Busselton quilter awarded for work which took 23 years to complete

Busselton resident Joan Tuffin has spent the last 23 years, or 2,793 hours and 30 minutes, hand stitching an exquisite quilt, which recently picked up three awards at the WA Quilt Exhibition.

Ms Tuffin is now waiting to find out if her quilt will be selected to be displayed in Melbourne at a national exhibition.

"I was so overwhelmed to receive the awards - three times over - the first one which came up was the Best of the Traditional category, it was out of 180 entries," she said.

"The next one was the Best Hand Quilting of the exhibition, which was just extraordinary and then runner-up of the Best in Show was just something else as well.

"I was just beside myself I could not sit still."

Ms Tuffin said she had always wanted the challenge of making something beautiful out of a plan flat piece of homespun fabric and to make it textually exquisite with just a needle and thread.

"That was my determination, when my husband Tom's mother passed away I was staying with his dad for a while and he always doodled," she said.

"So I started to doodle and decided to start my quilt in July 1996, I bought the fabric in Perth and started there.

"I drew all the design on newsprint and traced out the design with a 6H pencil, then I embarked on the embroidery on the quilting frame which Tom built for me.

"I embroided the strips and sewed them together and embarked on the quilting the year before last."

Ms Tuffin said it was just extraordinary to receive the awards and she had so many people approach her at the exhibition to find out how she did it.

"One of the questions was how did I put the quilting design on," she said.

"I told them on one of my morning walks after a storm, the path near my home was covered with leaves, I thought that would be my quilting design.

"So I collected a whole bunch, traced them out on A4 paper, made multiple copies, laminated them, cut them out - that preparation work is not included in the total sum of hours I spent on the quilt."

Ms Tuffin has tallied the time she has spent on her quilt which included 797 hours and 50 minutes embroidering bottlebrush sprays and 1049 hours and 25 minutes embroidering eucalyptus and wattle sprays.

It also took Ms Tuffin 905 hours and 25 minutes to hand quilt the leaf design, eight hours to prepare and sew binding and 32 hours and 50 minutes to hand embroidery labels.

"I was able to pin place the leaves wherever I wanted, and when I finished one strip I took photographs of where I placed them, then rolled it on and repeated and so I had a repetitive pattern going through the quilt."

Ms Tuffin said it was a huge relief when she finally finished the quilt this year.

"It did feel like there was a big gap in my life so I started knitting comfort bears," she said.