The SAQG Pro Dedicate Award is presented every second year
to a South African quilter in honour of their outstanding service
to quilting in South Africa.
Presented in 2011 to
Renowned and Popular Quiltmaking Teacher
Ambassador for Promoting SA Quiltmaking regionally, nationally and internationally
Dedicated Service as a SAQG Committee Member
Author of a Quilt book
We pay tribute to Hettie Schwellnus for her leadership, initiative, vision and enthusiasm with which she has served the South African quilting community since 1980.
Hester Gertruida Schwellnus, or “tannie” Hettie, as she was lovingly known, was born on 10 March 1927. Needlework and patchwork had been part her life since her early childhood.
This remarkable woman finished her studies in Domestic Science in 1948. She taught at several secondary schools and later became a lecturer at the Teachers’ College in Potchefstroom. During 1960 – 1977 she wrote several text books on domestic science for schools.
She was an expert on traditional patchwork techniques and started to concentrate on patchwork in 1979.
Patchwork in South Africa became just as popular in the late 1970’s as it already was in the United States of America. From 1980, Hettie started teaching Patchwork for beginners, and she later also gave advanced classes. She did research of the history of quilting both in South Africa and internationally. She was a popular teacher who loved sharing her knowledge with her students and watched with anticipation as they developed their skills. Hettie was very happy when her students won prizes!
Hettie taught in towns all over the North West, Mpumalanga, the Free State and Gauteng provinces, as we know them today. A highlight in her career as quilt teacher was when she taught in the South Island of New Zealand, where she also founded a new Guild in one of the small towns.
She did not take part in competitions, but held many exhibitions since 1980. She remembered the large Quilt Exhibition on 22 July 1981, held in the Frans Cronje Hall at the University of Potchefstroom, She was a judge at the first national quilt Festival in Bloemfontein and judged at many Agricultural Shows. It was a wonderful day for her, when Paul Schutte won the Best on Show Prize, for his quilt: “Rotating Stars for Africa” at the National Quilt Festival 1990, in Durban. Another joyful moment was when a bed quilt of Elmine van der Walt was published on the front page of a quilt magazine.
Her exhibitions were always group exhibitions, with the achievements of her students and fellow guild members being her pride and joy. Her first exhibition was in Bloemfontein and she did numerous other exhibitions in towns around Bloemfontein. Highlights were the exhibition in 1986 in the Old Presidency in Bloemfontein, and the World Quilt Show in Sau Paulo in 1982. Her three dimensional quilt “Kasteel in Kaapstad” plus a log cabin quilt were part of this exhibition.
1982 delivered another surprise when Hettie and her husband Chris published one of the first quilting books written in Afrikaans: “Las met Lap – Stap vir Stap”. It was a team effort with Hettie having all the patchwork knowledge and Chris writing the book, step by step! Three editions of the book were published between 1982 and 1987. It was published by Femina publishers and sold at R17.50!
Hettie made about fifty quilts, of which many were on commission. She was specially commissioned to make replica quilts for the museums. An example of a replica quilt made by her can be seen in the Goetz-Fleischack Museum in Potchefstroom. It is a hand quilted bed quilt, made from real silk and took about 20, 000 stitches to complete. She spoke on radio and television programs and wrote reviews for newspapers and magazines, the Vroueblad, and the Department of Education and Culture.
She was also a founder member of the SAQG in 1989 and represented the Western Transvaal Guild (now the Golden West Quilters Guild) from which she received Honorary membership on the 18 May 2001.
After living in Potchefstroom for forty years, she and her husband moved to Randburg in 2001, where she was welcomed with open arms by the Jacaranda Quilters Guild. Her hands were always busy and at the age of 84 she was still knitting blankets for charity.
The SAQG Pro-Dedicate award was awarded to her in July 2011, at the National Quilt Festival in Stellenbosch, in recognition for her outstanding contribution to quilting in South Africa.
Hettie Schwellnus passed away on the 18 April 2016, at the age of 89, in an Old Age Home in Pretoria. We cherish the memory of this unselfish and humble, pioneer woman in the history of South African Quilting.
Text with thanks and permission from Eline Bierman QTAC 2020 student