Monday, December 27, 2010

Entering contests: Quilting lessons from a non-quilter

Erin Ulrich, AQS contest coordinator, shares what she learned as an observer in the jury room.
“I do not quilt, knit, crochet, or hem my own pants. I am not an artist. I am a person good with numbers, spatial relationships, organization, and empirical observation. I cannot create, but I can analyze. Thus, I offer to quilters—artists that you are—the decidedly non-artistic observations of one who has had the unique opportunity of being a fly on the wall in the AQS jury room.

Take good pictures. The jurors are deciding which quilts, out of hundreds of entries, will be selected to hang in a show and compete for prize money. After spending countless hours, dollars, and worries to create your beautiful quilt, why show the jury a mediocre photograph? Take the quilt outside in the natural light, or hang it in a well-lit room. Then photograph it straight on, not from above or below, which causes the quilt to look like the top and bottom are different widths. And don’t cut off the edges! Jurors have to consider the possibility that the quilt is unfinished, the binding crooked, or the corners are not square when they can’t see the edges. Quilts that are photographed on a bed, held up by friends, on the floor, draped over shrubs, folded over at the top, or pooled at the bottom do not fare well in the jury room (the photos below are DON'Ts). The jurying process is blind (jurors do not know the name of the quilt maker—but I do!), and I have seen a jury reject a stunning quilt submitted by a renowned artist because the photo was bad.
Get creative, but don’t sacrifice quality. Jury members are quilters, quilt judges, quilting teachers, and authors. They see thousands of quilts every year, so if you use a pattern or traditional quilt blocks, they have probably seen other quilts similar to yours. They appreciate traditional blocks and patterns that are exemplary, and their eyes are trained to find excellence in craftsmanship and fabric selection. There is no penalty (in AQS contests) for using patterns; but if you choose to use a pattern or a traditional block, do it well! Jurors will not be impressed with a quilt made from a pattern they have seen tens or even hundreds of times if they have seen many better examples of the work. With an inventive original design or innovative quilt, the novelty of technique or design may trump slightly less impressive stitching. However, jurors will not be happy with a quilt—no matter how creative—if straight lines are not straight, circles are not round, fabrics are puckered, or bindings are uneven.

Don’t be intimidated. While working quilt shows, I have heard so many guests, marveling at the beauty of the quilts, say that they would be too embarrassed to submit their quilts to a contest. They fear being laughed at or ridiculed by the highly-esteemed jurors, or don’t believe their work to be of the same caliber as those who enter contests. I have sat silently through enough quilt juries to know that jurors don’t laugh at quilters. While not every quilt is accepted as a semifinalist by the jury, the members always recognize the time and effort put into each quilt. They remember that it is a privilege to sit on a quilt jury and witness the artistry and hard work that quilters of all levels invest in their endeavors. If you have made a quilt you are proud of, there is no need to fear ridicule, and you might just get to see your work hanging in an international quilt show! There is also no reason to be intimidated by the competition. While every contest has its share of professional quilters competing, there are always many hobbyists and first-time entrants as well. In fact, the judges have on multiple occasions awarded Best of Show to a quilter entering an AQS contest for the first time. New art from amateurs and professionals alike is what keeps the quilting world fresh and quilt makers inspired.

Read the rules and the entry form carefully. Before every quilt show I have the unfortunate duty of notifying several quilters that their quilts have been disqualified. While there are many reasons for disqualification, all of them are spelled out in the rules. Inappropriate dimensions are by far the most common reason quilts are disqualified. Each category in each contest has very specific length and width requirements. Quilts that are even half an inch too large or too small cannot be accepted. The second most common mistake is for one contestant to enter too many quilts in the contest or in the same category.

