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The Nine-Patch takes a modern turn

Meet the Winners of the Create a Nine-Patch Pizzazz Keepsake Challenge!

   Oh, what a delightful array of quilts we received as entries in the latest challenge contest. We never imagined that there could be so many interpretations of the humble old Nine Patch. We had a sudoku quilt, one with tic-tac-toe, and another featuring Grandma playing checkers. There was a hippy VW bus, and, of course, there had to be a Sunbonnet Sue.

   Perhaps it was the contemporary fabrics in the challenge Medley™ that inspired quilters to create such a variety of quilts. Each quilter had to use at least four of the six Medley fabrics, and could add two fabrics of her own choosing while making a 30" x 30" quilt. Judges were Judy Sabanek, founder of Keepsake Quilting, accomplished quilter and quilting instructor Denny Stringfellow, and award-winning quilter Marilyn Ray.

Meet the Winners
   The judges remarked that the overall feeling of the quilts was "fun, springy and jazzy." The quilt that won first-place honors was certainly all of those things and as clever as clever can be. First-place winner Connie Reeder of Media, Pennsylvania, embellished her bright, sparkly and zany quilt to the hilt. She used all sorts of ribbons, cording and beads. All those embellishments might have normally overpoweredFirst Place Winner most quilts, but not Connie's quilt. Her doodads just seemed to work. Oh, and we mustn't forget the craziest embellishments of all. Zippers! Connie noticed that "pizzazz" (from Nine-Patch Pizzazz) spelled backwards is "zzazZIP," so why not use zippers in the quilt. Now, we never expected anyone to come up with that idea! Connie bought a bunch of zippers in various colors and stitched them into the seams, made zippered pockets on the borders, and even used a red zipper for the mouth of the fancy lady who looks out from one of the Nine Patches with her tangled-ribbon hair and sequined, three-dimensional eyelids.

   Not only does Connie's quilt capture the "pizzazz" aspect of the challenge theme, it captures the Nine-Patch theme in a big way, too. The zipper mouth of the lady has teeth and red tongue made up of beads in a Nine-Patch arrangement. Beads throughout the quilt are set in other clever Nine-Patch arrangements, with one group of beads spelling "zzzzzzzip" and another "ninepatch." She also pieced Nine Patches within her big Nine-Patch setting. Connie said, "Nine Patches are beautiful and traditional, but they don't have a lot of pizzazz unless you make the pizzazz yourself. That's what I wanted to do." She certainly succeeded! Part of that pizzazz can be attributed to her choice of additional fabrics—the gray silver-metallic dotted print and the yellow/green chevron print. The judges commented that the bright yellow/green border fabric was a very "startling choice, but it worked!" "I love color," said Connie, "I absolutely love color, and I love fabric."

   Along with her fabulous color use, and fabric and embellishment choices, Connie also demonstrated top-notch workmanship in her winning quilt, which has machine applique, beading, couching, piecing and machine quilting, all precisely done. Connie has been sewing since she was 11 years old and has been quilting for over 30 years. Now that she's retired from her career as a special-education teacher, she says she has lots of time to sew, and is even teaching her nine-year-old granddaughter to sew. What a lucky little girl to have the opportunity to learn from a grandmother as talented and creative as Connie.Second Place Winner

   Our second-place winner, Susan Walker of North Liberty, Iowa, was a young girl when she started sewing, too. She sewed garments at age 12 and began making quilts when her children came along. Now a mother of four and a grandmother of six, Susan always has a project going and is always thinking of her next project. She was thinking about what she might do for the Create a Nine-Patch Pizzazz contest, and then one day the challenge Medley came in the mail. "When I got it," she told us, "I'm like, 'Oh my goodness! This isn't anything I'd ever use or buy!'" But she said that once the quilt was all finished, she really loved it.

   The judges loved her quilt too, especially how she set her flowers on the diagonal and balanced the geometric Nine Patches with circles in the border. They especially liked the addition of a striped fabric for her binding. Her other added fabric was the white solid that intersects the Nine Patches. Susan had started her design by making Nine Patches, and then cut them apart with a wavy ruler. She inserting wavy strips of the white solid along the width of the blocks and strips of the green challenge fabric along the height of the blocks, cleverly turning the green strips into stems, to which she added fusible machine-appliqued leaves. For her flowers, she cut circular-shapes from the large-scale challenge fabric and hand appliqued them in place. All of the circles were backed with an extra layer of batting for added dimension. The border circles, stems and leaves were all machine buttonhole stitched in place. Susan says that she normally doesn't use beads in her quilts, but since the theme included "pizzazz," she hand stitched hundreds of tiny beads and sequins throughout the quilt, adding shimmer without stealing the attention from her beautifully balanced design.

   Susan approached her quilt design one step at a time. She said, "When I started out, I didn't really have a plan. I just went from one step to the next, and I was hoping it would come out to be the right width." Much to Susan's delight, her quilt ended up being the perfect size, and the perfect quilt to receive second-place honors.

   Third-place honors went to a wonderfully whimsical quilt by Lorraine Cooper of Issaquah, Washington. Lorraine turned traditional Nine-Patches topsy-turvy by bringing them to life in the funniest way. Lorraine Third Placereceived written permission from JWD Publishing to base her challenge design on Mickey Depre's "The Nine-Patchers' Family Reunion" pattern. Lorraine already had the pattern and knew the time had come to turn the pattern into a quilt when she heard the name of the challenge theme.

