QuiltCon: Mining for Gold

I attended four lectures at QuiltCon. I tried to find a nugget of gold in each one. It was California, after all.

From Fine Art to Functional Quilts

By Kim Eichler-Messmer

I knew Kim from the Slow Stitching Retreat, but her lecture gave me her story as a fine art student/teacher to a functional quilt maker. I gained insight into her process, and it inspired me. Her quilt journey showed how she took fabric collages from her student days and her personal struggle with grief, where she participated in the 100-Day Project, to create large quilt blocks. They reflect her experiences and incorporate her current experimentation with natural hand-dyed fabrics.

What did I take away from this? Fabric as sketches. I could see myself making mini quilts before committing to a large project with that design. My work reflects what I’m internally thinking and I don’t have to know that at the time I’m making the quilt.

Made in Japan: Quilts, Cotton and Indigo

By Teresa Duryea Wong

This lecture explored the history of cotton, weaving and indigo in Japan. Teresa’s presentation was beautiful. I could stare at iconic textiles all day. Teresa explained the expertise of Japanese manufacturers and why textiles produced there are so fine.

What did I take away from this? Thank you Japanese manufacturers. You inspire me. Teresa said quilters use a taupe palette — they want to reflect nature and whisper.

You Make the Rules: How I use Design to Guide Work and Life

By Carolyn Friedlander

The lecture was a personal story of design and the humble beginnings of this quilting super star. I felt I knew all of this because I have her book, Savor Each Stitch, and I follow her on all the platforms.

What did I take away from this? I left the lecture, thinking “no nuggets.” Later when it was quiet in my hotel, I forced myself to replay her lecture in my mind. The advice, Start Where you Are, Start at Home, was the big picture from her lecture.

I began to think about where I am and where I call home. I live in Colonial Heights, but when I think of home, I think of Southwest Virginia. I wondered what ideas I had about Southwest Virginia.

I sketched a few ideas and I can see some of these becoming quilts. I wrote these ideas: underground, ghosts, the company store, addiction, coal keeps the lights on, and we’re feeling f–ing unappreciated, quilts, it’s beautiful here, bluegrass, the crooked road, back of the dragon, take me to church, cornbread, . . . . I envision a series called Living Appalachia.

Living Appalachia sketches

Lessons from Art Critique

By Chawne Kimber

I also met Chawne at the Slow Stitching Retreat. Her story was also new to me. She described a young life immersed in art museums and the study of art. She shared tips on critiquing art.

What did I take away from this? The biggest advice from her: spend time with art. Look at it, think about it, ask questions.

I didn’t take her advice at the quilt show. I wanted to see all the quilts!

Except, I did spend time looking at Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s first-place quilt, Color Play H1, in Modern Traditionalism category. At first, I had that, “well, that’s nice” response. Perhaps it was the simple design repeated with different solid colors. It is the traditional herringbone pattern. After studying it, I realized she used white on the borders and there is magic in how the “bones” recede because of the color choices. Also straight line quilting is balanced with the ribbon candy quilting. At the same time, it made me dizzy. There is one repeating color– the orange on the right border. That’s the only repeating color. And the craftsmanship is stellar. The quilt reflects patience and good design.

Color Play VFW close upColor Play VFW

Final Thoughts

When I returned from QuiltCon, my brain felt fried — like the commercial– this is your brain on great quilt art. I am excited to put my inspirations to work and see what I can buy with my nuggets of gold.

The challenge of a challenge

This year’s QuiltCon Michael Miller Fabric Challenge was a finishing challenge.

While  I was machine quilting, my Bernina 560 machine gave me fits. The needle position was to the left when I turned it on but the display said it was in the middle. Then the tension acted up and the stitches looked terrible. This was at the first of November. I took it to the shop— wait time could be 30 days or more. Good grief!

I came home and used my credit card points to purchase an inexpensive machine, a Brother. I didn’t have a backup and this seemed like good time to get one.


City Hall Secrets

That meant I switched to handquilting. I love handquilting but finishing it on time would be a struggle. And it was.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Brother arrived. On Sunday, I added the binding even though I had until November 30 to enter it. You never know when the computer will go out too.

Because sections of the edges were not quilted, I got puckers on the back using the regular presser foot on the Brother when stitching the binding. I was used to my walking foot. And this confirmed how valuable a walking foot is. Most of it was okay but about a third had to be removed and redone. The next pass I pinned the whole thing and no puckers. Yeah for patience!

I took photos on Monday, November 27, and entered the quilt that night.


The quilt design has a nice backstory. In May I took over our Guild’s Instagram account. On May 8 the theme for the day was Inspiration. I took a photo of the back side of City Hall. I live across the street.

Last year I bought Heather Jones’ book, Quilt Local, Finding Inspiration in the Everyday. Heather used photos of local scenes and turned them into quilt designs and quilts. I took her instructions and sketched a quilt from the City Hall photo. Then, a graph with sizes for each edition.


Along the way I adapted it, preferring an asymmetrical design. And I added two rows on the right. Rather than solid “sashing”, I used the Michael Miller Our Yard prints. They started as large improv blocks that I cut and stitched into long strips. That changed my plan to connecting the rows. Instead of three long rows, I had multiple sections and rows. It actually helped with accuracy. I find that sewing long strips together can create wonky lines.


I love a good challenge

One definition of a “challenge” is a stimulating or interesting task or problem. I like quilt challenges because they focus my intentions on a particular problem.

Right now many modern quilters are creating quilts using Michael Miller’s Glitz Collection for the 2016 QuiltCon West show. I was one of those quilters.

The fabric was sophisticated and included mostly polka dots and “orange peel” graphics in silver, white, black and gold. I received 8 fat-eighths.

When I typed the word “glitz” into Pinterest, I got posts from beauty pageants and little girls in heavy makeup — not chic at all. I sketched some, and nothing felt right. I let it go for awhile.

I purchased a notebook while on vacation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and it inspired me to make Swimsuits as my Glitz challenge:

swimsuits inspiration

I sketched some swimsuits. Then cut out patterns from freezer paper. I added some bikinis to my swimsuit collection.

At first I thought I’d make a simple block in a coordinating solid for each swimsuit, but they looked plain and flat. I went back to Pinterest and typed “vintage swimsuits” and stumbled upon an old Frederick’s of Hollywood ad for lingerie. I liked the design which inspired this sketch:


I played and played and played. I enjoyed the process, folding fabrics and making the most wonderful swimsuit collection.

I entered it in the challenge.

My daughter loves it. She has taken it for her own. Michael Miller fabric feels luxurious.

It’s a winner.

swimsuits make me happy

Swimsuits make me smile too,