I may never learn to use my sewing machine correctly, and I am a danger to myself and others with a rotary cutter, but I can help quilters like you show their work to the world. Please contact me at if you have questions about any AQS quilt contest.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

New generation of T-shirt quilts

T-shirt quilts, though rarely seen at quilt shows or in magazines, remain popular in the quilt world. (And thanks to the recent movie The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, in which a T-shirt quilt was prominently featured, a new generation of teenagers has become enamored of this quilt style.) T-shirt quilts can be an expression of who we are, where we've been, or what we've accomplished.
The January 2011 issue of American Quilter magazine features two traditional-style T-shirt quilts on page 88, in which the shirts are set in blocks and rows. AQ reader Beverly Hertler, a fiber artist and quilter for more than 20 years, sent me photos of two very contemporary and artistic T-shirt quilts she made for her daughter. Blue Fish (shown above) represents areas her daughter visited on a cross-country drive to Alaska with her sister and George (her dog). Beverly used her daughter's old T-shirts, beads, and ceramic fish to create a quilt she titled Good Times Gone But Not Forgotten (below). This quilt was juried into a "recycled" show at The Monmouth Museum, Lincroft, New Jersey, this past summer. It was the only work incorporating fiber.

Beverly, thank you for sharing your work!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to avoid being a Pointless Person

This technique for preserving points on the Friendship Star and other Pinwheel and Star blocks comes from reader Diane Williams (edited by Marje Rhine, American Quilter magazine pattern editor). It works ONLY when you are making blocks using half-square triangles that you have cut slightly oversized.

For this project, I was working on a 9” finished Friendship Star. The star center and corner patches are cut 3 1/2” x 3 1/2”. For the star points, cut 2 squares 4 1/4” x 4 1/4” from each of the background and star fabrics. These are slightly larger than required. On the lighter fabric, draw a diagonal. Place on the darker fabric, rights sides together. Stitch on each side of the diagonal, 1/4” from the line. Cut apart on the line and press.
Lay the block out before trimming (fig. 1).

Fig. 1

One at a time, square up the half-square triangle units as follows. Position the unit so the star point is at the top right. Position a ruler over the unit so that the ruler’s 45° line is on the lower left seam line but the 45° line is slightly to the right up the upper right seam line and in the background triangle of the unit (fig. 2). Make sure that, with this adjustment, you will still be able to cut a 3 1/2” x 3 1/2” square. Trim the right and top along the ruler edges.

Fig. 2

Rotate the unit 180° and trim the other 2 sides for a 3 1/2” x 3 1/2” square (fig. 3).

Fig. 3

Replace each star point on the block as you work. Make sure the points are in the correct orientation. Assemble the block as you normally would. Since the tips of the star are about 3/8” from the raw edge of the block you will end up with a perfect points even if you don’t sew an exact 1/4 “ seam.
Thank you for your tip, Diane!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quilts and Airplanes

The unveiling of the winners of the Navy Quilts challenge took place in Pensacola, Florida, last week at the National Naval Aviation Museum during the annual “homecoming” of the Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team. Congratulations to best-of-show winner Nita Markos for her quilt “Into the Future” (shown on the left in the photo above). Challenge curator Kelly Gallagher-Abbott of Fort Collins, Colorado, accompanied 80 of the juried and judged competition quilts to Florida for this event – that’s Kelly on the right. Many of the quilts will travel around the country to quilt shows, museums, and airport venues in the next three years. Selected donated quilts will be auctioned at a special event in 2011, with proceeds donated to a scholarship fund for the National Flight Academy ( Other donated quilts will be auctioned online or sold at the Naval Aviation Museum Store in Pensacola.

This quilt challenge was the idea of Charlie Hoewing, wife of Vice Admiral Gerald Hoewing (photo below). Vice Admiral Hoewing USN (Ret) is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Naval Aviation Museum. Charlie, a quilter and museum volunteer, thought it would be wonderful to have a quilt challenge centering around the 100th anniversary of Naval Aviation. Visit to see a complete list of winners and for more information on where the quilts will be shown.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

AQS wins big at IQA

AQS book and magazine authors were well represented in the winners’ circle of the 2010 IQA "A World of Beauty" judged show in Houston last week. Congratulations to Sharon Schamber of Payson, Arizona, for winning the Handi Quilter best-of-show award with her quilt Mystique, shown above. Sharon is the author of two AQS books, Piec-lique: Curves the New Way and Piece by Piece Machine Appliqué. You can learn more about her Sharon’s life and career in Patricia Staten’s profile article published the January 2008 issue of American Quilter magazine. Then try out Sharon’s machine appliqué technique detailed in the same issue. Her magnificent Longarm Couture Trapunto technique was published in the January 2009 issue, pages 70–75.

