Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mystery Quilt Contest finalists

The response to our Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt Contest has been nothing short of amazing! Of the 119 quilters who entered last August by completing part 1 published in the September 2010 issue, 95 (80%) completed part 2 by the November 2010 deadline, and 71 (60%) submitted photos of their finished quilts by the January 2011 completion deadline. But it wasn’t only the numbers that were fantastic—the comments were, too. Almost without exception, entrants thoroughly enjoyed participating in the challenge and were delighted with their finished quilts.
Here are the eight randomly-chosen finalists:
Kitty Adamo of Hopewell Junction, NY
Dorothy Alexander of Superior, NE
Amy Allen of Honaunau, HI
Cynthia Felts of Rolla, MO
Abigail Fuller of Troy, ID
Synneva Hicks of Byron, MN
Alice Means of Bolton, CT
Beth Schillig of Columbus, OH
Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. Three winning quilts will be chosen by AQS founder and president Meredith Schroeder, and photos of those three quilts will appear in the May 2011 issue of American Quilter magazine.

If you’re catching up and still want to make your own Beyond the Block quilt, all three installments of the pattern are available at to AQS members. And for inspiration, photos of ALL completed mystery quilts submitted for the contest will be posted in the Readers’ Quilts gallery under the American Quilter tab on the AQS home page by the end of February.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Inspired by Grandma

With over 70 Sunbonnet Sue books currently listed on (including out-of-print titles selling for hundreds of dollars) plus countless stories, patterns, articles, and websites devoted exclusively to her, Sue has remained incredibly popular since her creation around 1900 by artist and illustrator Bertha Corbett. For a fascinating insight into Bertha's life, be sure to read the article by Betsy Lewis in the March 2011 issue of American Quilter magazine, on newsstand February 15, 2011. 

My friend Anita Shackelford, an AQS author and NQA certified quilt judge, has been a quiltmaker since 1967. She is an internationally recognized teacher and lecturer who loves combining appliqué and fine hand quilting to create new quilts in 19th century style. Her quilts have been exhibited in shows across the United States, in Australia and Japan, winning many awards, including twelve best of show and many for workmanship.

Anita has graciously shared this personal story and quilt photos:

"My grandmother was a quiltmaker. When her daughters were young, she made each of them a Sunbonnet Sue. The pattern was popular in the 1930s and a good choice for girls. She made it in the typical style with a variety of prints for the dresses and coordinating solids for the hats and shoes. To personalize the quilts, she collected fabrics from schoolmates for each of the dresses and embroidered the friends’ names on the blocks. The applique blocks were set with a wide sashing and of course, hand quilted.

I also have a Dresden Plate quilt that Grandma made. Again, she worked in a scrappy style, but this quilt was made from new fabric, bought for quiltmaking. These blocks were set with a golden yellow solid for the sashing and borders and the quilt was quilted by hand.

I was still in college when I decided I wanted to make a quilt. Grandma was no longer here to help with the task, but Aunt Gini had saved all of the scraps and cardboard templates Grandma had used. Her Dresden Plate was the pattern that appealed to me; I chose to make mine scrappy too, and many of the fabrics I used came from Grandma’s trunk. One cardboard wedge was all I had to work with. I traced with a pencil, cut pieces with scissors, and stitched them together by hand. I remember loving the process of laying pattern against pattern and joining them into something complex and beautiful.

A few years later when I was married and had little girls, I felt ready to try my hand at quiltmaking again. Following the inspiration from Grandma, I made two Sunbonnet Sue quilts for my two daughters. My Sues were made from family fabrics. I used more of the fabrics from Grandma’s trunk, some from Aunt Gini, summer dresses that my mother had worn, a shirt that my little brother had outgrown, and scraps from my own dressmaking. I used Grandma’s cardboard templates and did the work by hand. To personalize the quilts, I quilted each girl’s name into the sashing.

For me, quilting has grown from an interest in my family history, to a hobby, and now a profession. I still quilt by hand, but also use my sewing machine and a longarm quilting machine. I love all of it and frequently combine the different methods in the same quilt. By today’s standards, those first quilts would seem to have little value. But I feel fortunate to have had that early, traditional beginning and I’m still drawn to antique quilts and their stories."

Anita Shackelford's books may be ordered through AQS at, and AQS members receive a discount. For more information on Anita, visit her website

Monday, January 10, 2011

AQ editor participates in the Dream Rocket project

[This article was written by American Quilter contributing editor Iris Frank of Santa Cruz, California.]

Jennifer Marsh’s dreams are never small…actually, they are gargantuan in my book. When I heard about her current “dream” project of wrapping the 37-story tall Saturn V Rocket replica standing at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, with fabric art, I immediately reserved a panel! This amazing endeavor is called The Dream Rocket, and more information is available at

One category was Peace, and for as long as I could remember, my husband David (an aerospace engineer) had a quote by President Eisenhower displayed in his office: “Military power…serves the cause of peace by holding up a shield behind which the patient, constructive work of peace can go on.” The quote was illustrated with a beautiful pen and ink drawing of an eagle protecting a dove.

Our family's Dream Rocket panel is divided into fourths with the quote in one. For two of the others, my grandsons in the photo below (Ethan, age 7 and Alexander, age 8) drew pictures about their recently deceased grandfather. Ethan’s airplane was probably inspired by a memory of eating at a restaurant adjacent to San Francisco International Airport. He and Pops had a contest to see who could identify in and outbound planes first. (It was pretty much a tie!) Alexander’s rocket in space could be attributed to their trips to the schoolyard to launch stomp rockets! The remaining fourth is an “In Memory of” panel.

The rocket is to be wrapped in fabric to coincide with the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s announcement to “land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth”—May 25, 2011. I can’t wait to see the completion of this amazing endeavor or what’s coming next. Dream on, Jennifer! For a prior Jennifer Marsh project, read the Amazing Endeavors: Independence Tree article on page 18 in the March 2010 issue of American Quilter magazine.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011...time to finish those mystery quilts!

For those quilters who qualified for continuation in our Beyond the Block mystery contest, you have until Tuesday, January 18th to send me photos of your completed mystery quilt. Your quilt must be quilted with the edges finished and a hanging sleeve attached to the back. Send mystery quilt photos to and please include a little information about your focus blocks and process.

Approximately eight finalists will be chosen during the last week of January, and those finalists will be given instructions on shipping their quilts to the AQS photography studio in Paducah. The three contest winners will be chosen from the finalists, and the three winning quilts will be published in the May 2011 issue of American Quilter magazine. This issue will be available online to AQS members by mid-March and on newsstand the second week of April.

The beautiful completed mystery quilt shown above was made by Janet Springfield of Pendleton, Indiana. Janet writes: "My quilt is named Fascinatin' Fences because of my own fascination with fences. The focus blocks are from my community and include a classic farm fence, three very different wood fences including a picket style, an old iron fence, a utilitarian chain link, and a somewhat shocking prison fence from the Indiana State Reformatory south of town. Continuing with the fence theme, I pieced the Rail Fence pattern for the backing. My label is a photo, taken two miles from my house, of an old style rail fence."

Even though we can only publish three winning quilts in the magazine, photos of all completed Beyond the Block mystery quilts will be posted in our Readers’ Quilts gallery online at by late spring 2011. You can access this gallery in the drop-down menu under the American Quilter Magazine tab on the home page.