Art of Quilting Column May 17, 2009

High hopes met at festival in Mile High City

The Ringling Brothers may have needed Barnum & Bailey to put on a show, but when it comes to quilt festivals, the Mancuso Brothers don’t require any help setting up their entertainment venues.

These two siblings, David and Peter, from Pennsylvania take their shows on the road to New England, California, Florida and Denver.

Billing their recent national quilt festival in the Mile High City with the contest theme of “High Hopes,” these show managers lived up to the hype.

I know I had high hopes as I traveled early this month to the fourth annual festival at the Denver Merchandise Mart. I was not disappointed.

And the quilt artist who won best of show certainly must have attained her greatest aspiration.

For the second year in a row, the top honor went to Cookie Warner of Fort Collins, who rendered a white bridge scene with a flowering tree beside water that mimicks an impressionist painting.

“Crossing Over” was created with the same technique Warner used in 2008 on a lily pond presentation titled “Sun Dance.”

She builds her landscapes through a tedious method of layering pea-sized pieces of fusible fabric onto her backgrounds, often using tweezers to place the tiny bits where she wants them.

For her efforts, Warner won $1,200 and a sewing machine.

Another stunning quilt, “Aspen Glory,” by Erlene Irwin of Evergreen received a $350 award for best Colorado wall quilt.

I never grow tired of marveling over contest entries, but I took some breaks during the event to attend three product demonstrations.

I’ve been curious about needle felting, so I tried my hand at that. Barbara Crawford of Crawford Designs in Gladstone, Mo., provided a gray foam block and a long, barbed steel needle along with a small piece of felt and some wool roving. The idea is to attach the roving by repeatedly jabbing the needle through it, which magically meshes itself into the felted fibers.

Crawford passed around many wearables and fashion accessories decorated with needle felted designs, including a duster coat, sweatshirt jackets and purses. Cute wall hangings and
Christmas ornaments also were made from the roving.

The second demo showcased an old-fashioned embellishment that is being revived. Patty Weightman of Sew Happy Quilts in Bozeman, Mont., showed how to make fabric yo-yos — small circles of material gathered into dimensional pieces.

I’ve made plenty of yo-yos by hand, but now the Clover company has come out with plastic gadgets that offer “a new quick and easy way to make nicely shaped yo-yos,” according to the packaging.

A quilting friend of mine, June Hall of Grand Junction, recently purchased one of these gadgets and made 130 yo-yos that she sewed onto a beautiful table runner. Hall is totally sold on the “perfect” circles these gadgets yield.

An art quilting product was the subject of the third demonstration: Tsukineko inks. Bobbie Bergquist with Quilters Treasure of Rindge, N.H., used them to color antique lace and to fill in designs in quilt borders. The quick-drying craft ink — in jar or pen — can be used on wood, paper, leather and other porous surfaces as well.

An important tip: Store the pens horizontally to prevent them from drying out.

In the most recent issue of Quilters Newsletter magazine, a pictorial quilt of a grizzly bear by Brenda Bartel of Littleton features the Tsukineko inks. She thickened them with clear aloe vera gel and painted the whole-cloth background, then thread-painted the details by machine.

Never have so many products and techniques — old, retro and new — been available to quilters.

The part of the festival I most enjoyed was sharing each evening with a group of friends what we had purchased and learned on the show floor or in the classrooms that particular day. The creative juices were flowing.

One friend’s testimony and class samples sent several of us back the next day to purchase a new book, “One Line At a Time: 24 Geometric Machine-Quilting Designs Made Easy” (C&T Publishing) by Charlotte Warr Andersen of Salt Lake City.

Andersen taught a class on her method at the festival, and Grand Junction quilter Karen Holt enrolled, then impressed us with what can be done with a walking foot and a seam guide attached to it.

This book also is reviewed in the June/July 2009 edition of Quilters Newsletter.

Now I have high hopes that I can achieve some of these designs on my home machine.

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