Sandra Leichner won the Fairfield Master Award for Contemporary Artistry with her quilt Tea with Miss D. Sandra’s book Hand Appliqué with Embroidery is a recent AQS release, and Sandra was profiled in an article by Patricia Staten in the Spring 2006 issue of American Quilter.

Another top winner this year was Paisley Peacock (above) by Pat Holly, awarded the Maywood Studio Master Award for Innovative Artistry. Pat’s article on a unique tabbed edge finish appeared in the November 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine, and her AQS book Stitched Raw Edge Appliqué (written with sister Sue Nickels) details her award-winning machine technique.

The Pfaff Master Award for Machine Artistry was awarded to Susan Stewart for her quilt Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining. Susan is the author of Heirloom Machine Sewing for Quilters. You can find the pattern and instructions for her lovely quilt Misty Garden at Susan also won second place in the Computer-Aided Machine Embroidery category with her quilt Monochrome.

You often find Suzanne Marshall’s name on quilt show winners’ lists. She won first place in the Merit Quilting (Hand) category with her quilt Vases. (A photo of this quilt appears on page 29 of the July 2010 issue of AQ, as it previously won the Best Hand Workmanship award at the AQS show in Lancaster last March.) Suzanne is the author of the AQS book Adventure & Appliqué, and her Bias Stems for Appliqué technique is detailed in the November 2008 issue of AQ.

And there’s still more! Caryl Bryer Fallert won first place in the Art-Abstract (Small) category with her quilt Feathers in the Wind (above). Caryl is the author of the popular book Quilt Savvy: Fallert's Guide to Images on Fabric. Irena Bluhm’s Majestic Bugs won third place in the Merit Quilting (Machine) category. She is the author of Quilts of a Different Color, and an article on her technique will be published in an upcoming issue of AQ. Zena Thorpe, author of Beautiful Alphabet Appliqué, won an honorable mention in the Traditional Appliqué category with her lovely Annie’s Legacy. Zena is the author of Beautiful Alphabet Appliqué. Finally, former American Quilter magazine contributing editor Mary Lou Schwinn and her fellow Cotuit, Massachusetts, quilting friends won third place in the Group Category for their artistic entry titled Boston’s Back Bay.

All of the books mentioned above are available at And AQS members can access all recent American Quilter magazine articles and patterns by signing in with login and password. My congratulations go to all these winners, and my thanks go to all of the countless quilters around the world who enter their quilts in shows. Sharing your sewing and design skills in this way is truly a gift to quilters everywhere.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fall Quilt Market

The 2010 Fall International Quilt Market is now over, but the influx of new products, luscious fabrics, intriguing books, and fantastic sewing and quilting machines to a quilt shop or dealer near you is just beginning. Buyers and sellers from all over the world converge each year in Houston for this wholesale-only trade show, which showcases supplies and technology for the quilting and soft crafts industries. AQS Publishing takes part in this show (as well as the annual spring market), introducing new book titles and arranging educational demonstrations by AQS book authors. Among those who represented AQS this year (photo above) are Jan Magee in the center, Chrystal Abhalter on the right, and me on the left. Yes, Jan (editor-in-chief of The Quilt Life magazine) is wearing her editorial devil horns. It was Halloween, after all.
The positive energy in the AQS booth is always palpable at Market. But this year, the energy was subdued: Marge Boyle, our director of sales and marketing, died suddenly this past week, just before she was scheduled to leave for Houston. Marge had worked as a quilting industry professional for many years, and her business skill, calm demeanor, knowledge, and efficiency were widely appreciated and respected. But AQS lost not only a valued part of the organization—Marge was a also a loyal and thoughtful friend to those who knew her. Hundreds of Market attendees signed a memorial book to be given to Marge’s family. My sincerest sympathies go to her husband and family.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Attention Mystery Quilters!

If you are one of the nearly 150 quilters who entered our Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt Contest, remember that the deadline for submitting a photo of your second installment is looming. Please send a clear photo of your Part 2 sewn components to me at by November 1, 2010. (Sorry, only those quilters who entered the contest by August 31, 2010, are eligible to win.)

I'll be in Houston at International Quilt Market and International Quilt Festival through November 6th but I'll be checking e-mail every day.

