Lee Suet Fern wins international quilting award for her Castel del Monte inspired patchwork

Lee Hsien Yang, brother to PM Lee Hsien Loong, posted about his wife Lee Suet Fern’s win at the 2019 Yokohama Quilt Festival in Japan. Apart from being a lawyer, Mrs Lee is also an accomplished quilter, says Mr Lee.

The award-winning quilt is called Castel del Monte and is inspired by the octagonal towers of the Castel del Monte, a protected World Heritage European castle in southern Italy. Sharing an excerpt from a write up about his wife quilt, Mr Lee quoted:

“Octagons in quilts have always fascinated me. Old castles conjure dreams of fairy tales. I wanted to create a quilt with octagons using traditional European reproduction chintz fabrics but to include movement within the octagons. Castel del Monte is a protected World Heritage European castle with octagonal towers and an octagonal footprint. The romance of a fairy-tale castle in a quilt.”

Mrs Lee’s passion for quilting began about 23 years ago and she has since made around 100 quilts. Back in 2013, two of her quilts were selected for the finals in the Traditional Pieces Quilts category at the International Quilt Festival Houston in the United States. The four day annual event is apparent the largest and most competitive quilt show in the world with more than tens of thousands of attendees each year. That was the first quilting competition Mrs Lee has ever joined since picking up this hobby.

In a write up about her in Asia One, Mrs Lee said “Professional work will always take precedence, but this is a hobby which has become my passion. I sew through the night because I’ve got some momentum.”

While Mrs Lee’s quilts didn’t win in Houston back in 2014, it was still a big moment as that was the first time that a Singaporean quilt made it to the finals. Mrs Lee told AsiaOne, “To be chosen is already a dream come true. I couldn’t imagine more.”

Peachy abroad, patchy at home

While Mrs Lee is enjoying some praise and attention abroad for her extraordinary quilting skills, back home she’s still facing an arduous legal battle against the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on allegations of ‘professional misconduct’ in relation to the preparation of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s final will.

In their allegations, the AGC stated: “Ms Lee appears to have prepared the Last Will of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and arranged for Mr Lee Kuan Yew to execute it, despite the fact that her husband, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, is one of the beneficiaries under the Last Will”, and that his “share increased under the Last Will”.

Citing the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules, AGC alleged that “(Mrs) Lee’s conduct appears prima facie to be in breach of Rules 25 and 46 of the Professional Conduct Rules”, and that the rules necessitate lawyers to avoid or remove themselves from “a position of conflict”.

Mrs Lee on the other hand has consistently insisted that she has never served as LKY’s lawyer so would not have prepared any will for him at all. Her sister-in-law Lee Weiling has echoed that same statement.

This dispute regarding the will between the Lee siblings – PM Lee Hsien Loong, his brother Lee Hsien Yang, and sister Lee Weiling – has been going on for a while now and involves their inheritance from their father, the late Lee Kuan Yew who passed in 2015.