what an opportunity they were offering and have been eagerly anticipating this trip.

Getting to Russia is not without its challenges.  Remember this quilt?:

I made this to deal with the frustration of applying for my Russian visa.  That process made filing my income taxes look quick and easy.  I was worried that everything about going to Russia would be that difficult.

It once took me 30 hours to get to Edmonton, AB, Canada from Hartford, CT.  Last year it took me 68 hours to get from Pelham, NH to Salt Lake City, UT during Hurricane Irene.  I was having nightmares about all of the things that could go wrong during a trip to Russia, but my trip went very smoothly.  The travel time from my front door to my hotel in St. Petersburg was exactly 24 hours.

While planning my trip to Russia, I tried to do a little research online about what Russian quilters are like, what types of fabrics they use, and what types of quilt shops they have.  I can 'google' with the best of them, but I found very little information about quilters, quilts or quilt shops in Russia.  I went on my trip with absolutely no expectations.

I taught three days of classes in St. Petersburg.  I was worried about teaching through a translator, but it was much easier than I expected it to be.  Quilters in Russia are like quilters are here in the United States and we just understood each other.  It is amazing how far one can get by pointing and using hand gestures.  I certainly used my translator, but when she had to leave the room the students and I still understood each other.

I did some demonstrations and let the students fall in love with the machines.

Doesn't Oksana look happy?

She pets and hugs the Sweet Sixteen as much as I do!

Sergei (the big fellow in the black shirt) was quite a prankster.  He kept our classes lively.  Ludmilla (on the far right) is a very talented quilter and quilt teacher.  Natasha (to my left) is a very happy and enthusiastic quilter who works in the quilt shop.

I am certain that I learned as much from my students as they learned from me.

I now find it hard to believe that I have never thought of Russians as quilters.  There is such beauty and inspiration everywhere in St. Petersburg, from the extraordinary:

 to the ordinary:

Yes, I plan to copy this railing pattern in a quilt someday.

I mentioned that I looked for information about quilt shops in Russia.  One site stated "there are only fabric shops in Russia; no quilt shops." Imagine my surprise when I got to Moscow and took the escalator up from the subway to see this billboard on the wall:

It was advertising the quilt shop across the street from the Metro.  Maybe their next ad will feature Handi Quilter?

 Across the street from the Metro station and down a few flights of stairs was one of the largest and brightest quilt shops I have ever seen.  The photo only shows one small portion of the shop.

They had more sewing machines than I have ever seen displayed anywhere.  Ever.  I have photos of two of the five walls of machines:

I taught two days of classes in Moscow:

Alexander is an expert at fixing sewing machines and he was eager to try quilting on this one.  He would point at the machine and say "Avante" while holding up two thumbs.  I guess he likes it!

Moscow quilters have inspiration everywhere, as well.

The mundane:

(ribbon candy!)

and the divine:


I am home now recovering from my 23 1/2 hour journey.  I am so grateful that I got home at 10:30 last night so I could go directly to bed, sleep well, and wake up today as good as new.  OK, maybe not as good as new, but I'm still vertical.

I saw so many beautiful things while I was in Russia and am just itching to turn one of my photos into a quilt.  Maybe I will work on this one tonight?

(a stone in the sidewalk across from the Kremlin)


Gail said...

Thanks, Debby, for sharing your wonderful trip with us. I've really enjoyed your photos along the way as well as your commentary. Did you come home with any stash additions? How much does a yard of fabric cost in Russia?

Debby Brown said...

I didn't bring home any fabric. A meter of fabric costs 450 rubles, so a little over a yard of fabric is a little over $14.

Brenda Groelz said...

Debby, we were so proud to have you represent Handi Quilter in Russia. I envy you your experience and I loved the photos you're sharing. We're all looking forward to more stories and photos.


Unknown said...

Debby - what an amazing experience you must have had. I can't wait to see your Russian inspired quilt.

Leeanne said...

What a great post. Glad the trip went without any nightmares.
Some lovely quilting inspiration for you & some friendships no doubt.

Kati from Kati's Quilting said...

Thank you for the wonderful story and pictures Debby! Do they know longarm quilting in Russia at all? Or was this their first time seeing a machine like that?

Mom said...

Looks like an envious and beautiful place to get to see.

H. Cavanagh said...

Interesting reads, thank for sharing.

Rachel said...

Do you the name or Metro stop where the store was? I want to go there TODAY. Nothing solves my winter blues like a good quilt store and some quality time with my machine!

Debby Brown said...

Rachel, sadly I don't read or speak Russian. I just followed my guide!

Rachel said...

No worries, Debby. I found it by the sign in the metro. Thanks for posting that!

Debby Brown said...

Rachel, I was hoping that photograph would help you!

I speak about 50 words of Russian and read maybe 10. I still cannot read that sign.

Margaret W said...

I am planning a trip to Moscow and St Petersburg. What is the name of the shops in which you taught while there? What is the name of the quilt shop in the pictures and the subway stop in Moscow? Do you know where I could purchase the 2014 olympics quilt banner fabrics?

Unknown said...

A Russian Quilters Club from st.petersburg came to the US a number of years ago and display their quilts in Milford Connecticut at the Milford Fine Arts Council. I hosted one of the Quilters whose name is Luba Blonova. I have been unable to locate her . I had an email address for her in Finland but that did not work any longer . My question is do you possibly know her from your visit to Russia ? Or if you know the name of a quilting Club in st. Petersburg please let me know . You may answer me at my email which is thank you.Linda Rhodes a