Last spring we found such a lovely large-scale botanical print with big butterflies and birds that we decided to include a special 24" x 44" cut in the challenge Medley, along with five coordinating fat quarters. We were eager to see what quilters would do with that botanical print, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. Our judges were Judy
Sabanek, founder of Keepsake Quilting, accomplished quilter and quilting
instructor Denny Stringfellow and award-winning quilter Marilyn Ray. Judy noted that many of the quilters used the focal print much the same way that American quilters of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s used expensive imported chintz fabrics. Those quilters of the past made the most of the fabric by cutting out the beautiful bird and flower motifs and hand appliqueing them to a background fabric, a technique known as broderie perse. Of course today’s quilters have the option of using speedier machine and fusible-applique techniques.
Meet the Winners
Many of the early quilts that used the broderie perse technique were done in the Tree of Life design. A thoroughly modern quilt that was reminiscent of those early Tree of Life patterns won first-place honors for its stunning, beautifully balanced design and absolutely exquisite machine quilting, all done on her home sewing machine. Gayle Shelton of Bridgeport, Texas, said she wasn’t thinking of a Tree of Life when she created her blue-ribbon quilt. As a matter of fact, she admitted she didn’t even know how she came up with her idea. It just sprang from her rich imagination! Combine that imagination with Gayle’s incredible talent, and you’re bound to have a winner. Judy commented that the overall design was “quite simple, but the quilting makes it so complex.” Gayle practices the quilting designs by first drawing them on paper, and when she’s comfortable with the design on paper, she free-motion stitches her quilt on the machine. The black solid was the only added fabric. (Entrants are allowed to add two of their own fabrics.) The tree and all the flowers and leaves were made from just the challenge fabrics. The flowers and leaves were machine appliqued in different colors of metallic threads and embellished with little sequins, adding glitter and sparkle to an already elegant design. The branches of the tree, made from the rust challenge fabric, get narrower and become slender tendrils done entirely in threadwork. You can’t tell where the fabric ends and the threadwork begins.
When we first tried to call Gayle to tell her she was our first-place winner, she was out shopping for a new sewing machine. The one she used to make her prizewinning challenge quilt will be handed down to her daughter. If her daughter also inherits just a portion of Gayle’s considerable talent, the future of quilting sure looks bright.
A member of the Ellis family helped Margo Ellis of Key West, Florida, become one of the two recipients of second-place honors. When Margo was looking for design inspiration, she spread her Medley fabrics out on the floor. All of a sudden, Rufus, her seven-year-old Basenji, plopped himself down in the middle of the fabric. Margo snapped his picture, and she had her inspiration. She said, “He looked so disgusted that it wasn’t a quilt yet, just a layer of fabric, and he loves quilts.” When asked how she knew that Rufus likes quilts, she said that he and her female Basenji have to be covered up with their own little quilts before they’ll settle down for the night.
Margo was able to see that Rufus’s colors blended nicely with the challenge colors, and she only had to add a golden-hued batik to complete her palette. She cleverly used the reverse sides of the aqua-on-white paisley and the letter print for Rufus’s face and legs. Everything is machine appliqued in place with lots of machine quilting filling the background.
Margo has been sewing all her life and began quilting in the early 70’s when she inherited unfinished projects from her grandmother. Margo has been quilting ever since. When she’s not making her own quilts, she’s doing other wonderful work as a teacher of elementary-school children with emotional and behavioral disorders. Each year she makes a new quilt to hang in her classroom, and last year she ran an after-school quilting class for her special-needs students. We thank Margo for the wonderful contributions that she is making both in the classroom and in the quilt world.
Kristie Gerding of Ponca City, Oklahoma, shares second-place honors with Margo. Kristie’s lovely flower-basket design and impeccable workmanship wowed the judges. Kristie said her quilt was “a little bit of a nod to the old classic quilt design, with a little twist of the new.” Denny said of Kristie’s quilt, “That’s a design that would win in a flower show!” Kristie built each flower by layering fabrics fussy-cut from butterfly motifs. Each one of the flowers is her unique creation, assembled first on a Teflon® sheet and then fusible appliqued to the background. Kristie’s basket is actually woven from ½" strips cut from the letter fabric. Additional ½" strips, interwoven at the corners, provide a nice border for her beautiful floral-applique quilt. For two additional fabrics, Kristie added the black tone-on-tone for the background and a green Bali fabric for the free-form stems and leaves. Each stem, leaf, and flower petal is edged in blanket stitching so precise that the judges thought they were stitched by machine. Not so! It was all done by hand using a single strand of embroidery floss. Kristie also hand quilted the background with flower, dragonfly and butterfly designs.