Part 3 of the pattern, which reveals the final clues for completing your mystery quilt, will be published in the January 2011 issue of American Quilter magazine. This issue will be available online for AQS members by mid-November, and mailed to members later that month. In order to be eligible to win one of the three contest prizes, you should e-mail me a photo of your completed mystery quilt (quilted, edges finished, and sleeve attached) no later than January 18, 2011. You may send the photo earlier if you finish earlier. Please include a little information about your focus blocks when you submit your final quilt photo.

Happy sewing and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Sticky Subject

(Submitted by Marje Rhine, pattern editor for American Quilter magazine)
When I recently needed a project for a car trip, I pulled out a small kit for an English paper-pieced Grandmother’s Flower Garden block. I remembered Rachel Wetzler’s article “Portable Pastime” in the May 2009 issue of American Quilter magazine on preparing just such a project. Rachel recommends printing the templates on freezer paper, then pressing the shiny side to the wrong side of the fabric before basting around the templates. But there was no time for thatI already had lightweight cardboard templates, and my husband was in the car and ready to go. So I grabbed my re-stickable glue stick and was out the door.

The glue stick worked great. Re-stickable (sometimes call removeable or repositionable) glue stick makes any piece of paper stick like a Post-it® note. It holds the paper in place but is easy to remove without leaving sticky residue. I like the Scotch® brand but Avery® and Elmer's® make comparable products. Rather than pin the templates to the fabric, I applied a light coat of the re-stickable glue stick to the back of the template. I let it dry about a minute, then finger pressed it onto my fabric. It held firmly while I basted around the template. When it was time to remove the template it came out easily and the template could be reused.

Restickable glue stick has become an important tool for my quilting. I have used it for years to hold the first patch to the foundation when foundation piecing. I also apply it to the back of plastic templates to hold them in place on fabric while I draw or cut around.

If you decide to give this a try, make sure you are using re-stickable (or removeable or repositionable) glue stick, and apply it to the template or paperNOT the fabric.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vivacious Curvy Quilts

Every once in a while a newly-published book makes me sit up and take notice for one reason or another. Dianne Hire’s Vivacious Curvy Quilts is one of those books. The colorful cover gives you a sense of what you are about to discover in the pages that follow: Template-free ways to cut, sew, and combine curvy pieced blocks into dynamic and creative quilts. Lots of clear illustrations and dozens of visually-interesting original quilts accompany Dianne’s well-written text. This is truly a playtime book, one that gives you the technical and design tools to venture successfully into quilt innovation. Dianne has graciously given me permission to share some of her quilt images and book ideas here.

Most of the blocks begin with a stack of 4 to 6 compatible fabrics cut into squares which are then rotary cut in a variety of gentle curves. For those with no curved-piecing experience, Dianne recommends starting with a gentle “continuous curve” cut (shown in the first-from-left block  in the top row of the quilt above). Vessel-shaped or chalice “curvies” start with a rectangle instead of a square, elongating your block designs. Corner curvies, below, are another variation.
Dianne’s quilt Curvaceous Squares, shown at the top of this posting, illustrates three different types of curvies: continuous, circular, and corner. Here are four different configurations for side-to-one-corner curvies:
 In Rain Clouds, shown below, Dianne experimented with larger rectangles and quickly put together this lovely wallhanging in under just three hours.

A final chapter in the book is devoted to bindings and edge finishing, including details on how to finish a curvy quilt with “stick-outs,” like Saffron, shown below.

If you love traditional geometric quilt designs but are ready to venture into more contemporary and original quilts, you will no doubt enjoy this book. AQS members receive a discount on this and other books ordered through our website,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Where in the world...

Is it Shanghai? Singapore? Beijing? Yokohama? No, this lovely Asian garden is on the east bank of the Des Moines River! It’s just a short walk across a pedestrian bridge from the Iowa Events Center, where the third annual AQS Des Moines Quilt Show & Contest wraps up today, and it’s just one of the many pleasant surprises an out-of-towner can experience in Iowa’s largest city.

The Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens and Character Garden were opened last year on a site provided by the city of Des Moines. The gardens are the first phase of the Chinese Cultural Center of America Riverfront Project, designed to highlight the importance of diversity and acknowledge the significant contributions that Asian Americans have made to Iowa. The picturesque Asian pavilion sits atop an undulating bridge, spanning a pond that cascades into the Des Moines River with a series of waterfalls. Strolling by the stone pagodas, lanterns, and sculptural rock formations, you are spiritually and visually transported to a Far Eastern paradise.

