There is a turquoise blue-and-white quilted wall hanging in Maggie Hunt's house in Jumeirah the only one among 14 quilted pieces she has kept for herself.
The fabric, with its floral and geometric designs, represents an aesthetic. It was however originally created for functionality: "To cover an unsightly electrical unit in the wall," says Hunt.
The 7 x 2 foot piece does to the wall what quilting has done to Hunt's life vivify it. When she retired 18 months ago after three decades in airline operations, the craft helped her deal with the languor of "too much free time" and gave her a new purpose.
Hunt admits that the first month after retirement was akin to a holiday, but she gradually found it more and more difficult to deal with the strangeness of "not having to get up to work".
She often found herself alone at home because her husband Neil and their children Danielle, 25, and Ross, 22 have full-time jobs. (Their oldest daughter Corallie, 28, is based in the UK.)
The ever-unwinding spool of free time was a plaintive reminder of her inactive life till a friend, a member of the non-profit organisation Dubai Quilters' Guild (DQG), told her about a Bee meeting (an informal meeting where members get to know each other and share quilting techniques).
She agreed at her friend's behest. "I was inspired and fascinated when I saw how small pieces of cloth were sewed into complex and decorative designs and patterns," she says.
It proved to be daunting too, she explains, as her sewing experience was limited to dolls' dresses for her daughters when they were young.
Still, she signed up.
She learnt to select patterns and fabric, to measure and to cut. She attended meetings to hone her skills. She began to quilt every day working with embroidery, patchwork, appliqué and needlework sometimes alone, at other times, in a group.
Quilting turned out to be a therapeutic activity as it "was relaxing as well as entertaining".
She gave away each piece sofa throws, bags, wall hangings, Isolette covers and baby and bed quilts as presents to family, friends and charities.
"Each [piece] can take up to a week or several months, depending on its size," says Hunt. "The feeling of giving away a product of your time and creative expression is indescribable."
She is currently working on a bed quilt, which she hopes to complete for the next DQG Quilt Show, which provides a platform for members to showcase their work.
"I am only a beginner," says Hunt. "Some [members] have been quilting for many years."
The Show, an annual exhibition, will display hundreds of hand- and machine-made quilts traditional, art and house décor. Several will be donated to local charities and hospitals. For the first time the quilts will be judged by renowned quilters from the area.
"Although my experience is limited, quilting has influenced my life on many levels. It has opened my eyes to what is around me and how it can be incorporated into my next design," says Hunt, who believes that the themes mirror one's cultural and regional influences. Her work, though she is South African, has prominent expressions and references to the UAE a result of living in the country for over 30 years.
She says, "Quilting has grown to represent a new conversation in my life. Each piece is mysterious. When sewn and layered together, they tell a story."
In a way, the process is her story too.
* DQG annual quilt show will take place on May 15 at Zayed University in Dubai. For more info log on to www.dubaiquiltersguild.com.