Oh, the stories that quilts can tell! The quilts that we received as entries in the latest Keepsake Quilting challenge "spoke" of so many reasons for celebration. We had quilts celebrating women and friendship; weight-loss quilts that tickled the funny bone; a quilt honoring the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox; and a quilt celebrating the tenacity and spirit of children in a pediatrics oncology ward.
Since the Challenge Medley™ color palette was red, white and blue, the majority of the quilts had a patriotic theme, with many telling the story of America, from Betsy Ross's house and Old Ironsides to the Statue of Liberty and Fourth of July fireworks. Other quilts were touching tributes to men and women who have bravely served our country from World War II to the present. Nancy Croteau of Weare, New Hampshire, did an appliqued portrait of her son, Seaman Wade Croteau. Donna San Antonio Murnane of Smithtown, New York, made a quilt in memory of her father using photo transfers of his
army pictures. Mary Bowen of Strathmore, California, designed a quilt in honor of her son serving in Afghanistan. The quilt featured a house and a big tree tied with a yellow ribbon. She wrote that when he returns in September of 2012, "We will have the biggest hip-hip-hooray party ever!" Heroes closer to home were depicted in the quilt that was awarded top honors by our judges, award-winning quilter Marilyn Ray and Keepsake Quilting founder, Judy Sabanek. The winning quilt celebrated both the heroism of New York City firefighters and the indomitable spirit of the American people.
Meet the Winners
First-place winner, Colleen Kelly of Ann Arbor, Michigan, captured, in fabric, Thomas E. Franklin's photograph of three New York firefighters raising the American flag amid the debris of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The Record newspaper of Bergen County, New Jersey, granted Colleen permission to make a quilt based on their staff-photographer's picture that instantly became a symbol of the strength of the American people in the face of disaster.
It was fitting that Colleen used a raw-edge-collage technique, layering ragged bits of fabrics until she achieved her impressionistic interpretation of Mr. Franklin's iconic photo. The judges thought it was amazing that Colleen was able to turn the Medley fabrics—which were exceptionally challenging to work with—into such a remarkable quilt. Colleen said she had cut the picture out of the Parade magazine section of the Sunday paper some time ago. "The photograph really touched me," she said, "It's what America is all about." When she read about our challenge contest theme, she thought that making a quilt inspired by the
photo might actually work. Things started to come together when she chose her two additional fabrics, choices that the judges thought were just brilliant. She selected a mottled gray print to represent the backdrop of dust and rubble and, believe it or not, a bacon print for the firefighters' skin. The bacon colors were perfect for the flesh tones. Since the bacon was printed against black, Colleen was able to fussy cut portions of the firemen's uniforms from the black background.
When she was creating her abstract interpretation of the firemen, which
she layered and fused individually before incorporating them into the quilt, she told us, "You can't think of it as a person. You kind of just have to think of it as a color." As the people started to come together, she got excited. "I'd stand back and go, 'That looks like a person!'" Her basement floor was covered in little scraps. "My husband would say, 'When are you going to pick that up?' And I'd say, 'I'm not done yet. I don't know. Leave it be; I might use that little piece.'"
It made us think of that old quilters' adage, "When life hands you scraps, make a quilt." What a stunning and extraordinarily touching quilt Colleen made with frayed-edge
bits of scraps.
A quilt featuring a spectacular burst of fireworks captured the attention of the judges, who gave high praise to the fine workmanship (especially the superb machine quilting) and wonderfully balanced design of second-place winner, Cheryl Liedle of Helena, Montana. Cheryl describes the inspiration for
her winning design as follows. "This
quilt was designed to represent the fireworks display that is put on at the conclusion of the Montana Summer Symphony, held annually in late July or early August on the campus of Carroll College in Helena, Montana. The display, occurring as it does at the conclusion of the outdoor symphony, is always stunning against the backdrop of our mountain skyline. The particular display that grabbed my heart with emotion happened during a significantly difficult summer of fires in our area. Hence the red sky and background mountains covered with multicolored sparks. That particular year, I was serving as joint incident commander of the fire complexes in and throughout our county. At that time,
I was the Sheriff of Lewis and Clark County and had been able to take a short break to attend the symphony."