The Character Garden features six large granite boulders arranged in a circle, each carved with Chinese characters representing responsibility, citizenship, fairness, respect, caring, and trustworthiness. The boulders symbolize and celebrate the six enduring moral values that transcend time, nationality, and culture.

Back to quilts: The AQS Des Moines Quilt Show & Contest closes today at 5 P.M. Congratulations to best-of-show winner Lisa Calle of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, for her quilt Hula Hibiscus. You can see photos of this beauty and all the other award-winning quilts at If you couldn’t make it to Des Moines this year, it’s not too early to plan ahead. Next year’s AQS show will take place Sept. 28 – Oct. 1, 2011.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Santa Fe Quilts

What does a quilt magazine editor/certified quilt judge do on vacation? Participate in quilt-related activities, of course! I was invited by the Northern New Mexico Quilt Guild to judge their every-two-years Quilt Fiesta in Santa Fe, an invitation I accepted with pleasure. And what a wonderful show it will be! The talent runs deep in this group, from lovely hand stitching to exquisite machine quilting to wildly imaginative narrative and innovative designs and techniques — eye candy for anyone who appreciates textile arts.

As in most groups, there is a corps of dedicated volunteers organizing this show, including guild president and show chair Lynne Horpedahl, shown above with her quilt entry named Our House. The show runs from Oct. 1-3 at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, and you can find more details at If you happen to be in the Santa Fe or Albuquerque area later this week, don’t miss this great show.

And if the quilt show, art galleries, folk art museum, and fabulous food weren’t enough to draw you to Santa Fe, you won't want to miss Santa Fe Quilting, 3018-A Cielo Court. This is truly one of the most well-stocked, diverse, and colorful shops I have ever explored – and I’ve seen more than a few in my time. Whether your quilt preferences are contemporary, traditional, or somewhere in between, you’ll find fabric, thread, patterns, embellishments, kits, and an abundance of beautiful finished quilts on display. Owner Mary McCusker (photo below) and her staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

The judging is over for this show, but the quilt fun continues. I’m getting on another plane tomorrow en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. My horoscope (I'm a Capricorn) predicts more quilts and fabric in my immediate future…

Monday, September 27, 2010

Aligning sashed rows

(Submitted by Marje Rhine, pattern editor for American Quilter magazine)
One of the most obvious and frequent mistakes made by beginning quilters when joining rows of blocks is poor alignment. This is especially true when working with sashed blocks and rows that don’t have cornerstones (the squares usually found between block sashing), causing the rows to look crooked (fig. 1).

To prevent this from happening, as you line up your sashed rows for sewing be careful to match the sashing seams between blocks on the two rows (fig. 2). To check before sewing, fold down the top row to make sure sashing pieces are aligned (fig. 3) then pin to secure.

Monday, September 20, 2010

International wedding story

Weddings seem to be on my mind lately, no doubt due to my new status as a future mother of the bride. Helle-May Cheney, a talented quilt designer who will be featured in a future issue of American Quilter, recently sent me this charming wedding story.

“I am a first-generation Estonian-American with nearly all my family still living in Estonia. After 50 years of Soviet occupation, Estonia regained its independence in 1991, finally allowing me the opportunity to visit and get to know my relatives. This summer our visit had a very special purpose—to attend the wedding of my cousin Liina and her Norwegian fiancé, Harald.
Of course this meant a wedding quilt was in order! I wanted it to reflect both homelands also be a memento of the occasion. For the center, I made a patchwork version of the traditional striped woven wool skirt that my cousin would wear at the wedding. The border reflected the colors of the Estonian flag (blue, black, and white) and the Norwegian flag (blue, red, and white). A blue ribbon weaving through a white chain represented the joining of two cultures, families, and the multitude of friends.
The wedding ceremony took place on a picture-perfect summer day at a church built in 1534. The 100 guests, about half from Norway, were invited to wear the traditional dress of their native country and region, which made for a colorful wedding!
From the church, the guests joined the wedding party in a motorcade to Liina’s mother’s house where both bride and groom had to demonstrate their readiness for married life by chopping wood (groom), darning a sock (bride), and donning a two-person apron to jointly peel a potato! Once the tasks were performed to the satisfaction of the Norwegian and Estonian grandmothers, we were on our way to the reception.
After a champagne toast, I presented my quilt to the couple and invited all guests to sign the quilt in the white chain. As is the custom, Liina changed into her national dress at midnight and was presented with her married woman’s apron and hat by her mother and mother-in-law. The band played on well into the night with a combination of Norwegian and Estonian pop favorites, and all language barriers were broken with dance and laughter.
The wedding was a beautiful merging of cultures, traditions, and ages. I was so happy to have been a part of it all!”

