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Meet the Winners of the Create a Geometry 101 Keepsake Challenge

A snow-covered March day in New Hampshire certainly became bright with color when theCreate a Geometry 101 Keepsake challenge quilts were displayed. Judges Judy Sabanek, founder of Keepsake Quilting, accomplished quilter and quilting instructor Denny Stringfellow, and award-winning quilter Marilyn Ray were so taken by the variety and creativity of the entries that they found it next to impossible to narrow down the selection to just three winners. So many fabulous quilts—so few ribbons!

Geometry 101 Keepsake Challenge First Place Winner - Leslie Bowman-Friedlander of Reisterstown, MDThis was Keepsake Quilting's first all-solid challenge, plus quilts had to be entirely pieced. No applique allowed. Entrants received eight solid fabrics in the challenge Medley™, and could add two solids of their own choosing to make a 30" x 30" quilt. We received Amish-inspired quilts, amazing contemporary designs, and, keeping with the challenge theme, lots of geometric shapes.

Quilts were judged on creativity, design, use of color and workmanship. The one quilt that the judges agreed had it all was made by Leslie Bowman-Friedlander of Reisterstown, Maryland. Judy commented that Leslie's first-place quilt was a perfect example of how "sometimes less is more." She said Leslie could have continued to add more strips and more little squares of color, but she knew exactly when to stop. And she also knew the perfect colors to add (bright orange and turquoise) to the eight colors in the challenge Medley. Her design was all hand quilted in a variety of thread colors. When we talked to her, Leslie told us that she finds hand quilting very therapeutic and loves to use all the wonderful thread colors that are now available. She didn't mark her quilting lines, just freehand quilted them at various angles to lend another element of interest to her design.

For most of the quilters entering the contest, using only solids was a major challenge, but not for Leslie, who almost always works with solids, and hand dyes most of her own fabrics. Leslie says she likes to work in a series. This quilt was the seventh or eighth quilt in her "pick-up-sticks" series, but "this one was more of a challenge," Leslie told us, "because it had to be a specific size." She made various-size blocks and then cut into the blocks and set in bits of colored strips and little rectangles and squares. The end result was a work of contemporary art.

Leslie said that art has always been a part of her life. She recalls her grandfather, a woodworker, making her a beautiful set of wooden blocks from leftover wood in a variety of different grains. "I remember when I was little, I would sit on the floor and arrange the blocks, and my grandmother use to say, 'Oh, isn't that pretty. You made a little wooden quilt.'" Leslie told us, "Years later, when I finally decided to sew something, I guess maybe that all came back."

Geometry 101 Keepsake Challenge Second Place Winner - Terry Weiss of Green Valley , ILWhereas designing quilts from solid fabrics seems perfectly natural for first-place winner Leslie, our second-place winner was quick to tell us, "I don't like solids!" Talk about meeting a challenge head on, Terry Weiss of Green Valley, Illinois, who favors prints and batiks, took solid fabrics and created a remarkable quilt filled with great movement and three-dimensional effects. Cubes appear to float in space against a black background, an effect achieved with some very tricky piecing. The judges applauded her choice of black and white for the additional fabrics and liked the checkerboard in the lower left, which was inspired by Marilyn Doheny's Op-Art Quiltsbook.

Terry admitted, "This whole thing was truly a challenge, because it made me use my brain for other techniques that I don't normally use." She would normally have appliqued all the cubes onto the background, but of course she couldn't do that. Unless you look closely, you can't see all the odd-shaped little black pieces she used to piece in her cubes to give them a haphazard tossed effect. All you really notice are the cubes floating over the background covered in beautiful machine-quilted feathers. She drafted foundation-piecing patterns for the New York Beauty blocks and tackled the problem of piecing the outer curves into the background. Terry named her quilt "Down a Slippery Slope."

Although Terry has won prizes at the Illinois State Fair and entered many guild challenges, this is her first Keepsake Quilting challenge. For someone who doesn't like working with solids, she made a big impression on the judges with her great use of the solid fabrics, her technical expertise and her fabulous sense of design.

Third-place winner, Serena Brooks of Los Angeles, California, also knows a thing or two about design. That certainly was evident in her quilt entitled "Geometry 101 Meets George Jetson." Serena used only the eight Medley fabrics to capture a look that was both retro and contemporary at the same time. Judy noted that "gray is the new black," and Serena certainly proved that in her innovative design, which won high marks for it's outstanding composition and color placement.

Geometry 101 Keepsake Challenge Third Place Winner - Serena Brooks of Los Angeles, CASerena credits Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr's "Outside the Box" pattern for her design inspiration. Their pattern was done in squares and cut with a ruler, yet the only time Serena used a ruler was to square up the finished quilt. "Although the blocks are somewhat 'squarish,'" Serena told us, "I don't use a ruler to make that line. I like to have things a little bit wonky, so they don't look perfectly straight." The wonkiness certainly gives loads of personality to her quilt.

For her quilt, Serena made various size blocks, each surrounded by a little of the light gray, and put the blocks up on her design wall. She then filled in the spaces between the blocks with more of the gray background fabric.

Although she has entered, and won, other challenges and exhibited her pieces in various venues over the past eight years, this was her first Keepsake Quilting challenge. She told us, "It's so thrilling to have other people appreciate my work." We're certainly thrilled that Serena decided to share her talent with us. To see more of Serena's fabric artistry, visit her website www.serenabrooks.com.

Geometry 101 Keepsake Challenge Staff's Choice Winner - Joyce Abernathy of LaCrosse, WIThe Keepsake Quilting staff chose as their favorite quilt one that was entirely different from all the others. Staff's-choice winner, Joyce Abernathy of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, has a small quilting business doing art quilts on commission. She said people were always asking her why she never entered contests, so when she read about the newest challenge, something told her, "Try this, try this!" A week later, as she was flying to visit her son in Colorado, she looked out of the airplane window and said, "This is exactly what I need to make!" She knew that doing the scene without applique would be a huge challenge, "but I knew that's what I had to do." She was delighted when she received the Medley and saw the grays. "If there wasn't gray in there," she said, "I would have had to come up with a new idea." To the challenge colors, she added white and a dark green for contrast.

Joyce enlarged the photo that she had taken to create a full-scale design. After piecing the fields, the curving rivers, and paper-piecing the mountains, she had to piece in all the crop circles and the airplane wing that makes her design so unique. She also filled her quilt with buildings, crops and trees—all done with thread work using her regular 20-year-old sewing machine. If you look carefully on the right side of the quilt, you'll see that the dark green fields spell out "life."

It was 25 years ago, when recovering from surgery, that Joyce's quilting journey began. She was asked if she'd be interested in making a quilt for a church auction. She had never made a quilt in her life, but decided to give it a try. She had found her calling. Now when she's asked if she's ever entered a contest, she can tell them that, not only has she entered, but she won a prestigious ribbon the first time around.

Geometry 101 Keepsake Challenge Honorable Mention Winner - Linda Bennecke of Beaumont, CAAnother quilter who should be very proud of her challenge entry is Linda Bennecke of Beaumont, California, our honorable-mention winner. She wrote that the design was inspired by "my first trip to San Francisco. The sight looking up was so amazing!" The judges thought that Linda's interpretation of the geometry theme was amazing, too.

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 Geometry 101 Keepsake Challenge. The winning quilts will be on display in the shop until September 8, 2013. 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.

Everyone who participated in the Geometry 101 Keepsake Challenge received these fabricsTips 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.