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Meet the Winners of the Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge

Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge First Place Winner - Sandra Smart of College Place, WA

When we issued a Log Cabin challenge, we fully expected to receive lots of wonderful traditional quilts. After all, the Log Cabin pattern is perhaps the most popular and recognizable pattern of all time. What we didn't expect was the amazing number of creative interpretations of the Log Cabin theme. Every single quilter, from beginner to expert, added her own special twist. We saw octagons, hexagons, triangles, and twisted, stretched and fractured Log Cabins. That old classic block was turned into hearts, baskets, stars, butterflies and wreaths. There was a giant owl and even a crocodile.

The judges thought that the six fabrics in the Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge Medley™ must have been especially tough to work with, since the fabrics were mostly medium in value, but once they saw what the entrants had done with those fabrics, they were quite pleasantly surprised. Judy Sabanek summed it up by saying, "It all goes to prove that, no matter what fabric you start with, you can create a successful quilt." Judy, Keepsake Quilting's founder, certainly has seen her share of successful quilts over the years. Judging along with Judy were Denny Stringfellow, an accomplished quilter and quilting instructor, and Marilyn Ray, a teacher and award-winning quilter. Using the judging criteria of creativity, design, use of color and workmanship, and after much deliberation, Judy, Denny and Marilyn selected the winners from an abundance of truly outstanding entries.

Meet the Winners

First-place winner, Sandra Smart of College Place, Washington, met all the judging criteria with flying colors. And speaking of color, it was her striking use of color that first grabbed the judges' attention, followed immediately by her innovative design, which Denny called, "just darling!" Sandra's masterful interpretation of the Log Cabin theme was entirely hand needle-turn appliqued and hand quilted. Hand-couched metallic cording outlines her whimsical cabin, the curvy path leading from the red cabin door, the hot-air balloon and the wavy air currents across the brilliant sunrise/sunset sky. To define the roof, Sandra created a rickrack-style edging of three-dimensional white shingles, which were actually made from little individual pieces of Ultrasuede®. Elements of Log Cabin blocks, appearing in stretched, curved and fragmented forms, are scattered throughout the quilt—in the house, the teepee to the right of the house, the evergreen trees on the far right, and the flower gardens of red and orange flowers in the lower corners. It sure took lots of imagination to envision the traditional Log Cabin block reinvented into Sandra's fabulous quilt entitled "A Curvy World."

Sandra told us that the Log Cabin has never been one of her favorite patterns. "You'll laugh when I tell you why," she said. "I can't sew a straight line." Well, Sandra can sure sew some mighty fine curves! She said, "I thought I'd make a little house, and I thought, 'There's no way I'm going to make a straight house.'" She took a little 5" square of paper and played with the design for four or five days until she filled up the space. After she had a rough idea of her design, she drew it full scale on a 30" square of paper, which she hung on the wall and changed as she went along. When there was too much space between the house and the evergreen trees, she thought, "Everyone needs a teepee in their backyard." As she drew lines upward from the evergreen trees, she discovered that she was creating a hot-air balloon, which she says was appropriate, because nearby Walla Walla holds an annual hot-air balloon stampede. When it was time to turn her design into fabric, she said, "It was hard picking out the two [additional] fabrics, because I needed something colorful. I love bright colors." Most of the challenge Medley fabrics were pale or muted. For the two extra fabrics that she was allowed, she wanted something that would provide contrast, but would be flexible enough to use in lots of different ways. She finally decided on a purple, green and blue variegated print and a red,yellow and orange Bali fabric. The judges agreed that they were inspired fabric choices, adding so much to her outstanding quilt. Pretty good work for a gal who says she can't stitch a straight line!

Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge Second Place Winner - Hazel Kitts of Appomattox, VAWhile Sandra's quilt was all curves, the quilt made by our second-place winner, Hazel Kittsof Appomattox, Virginia, was filled with all sorts of wonderful angles. The judges applauded her beautifully balanced design, as well as her excellent use of fabrics. They especially liked how she outlined the main star points and other important design elements using the purple stripe fabric. She even cut a narrow teal stripe from one of the Medley fabrics and managed to curve it into vines and leaves to go with her large-scale broderie-perse flowers in the border. She fussy cut the large stripe print and the floral, showcasing various motifs in her Log Cabin blocks. And what a marvelous array of Log Cabins she had, from the elongated triangle star points to the overlapping Log Cabin squares in the center to the graduated sizes of Log Cabins in the diagonal star points. To the Medley fabrics, Hazel added a dark green print and a light ecru solid to provide strong contrast, while still maintaining a light and airy feel. Judy commented, "It truly does make you think about spring." Hazel said that she did have spring on her mind as she created her "Log Cabins in Full Bloom". After sketching out five to ten designs on 1/4" grid paper, Hazel got out her pencils and started coloring the design she had chosen. She then made a full-scale pattern. The addition of the cutout hand-appliued flowers in the light background wasn't decided until she had pieced all of her Log Cabin points. She usually does hand quilting, but due to time constraints, chose to do machine quilting. The judges loved how her outline machine quilting around the flowers and vines added such great dimension and texture, and her use of a solid background really made that quilting more pronounced.