Read more about Helle-May and see her quilt designs at

Monday, September 6, 2010

Quilt Tzedakah

The Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown this coming Wednesday, is a time for introspection. A busy Jewish quilter in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who prefers to remain anonymous, sent me this message to share with others as we approach the High Holy Days:
"When I became a Jewish woman in 1996, I learned two phrases in Hebrew: tzedakah, which translates as justice and refers to charitable giving; and tikkun olam, which translates literally as “to repair the world” and means social action in English. It was not until ten years later, when I began quilting, that I found a way of making these words truly my own.

Every third or fourth quilt I make now is what I call a tzedakah quilt (one is shown here). Through my guild, many other quilters and I have donated quilts to our community’s women’s shelter. Learning about this program also inspired me to start donating quilts to a local children’s hospital, where there is an ongoing need for twin-size and baby quilts for the children admitted. I have also donated quilts for benefits, such as for our hospice care facility, and of course, I have given away many quilts just to family and friends.

These are my ways of giving back (tzedakah) and repairing a broken world (tikkun olam). The gift of a quilt has always been a gift of practicality and beauty, given with the hope of brightening a person’s surroundings and providing a pleasing, meaningful memory.

All forms of tzedakah and tikkun olam are important. It’s just nice to find a way of doing it that expresses all the love and care that a quilt does. I’m grateful to have discovered this tradition."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Upcycled Wearable Art

At the recent Association of Pacific West Quilters Symposium, held August 12-15, 2010 in Olympia, Washington, quilt designer and author Lorraine Torrence and Jane Moxey coordinated an evening event called the Upcycled Challenge. Contestants were challenged to make garments out of something they already owned that they were not planning to use, such as ready-made clothing, embellishments, found objects, threads, trims, or other “impulse-driven, still-unused crafting purchases sitting in their sewing space which will be so happy to be used for this challenge!” To make it even more interesting, there was a suggested time limit of one hour for garment construction. Any construction technique was acceptable—gluing, tearing, stitching by hand or machine, hammering, stapling, or pinning.

Since Jane and Lorraine were the event’s hosts, they had to make and wear their own upcycled garments that evening. And what do most quilters have in the back of their closet? Those souvenir quilt show canvas tote bags, of course, and Lorraine used hers to make this adorable jacket.
The contest was fun for all, and completed projects ranged from fun and goofy to beautiful and very wearable garments. Sounds like a great guild or bee activity!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Last-minute mystery ideas

Anyone with some quilting and piecing experience under his/her belt can still whip up the Part 1 blocks in our Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt and enter the mystery quilt contest. Deadline for entries is Tuesday, August 31—all the contest details are on page 66 of the September 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine. (And be sure to read my blog posting of July 23, August 5, or August 24 for an important cutting correction to the Part 1 instructions.)
But you don’t have to enter the contest to enjoy the fun. Here are some of the amazing focus blocks our readers have created.
Deborah Dunten of Houston, Texas, used flower photos (above) she digitally kaleidoscoped and printed on fabric. “They were originally going to be put into a Row Robin quilt but became orphans. This is a perfect use for them. I’m loving it! Can’t wait to get the next installment,” she writes.
Christy Turner of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, celebrated her “darling daughter” in these excellent photos-on-fabric focus blocks. Christy, what an amazing tribute quilt this will be!
“Since I was very young, I have been fascinated by fences,” writes Janet Springfield of Pendleton, Indiana. “The designs, types, materials, and uses for them have no end. So when I read about the mystery quilt focus blocks and asked myself what truly fascinates me, the answer was fences.” Such artistic blocks, Janet. Your quilt will be spectacular.
“My focus fabric is fussy cut from ‘Savannah’ by Michael Miller Fabrics,” says Marlene Oddie of College Place, Washington. “It reminds me of an award-winning painting by my high school friend, Stacy Barter. The magazine description of a non-traditional setting with a great visual impact sold me on using my fabric to make this mystery!”
Cynthia Felts of Rolla, Missouri, decided to make this quilt for her soon-to-be-five granddaughter. “I drew the outline of three different butterfly shapes with the help of clip art from the Internet. The shapes are machine appliquéd to the background squares using a satin stitch. I added some details with thread-painting. I really enjoyed working on this. Thanks for the excellent directions.” What a gorgeous quilt this lucky little girl will receive!
Carol Weber used a lovely autumn color scheme for her blocks. The leaf print focus fabric is presented beautifully in a circle-in-a square setting.

