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?
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.
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)