Deb Plestid, left, with Susan Burke, the curator of the Grand National Quilt Exhibition in Kitchener, Ont. Plestid's Winter at Balmoral, hanging behind the duo, was given the Curator's Choice award at the juried show, which is on display until early September. Submitted photo

As a university student, Deb Plestid made her own clothes.

She couldn’t afford to buy them, so she put her skills she learned as a youngster to use.

Now, Plestid has picked up her second Curator’s Choice award at the Grand National Quilt Exhibition, a national juried show, with Winter at Balmoral.

“Winter at Balmoral was a commissioned piece of fibre art,” said Plestid.

The piece, commissioned in 2013, was a surprise gift for Bob Graham from his wife, Vivian.

“She really loved winter. That’s the extent of the guideline she gave me,” said Plestid.

Over the course of that winter, Plestid put about 200 hours into making the piece, which is 58 inches wide by 37 inches deep.

Winter at Balmoral was one of two pieces Plestid entered into the juried show, which started more than 10 years ago. This is the final year for the show.

“I’ve entered this exhibit six or seven times now. I’ve always had work accepted, and have received two honorable mentions and another Curator’s Choice award.”

There’s always a theme to the show, which this year was O! Canada. Along with Winter at Balmoral, Plestid also entered her Tantramar Marsh piece.

While at a conference in Winnipeg prior to the show, Plestid grabbed a cab with a woman on the show’s organizing committee. She informed Plestid Winter at Balmoral would be in the show.

“You normally know in advance the winners, except for the Curator’s Choice award,” said Plestid.

“It was quite a surprise. It was quite exciting.”

Growing up, Plestid’s mother taught her how to sew.

“Well, tried,” she smiled. “On the first day, I had too heavy of a foot and she gave up.”

It’s partly the colour that attracts Plestid to the fibre art, but also the fact one can do anything with a piece of white fabric.

“You can manipulate it. It can be something new, or something used, but you can always make something new from it.”

From the beginning, anything can be made with quilting.

“It can be traditional quilting, colour interplayed, pattern expanded…that’s when I actually realized a quilt could tell a story,” she said.

“It can be symbolic. It can tell the story. A thread runs through your work.”

When it comes to Winter at Balmoral, Susan Burke, the show’s curator, said Plestid’s piece “perfectly captures” the spirit of the theme, much like singer-songwriter Gilles Vigneault’s unofficial Quebec anthem, Mon Pays.

“Yes, many people world-wide, when they think of Canada, they conjure up the image of a cold, clean, white winter snowscape, much as quilter artist Deb Plestid has created here. And as the Inuit have many words in their language for snow, so too has Plestid called upon a full vocabulary of quilted shapes to render a pristine drift of snow otherwise unmarred but for the long shadows of a pair of impatient snow shoes. The viewer is quickly transported into the scene and the imagination races in anticipation of the wintery adventures that lie ahead…Oh! Canada.”

Plestid said her piece is “crisp, clear, cold, woefully underrated, wonderful white winter.”

She used hand painted cotton, commercial cotton, and cheesecloth, and constructed trees with thread and batiks.

It will be on display at the Joseph Schneider Haus gallery in Kitchener, Ont., until Sept. 3.