Hazel, who's been quilting for 20 years, says she always has five or six quilts in progress. When we talked to her, she said that she was busy chairing her quilt club's challenge and was just finishing up her own entry. We wish her luck in her local challenge, although it certainly wasn't luck, but some pretty impressive quilting talent, that earned her "Log Cabins in Full Bloom" quilt a winning ribbon in Keepsake Quilting's challenge contest.

Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge Third Place Winner - Lisa Lawrence of Clifton Park, NYAnother exceptionally talent quilter, Lisa Lawrence of Clifton Park, New York, won third-place honors. Marilyn exclaimed, "It takes a lot of imagination to turn a Log Cabin into a peacock!" Lisa told us she loves peacocks and loves the Log Cabin block, so why not combine the two themes. The judges thought the diamond Log Cabins, in combination with the machine-quilted curves in dark green thread, captured the real feel of tail feathers. The judges also gave high marks for Lisa's two additional fabrics—the turquoise Bali and the opalescent gold Fairy Frost print, which lends shimmer and elegance to Lisa's peacock.

Lisa had just finished a king-size quilt top using the diamond-shaped Log Cabin block, so the block was fresh in her mind when she was playing with the Medley fabrics trying to come up with an idea for her challenge quilt. Somehow it occurred to her that the diamond center of the Log Cabin block could be the little eye in a peacock feather. Once she added both her peacock-blue and gold fabrics, she stitched an entire quilt of diamond Log Cabins, and then machine appliqued her big, beautiful peacock on the top. A few years ago, she had a business where she did animal-portrait quilts. She said, "I'm very comfortable working with different types of animals and different colorations. Of course it's kind of limiting when you can only use a certain number of fabrics." Lisa certainly made the most of the limited fabrics she had, using the reverse side of the lightest challenge fabric to create greater contrast with the medium tones. Lisa made her peacock come to life by painting an eye and a white beak and then added lots of texture with her marvelous machine quilting in a variety of colors and types of threads.

When we asked Lisa if she'd ever entered the Keepsake Quilting challenge before, she responded, "I've never entered anything before!" Our congratulations to Lisa. She should feel as proud as her prizewinning peacock.

Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge Staff's Choice Winner - Jan Beckert of Newfane, VTAn idyllic little log cabin in the woods worked its charms on the members of the Keepsake Quilting staff who gave the staff's-choice award to Jan Beckert of Newfane, Vermont. Jan said that the inspiration for her quilt sprung from her lifelong dream to live in a little log cabin tucked away in the woods by a babbling brook. She built her house out of purple striped logs and surrounded it by a fanciful world of trees, flowers and plants that she created from the challenge fabrics, a fabulous botanical print and a deep purple and rust Bali batik. In addition to the wonderful design, the quilt won praises from Keepsake Quilting employees for its vibrant colors, fine workmanship and marvelous detail. Every little fussy-cut leaf and plant was arranged like a collage, fusible appliqued in place, and then machine buttonhole-stitched. Some of the flowers have the raised look of trapunto because of the puffy wool batting that she used. Jan used the floral Medley fabric for the sky and machine quilted around each motif, adding dimension to her design. A border of traditional foundation pieced Log Cabin blocks frame her enchanting scene perfectly. One of the gals said, "This must have taken her forever to do!" Jan admitted, "It took a lot longer than I expected it to take, I will confess that." She usually does queen-size quilts and figured she could finish a wall hanging in a couple of weeks, but laughingly said, "The day before I needed to ship it, I was still stitching down edges!"

Jan lives and quilts on an old hill farm down a dirt road in rural Vermont where she has chickens, a vegetable garden and a little flower garden. She told us, "I'm trying to live the life that I imagined." Although she doesn't quite live in the little log cabin in the wilderness portrayed in her "My Dream House in the Woods" quilt, what a lovely life hers must be.

Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge Honorable Mention Winner - Anna Therrell of Huntersville, NCAnna Therrell of Huntersville, North Carolina, won an honorable-mention award for her clever design. She hand appliqued and embroidered the silhouette of a farmer and his mule doing spring plowing, and, as a backdrop, created a Log Cabin quilt featuring a traditional straight-furrow setting.

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; staff's choice, $200, and honorable mention, $50.

We thank everyone who participated in the Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge. The winning quilts will be on display in the shop until September 18, 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. The exhibit features about 20 quilts in all, along with a framed poster board for each challenge, which tells a little about the winners and shows the challenge fabrics. The only cost involved is to ship the exhibit to its next location. For information on hosting the exhibit, contact Libby or Heather at 603-250-6731.

Everyone who entered the Create a Log Cabin Keepsake Challenge received these six 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.