Cheryl's quilt truly does sparkle like fireworks. Both silver and metallic threadwork and shiny crystals applied to the star points provide just the right amount of sparkle to her fusible-appliqued design. The floral and the red-and-white stripe prints were fussy cut for the Compass Star points, creating secondary designs. A small machine buttonhole stitch outlines each star point. For more attention to detail, Cheryl used non-metallic thread to machine quilt texture into the mountains and sky. Along the binding, Cheryl inset a yellow and a striped piping to give a final finishing touch. When asked about all the fine details, Cheryl replied, "I'm just a fussy person." So fussy, in fact, that she actually made two quilts for the challenge, and threw the first one away, because it didn't meet her standards.
Cheryl retired from law enforcement three years ago and has certainly found wonderful and fulfilling ways to spend her retirement. She now shares her quilting talent by teaching machine quilting at a local shop, and she
also teaches horseback riding to handicapped children.
Children have played a big part in the life of third-place winner, Laurie Hamilton, of Buxton, Maine. In her
two decades of babysitting, and as a mother, she's witnessed many hip-hip-hurray moments. Among the most memorable are baby's first steps. And "Baby's First Steps" is the name that she gave to the adorable quilt that charmed the judges. Marilyn and Judy loved her creative interpretation of the challenge theme and her great use of fabric, including the candy-stripe inner border, which weaves in and out of
the gold banner. The sweet baby face was painted on muslin. The hair is made of strands of gold-colored thread with
a little starch added for stiffener, and
the eyes have just a dot of glittery paint for sparkle.
When we called Laurie to let her know that she was our third-place winner, we could hear three toddlers in the background. She told us she decided on her theme because "it's such an exciting thing when somebody takes a first step. You wait and you wait, and most of the time, they just tease you…and finally they get the courage to take a step, and everyone is cheering. Around here that's a big event."
The first thing she did to capture that big event on her quilt was to paint the baby's face, which she said was her biggest challenge. She hand appliqued the baby and the banner in place, and fusible appliqued the letters, outlining them with hand embroidery.
Laurie is unusual among the quilters who enter our challenge, because she actually does very little quilting, generally just the quilts that she enters into our challenge contests. But she
did tell us, "I have to do some type
of craft, or I'd go crazy." The toddlers and the after-school kids who get to spend time at Laurie's house must have great fun, since they're always working on projects with Laurie. She told us
that the day before we called, some
of the children made homemade
wheat bread. Since beautiful children fill Laurie's days, it's only fitting that
they should be the inspiration for her winning quilt.
When it was time for the staff members to pick their favorite quilt, they chose one that had "celebration" written all over it. Not only did they pick a fun quilt that captured the challenge theme to perfection, they also chose a quilt that was a winner in the workmanship and creativity department, too. The quiltmaker, Diane Bashaw of Cabot, Vermont, has only been quilting in earnest for four years, but has definitely mastered quilting, both as a craft and as an art. To see a sampling of her innovative designs, visit her website, www.thornberrystudio.com. Her art background certainly shows in all the stunning pieces she's created in such a short time. Her challenge quilt is just one more striking example.
Diane said that when she opened the Medley package and spotted the red-and-white stripe, she thought of the flag. And then when she saw the large floral, her creative imagination immediately thought of fireworks. She was off and running on her Fourth
of July quilt. Her fabric stash yielded up a black spotted batik for the evening sky. The other added fabric, a green,
lent a pop of color for the houses and inner corners. She combined metallic and rayon threads in her machine needle and, using a long stitch, created trails of bright, shiny colors cascading from the sky. Once the fireworks thread-work was done, she cut out individual flowers from the large-scale floral print; fused the flowers; and then quilted over them with silver metallic thread. The houses were fused, and details added with free-motion black stitching. Foundation-pieced corners in the yellow border carried through the starburst feel of the center design. The fireworks flowers in the outer border were almost an after-thought. Diane felt that the flag border was a bit too strong, so she added more flowers, which quieted her border down a bit and added to the celebratory mood. The ribbons on the yellow border were twisted and then stitched in place with invisible thread. Sparkling rhinestones, ribbons, buttons and beads of all sizes, shapes and colors were liberally scattered about to make this the ultimate in hip-hip-hurray quilts!
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 Hip, Hip, Hurray! Keepsake Challenge. All entries are displayed on our website. The winning quilts will be on display in the shop until September 9, 2012. 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.