   Lorraine said she had a great time giving her Nine-Patch people plastic wiggle eyes with three-dimensional fake eyelashes and creating all sorts of funny footwear embellished with beads, string bows and the "eyes" from metal hooks and eyes. She made her quilt extra special by doing all the applique and quilting by hand, something that's becoming more and more rare. She did put a little fusible in the centers of the Nine-Patch segments, fused them in place, and then hand appliqued the edges. Lorraine's two additional fabrics, a black solid and a bright pink print, made the colors in the challenge Medley pop.

   This was Lorraine's first Keepsake Quilting challenge, and she told us that her fun "Nine-Patchers' Family Reunion" quilt was quite a change from the types of quilts she normally does. "I don't do whimsical things usually or modern things," she said, "so this was really unusual for me." We're so glad that Lorraine decided to take a whimsical approach and make the fun-loving quilt that absolutely charmed the judges.

   Another gal who strayed from her usual style was staff's-choice winner Rosalba Saunders of Hopkinton,Staffs Choice Winner Massachusetts. Rosi told us, "The quilt was very atypical of my style in a lot of ways, because it's very feminine." She said her work is generally more tailored, not so fanciful.

   Rosi started her quilt design by playing around with Nine Patches on her computer. She thought the Nine Patches would look cute with stems and flowers, and thus was born her garden quilt. Her mother had passed away this year, and Rosi said, " She had a crazy garden, which I ended up weeding many times." So she did the quilt as a little memorial to her mom.

   For her added fabrics, Rosi chose a bright pink print and a lush green batik, which, she said, "alluded to the chaotic undergrowth of a garden." She said the quilt "just kind of evolved." The green-and-gray brick print made a great garden path, and the large-scale floral along one side of the quilt really enhanced the design. She said she used every inch of the green batik, which came from her stash. She said her roses grew up around the edge of her quilt to fill in places where she didn't have enough of the green background fabric, proving once again that running out of fabric can be a very good thing, since it forces you to be creative. Her quilt was all the better for it.

   The Nine-Patch flowers are pieced into the background, and the stems are hand appliqued. The rest of the applique is machine stitched. She cut the leaves with pinking shears and stiffened the edges with Fray Check™ liquid seam sealant. For a finishing touch, she created a crystal-embellished hummingbird.

   Taught to sew in junior high by her grandmother, Rosi has been sewing ever since. She spent 20 years as a clothing and footwear designer and now does custom draperies. How wonderful that she still finds time to design and make quilts as delightful as the one that won rave reviews from the Keepsake Quilting staff.Honorable Mention

   The judges awarded honorable mention to Carolyn Hughey of Boise, Idaho. Carolyn cleverly appliqued nine different 9's in her giant Nine-Patch block, surrounded the block with smaller pieced Nine Patches, and then quilted the number 9 all around the border. How's that for capturing the theme to perfection!

   Congratulations to all of the challenge winners! Each winner has received a gift certificate for a Keepsake Quilting shopping spree: first place, $500; second place, $300; third place, $100; honorable mention, $50; and staff's choice, $200.

   We thank everyone who participated in the Create a Nine-Patch Pizzazz challenge. All entries are pictured on our website. The winning quilts will be on display in the shop until September 7, 2014.  The first- and second-place quilts become part of the permanent Keepsake collection and will join the traveling exhibit, which is available for quilt shows, guild meetings and art exhibits across the United States. For information on hosting the exhibit, contact Libby or Heather at 603-250-6731.

Tips for what the judges look for:
Creativity
Color, fabrics and patterns used in an unusual way.
Design reflects something unique about your personality or style.
Use of Color
Color values (lights and darks) arranged in an interesting way.
Color accents lend spark, design interest or movement.
Workmanship
Piecing fits together smoothly and lies flat. Applique stitches are invisible or add to the design.
Binding is neat and square.
Embellishments are tasteful.
Design Balance
Design has a focal point.
Size of the design elements are in scale with the overall design, and the sashes and borders are well proportioned.
Uniform amount of quilting over the entire quilt top.


Call for Entries

We'll even cut the strips for you!

Enter the Create a Strip-Pieced Keepsake Challenge!

  Since precut 2 1/2″ strips are all the rage in quilting, we invite you to show up some strip-piecing maginc as you create a 30″ x 30″ quilt from the Challenge 2 1/2″ Strip Collection.  You may add up to three additional fabrics of your choice, which may be cut in any shape and size yo wish.  The needn't be strips, and may be used for appliques as well.  Quilts will be judged on creativity, design, use of color, and workmanship.

Create a Strip-Pieced Keepsake Challenge Medley

Have fun transforming the twenty
2 1/2″ x 44″ strips in this die-cut collection into a 30″ x 30″
challenge quilt.
#4152  $19.99 

   Keepsake Quilting gift certificates will be awarded as follows: first place, $500; second place, $300; third place, $100; honorable mention, $50; staff's choice, $200. The first- and second-place quilts will become part of the permanent Keepsake collection. The winning quilts will be displayed in the Keepsake Quilting shop until November 16, 2014.

   All entries must be received at Keepsake Quilting by August 18, 2014.  Complete rules and an entry form will be sent with your Challenge 2 1/2" Strip Collection. 




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