Kristie said, “I get off [work] by 5:00, and by 5:30, I was usually sitting in my chair quilting or blanket stitching. The last time I did [a challenge quilt], I ran totally out of time, and I had to hand tie it, and I knew that wasn’t acceptable. I was so determined to get this done.” She not only got this quilt done, she created a prizewinner filled with hours of intricate hand stitching.
Another lovely hand-appliqued design garnered third-place honors. René Schlegel of Wernersville, Pennsylvania, entitled her quilt “Floral Island.” The judges gave high marks for her fine applique and great use of fabric. They loved the realistic shading of the underside of her dogwood flowers, achieved by fussy-cutting areas from a multicolored large-scale print, one of her added fabrics. Her other added fabric was a brown batik used for the branches. The judgesfelt René achieved wonderful balance by contrasting the busy border, made from the challenge Medley focal print, with the calmness of the center. As a final touch, she added beads in the center of each flower, lending a bit of sparkle.
René did a full-scale drawing before translating her design into fabric and hand stitching it into place. She’s been quilting for about 14 years, and up until a year ago, only did piecing. She said hand applique was something she was afraid to try, but now loves it, and it certainly shows. Her fine workmanship and stunning design proved to be the magic combination for this, her first, challenge quilt.
Another first-time entrant, Jeanne Mapes of Fort Myers, Florida, won staff’s-choice honors. “Clean.” “Crisp.” “Beautiful in it’s simplicity.” These are just a sampling of the comments made by Keepsake Quilting staff members when they saw Jeanne’s “Urn de Fleures” quilt. They certainly were impressed with how Jeanne took the busy challenge Medley prints, and, in the style of antique broderie perse, cut out flower, leaf, butterfly, bird and a pear motif and showcased them against a neutral background. For the background, Jeanne added a cream tone-on-tone checkered print, which she has had in her stash for probably 10 years (she’s been quilting for 20.) She also found in her stash the great rust- and goes to prove that those fabric stashes can sure come in handy! After arranging her motifs on the background, she fusible appliqued them in place.
After talking to Jeanne, we understood why she was able to do such a masterful job of arranging her floral bouquet. She’s actually a florist by trade! She works with beautiful flowers by day, and creates beautiful quilts at night. Many of those beautiful quilts have been made to raise money for breast cancer causes. She and her friend Shari (another challenge entrant) have made 11 of these cancer quilts since 2000. Jeanne and Shari are such fine examples of all the quilters who generously share their time and talent to make their communities and their world a better place.
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; and staff’s choice, $200.
We thank everyone who participated in the Create a Botanical Keepsake Challenge. All entries are displayed on our website. The winning quilts will be on display in the shop until November 6, 2011. 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:
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.
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 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.
It’s time to celebrate!
Enter the Create a Hip, Hip, Hurray! Keepsake Challenge
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “hurray” as an “exclamation of joy or approval.” We want to know how you’d describe it—but not in words— in fabric. To you it might mean the patriotic pride you feel when you watch your hometown Fourth of July parade, or the happiness of seeing your son or daughter graduate, or the fun and excitement of a little one’s birthday party. You can tell us what gives you cause to say, “hip, hip, hurray!“ by entering our latest challenge contest.
Your quilt may be original or traditional in design, pieced or appliqued, embellished in any way you choose, and must be hand or machine quilted. It must have a finished size of 30" x 30" and must use at least four fabrics from the Challenge Medley™. You may add up to two other fabrics of your choice. All work must be done by just one person.
Gift certificates to be used for a shopping spree from the Keepsake Quilting™ catalog, on our website or in the shop in Center Harbor, New Hampshire, will be awarded as follows: first place, $500; second place, $300; third place, $100; honorable mention, $50; staff’s choice, $200.
All entries must be received at Keepsake Quilting by March 19, 2012. Complete rules and an entry form will be sent with your Challenge Medley. Quilts will be judged on creativity, design, use of color, and workmanship. The decision of the judges will be final. Winners will be announced in the Summer 2012 Keepsake Quilter™ Newsletter.
The winning quilts will be displayed in the Keepsake Quilting shop until September 9, 2012. All entries will be pictured on our website. The first- and second-place quilts will become part of the permanent Keepsake collection. The other winning quilts and quilts offered for sale will be returned after September 9, 2012. All other quilts will be returned after the judging.