Even if you don’t enter our contest, perhaps you can take some inspiration from these photos and all the others I’ve posted the past couple months. Though the final block settings revealed in Part 3 will be similar for all these quilts, the colors, prints, themes, visual impact, and “voices” will be distinctly different, reflecting the personality of each quilt maker or recipient.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One week left to enter mystery quilt contest

There's still time...but you need to get those sewing machines revved up if you want to enter our Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt contest. Deadline for entries is Tuesday, August 31. All the details are on page 66 of the September 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine. (The digital version of this issue is available for AQS members at
Just after we went to press with this issue, our testers found an error in the cutting diagrams for templates E and H. Please be sure to follow the diagrams above instead of those printed in the magazine.
And if you are using directional focus blocks (with a distinct up and down), please use the figure 9 shown below to complete Star block #2.
I continue to get contest entries from dozens of U.S. states and several countries. Below are the completed blocks made by Yvette Maynard of Stone Mountain, Georgia. The masks are appliquéd from a pattern collection by Sindy Rodemeyer, while the animals are cut from a panel. Yvette had some animal print fabric bought on a whim and she says this contest gave her the opportunity to use it.
Martien Bakker from The Netherlands writes that this is her first-ever mystery quilt. She used fabrics purchased in Norway while on spring holiday along with suitable fabrics pulled from her stash (photo below).

And Janice Matsen of Portland, Oregon, fussy cut and pieced her eyecatching focus blocks.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quilting: The "Thread" of Life

Every Monday morning, I try to start the work week with a project or article that speaks to the positive influence quilting has on my life or the lives of others. It's a great way to set the tone for the week while validating the hobby (and now vocation) I have enjoyed for more than 35 years. Marica Heckart sent me her quilting story and has allowed me to share it here.
"We three young mothers were busy raising children, with little time for getting together. That was 46 years ago.
Even though living on a farm found her busy with gardening and helping her husband work the land while raising a family, Ruth had become quite the quilter. She quilted by machine, yet she could also do beautiful hand quilting. Along came Sue and I, visiting Ruth, who provided the enthusiasm to quilting. Ruth assured us it really wasn’t that hard. I was to participate in the Relay for Life (American Cancer Society) and thought it would be nice to have a quilt to raffle off for my team. The only catch: the event was 10 days away. Ruth very calmly said, "We can do it." And so a quilt was made and raffled off, and thus the quilting bug began.
Sue is the artist—she can look at fabrics to help us choose appropriate values and colors. Sue suggested we make a quilt for a little boy with cerebral palsy. A fantastic creation was made, and received with tears. Our goup of three became six. Sue then suggested a quilt for the Relay for the next year, and another one was created with Sue's help. The winning raffle ticket was pulled at my church one Sunday morning, and the lady who won it was ecstatic. She had no grandchildren and none on the way, but knew exactly where the quilt would be donated. We all had tears in our eyes as she said, 'This is going to Provident House, in Cleveland, Ohio.'
After many years, Ruth, Sue, and I, longtime school classmates, renewed our friendship. Now that our families have grown, we all gather once a week and are joined by four other friends. We either make individual projects or a special quilt to be given away. (The African man in the photo above was put together with lots of remnants, some upholstery material, and leather scraps, making this quilt so vivid it truly speaks to the viewer.) And Ruth, bless her heart, does all the quilting with her longarm machine.
Friendship is precious, and what a delight to be 66 years old, enjoying the "threads" of life through quilting.”