Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fantastic debut of the AQS Lancaster quilt show

The first-ever AQS show in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is now history, but its stunning debut is just the start of a new tradition. Congratulations to Marilyn Badger of St. George, Utah, for winning best of show with her quilt Filigree, shown here.

Thousands of quilters traveled from all over the United States and Canada last week to converge on this small but cosmopolitan city (which I was told is correctly pronounced LANK-a-stir). The combination of a rich cultural heritage, diverse museums and attractions, plentiful nearby hotels and B&Bs, specialty shops and boutiques, and a wonderful array of terrific restaurants within walking distance of the downtown convention center makes this a very attractive location for a quilt vacation. The quality of the quilts on display was outstanding, and vendors traveled from as far away as California and Montana to participate in this venue.

My two favorite downtown Lancaster attractions were the Quilt and Textile Museum and the Central Market. Housed in a former bank featuring a vaulted ceiling and Beaux Arts architecture, the Quilt and Textile museum’s permanent collection includes the world-famous Espirit Quilts, considered by many to be the finest collection of authentic late 19th and early 20th century Amish quilts indigenous to this region. (Because most of the quilts are protected under glass, photography is permitted.)

This photo of two side-by-side quilts shows the difference between fabrics used in Amish and Mennonite quilts. The Mennonite quilt on the left features brighter colors and commercially-produced prints, while the Amish quilt fabrics on the right are all solid colors in a subdued palette. But you’ll learn so much more about Lancaster county quilts from the knowledgeable docents and the well-documented displays.

The Central Market is America’s oldest farmers’ market building, in operation since the 1730s. On Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday each week, farmers bring locally-produced meats, vegetables, bread, flowers, crafts, and desserts to sell in colorful and mouthwatering displays. I couldn’t resist the homemade jams, chocolate, and some specialty cheeses, which made the trip home to Colorado safely.

And then there were the quilts! Row upon row of amazing quilts at the show, from traditional to avant garde. To see all the winning quilts, use this link: Almost every class offered at the show sold out in advance, so be sure to make your plans early for next year’s Lancaster show, March 16-19, 2011.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do the math on this quilt!

What are fractals? In simplest term, a fractal is a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is approximately a reduced-size copy of the whole. The Sierpinski carpet is a well-known example of a plane fractal first described by Polish mathematician Wacław Sierpiński in 1916.

Thank you to Anabeth Dollins for graciously sharing a photo of her quilt based on the Sierpinski carpet. The construction of the Sierpinski carpet begins with a square. The square is cut into 9 congruent sub-squares in a 3-by-3 grid, and the central sub-square is removed, resulting in a Nine-patch quilt block. The same procedure is then applied recursively to the remaining 8 sub-squares, ad infinitum.
What a wonderful quilt design! Make it any size, any color palette, or any fabrics to give the quilt your own spin. Here’s how Anabeth made hers:
“Each week for several weeks I took a pile of fabrics to quilt group—one week reds, one week oranges, one week blues, and so on. I cut two 1" x 8" strips from each of the fabrics that read mostly solid, omitting plaids, florals, and multicolors. At home, I'd choose eight strips that sort of went together in value and color and then make eight 1.5" Nine-patches, using sky fabric as the middle piece. Then I made a 4.5" Nine-patch out of these, using sky as the middle. The 4.5" blocks that satisfy me the least are the ones in which the eight fabrics have too much contrast. I think the trick is to keep the fabrics similar in value.“
Anabeth continues, “Eventually I had 64 different 4.5" Nine-patches to play with. I spent a lot of time arranging them on the design wall, taking one photo after another to record my arrangements. I finally said ‘Stop thinking!’ and put the 64 squares into eight 13.5" Nine-patches, with sky in the middle, and put the eight big squares into a large Nine-patch.
The 512 smallest Nine-patches have half-inch finished blocks. All of the fabrics came from my stash, but since the blocks use so little fabric there's NO visible change in the size of my stash!”
Another variation is the Sierpinski triangle, also a wonderful quilt design. I’ve started my own Sierpinski carpet variation, in which the smallest squares finish three-fourths of an inch. I love this project because it can be done in small snippets of time, and it has endless design and color possibilities. Use your computer’s search engine to find many more examples of quilts based on mathematics. You can see more of Anabeth’s quilts at

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mosaic memorial

Submitted by Marje Rhine, technical pattern editor for American Quilter magazine)
In September I lost the girl doggy love of my life, my 14-year-old Sheltie, Daisy. All fall I thought about what I could do to memorialize her in fabric. Not being very proficient at appliqué and wanting a realistic portrait instead of the cartoon I could design, I decided that a mosaic was the way to go. A quilt would have been my first choice, but it was just not practical.
I cropped one of my favorite photos of Daisy and used PCStitch (photo to cross-stitch, available at software to create a chart with a DMC floss list. I already had most of the DMC colors, purchasing just a few more. I compared the floss to fabrics in my stash, pulling those that matched. After attaching fusible web to the back of small chunks of fabric, I was ready to get to going.
Working on artist mat board, I drew a grid of 2 1/2" squares. Each square would end up holding 100 pieces of fabric 1/4" x 1/4". I cut strips of fused fabric slightly larger than 1/4" wide by about 6" long. Starting in a corner and following the color chart,  I fit the appropriate strip onto the board and trimmed the square to 1/4" x 1/4". About 7,200 squares and six weeks later, I was done. The finished piece measures 18" x 25" and will hang on our wall forever.
I have already told Simon, our collie, that he needs to stick around for a long time.