‘Peacock Gold’ fabric challenge fans creativity

Dawn Sykes of Fort Collins appliquéd her way to a best hand workmanship award in the Hoffman Challenge. She titled her quilt “Aureus Pavus,” Latin for “Golden Peacock.”

“The King and I” by Anna Macaluso of Totowa, N.J., finished first in the mixed techniques quilt category.

Jacqueline de Jonge of Delft, Netherlands, won first place in the pieced quilts category with “Celtic Fantasy” in the 2013 Hoffman California Fabric Challenge.

“She Sang … It’s Over” by doll maker Arley Berryhill of Albuquerque, N.M., made this columnist laugh out loud. The doll won third place in the best use of Sulky thread category.

Entrants were asked to use a recognizable piece of this “Peacock Gold” fabric in the 2013 Hoffman Challenge.

Fussing with feathers and fussing with stitches, Fort Collins quilter Dawn Sykes appliquéd her way to a best hand workmanship award and $300 in the 2013 Hoffman Fabric Challenge.

Her entry titled “Aureus Pavus,” Latin for “Golden Peacock,” was among about 50 winners shown last month at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Festival in Loveland. The annual contest by Hoffman California Fabrics requires entrants to use a specific fabric issued each year. This year’s was “Peacock Gold,” and many of the 598 entries featured peacocks.

Sykes, 54, says she pushed herself out of her usual pieced designs, never having appliquéd before this attempt. Even her pieced quilts are done by hand, because “I don’t know how to quilt by machine,” she says.

It took her three months to complete her quilt, measuring 31 inches square. She adhered the fabric pieces to freezer paper with starch before stitching.

Sykes had the peacock head and the first round of its neck feathers sewn when her youngest son said, “Mom, I think you have a problem; neck feathers go the other direction.”

Sure enough, she had placed them all the wrong way and redid them twice before their appearance pleased her.

As an art teacher at an alternative high school, Sykes says she often uses the Golden Mean as a design tool for her students. So this artistic and mathematical principle, based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, became the basis for her peacock design.

“First, I drew the Golden Mean and placed the peacock directly into the squares,” she says.

Several changes later, along with five spools of gold silk thread, one spool of blue, one spool of green, one hank of iridescent beads and another of gold beads, Sykes finished preening her spiral-necked bird for competition.

The Hoffman Challenge offers prizes in seven categories; besides quilts, these include dolls, clothing and accessories. Sulky of America, known for its decorative threads, is a co-sponsor and gives prizes for best use of its threads.

Not only do hundreds of entries come from all over the United States, but the challenge also welcomes international contestants. Seventeen participated this year.

Capturing first place and $500 in the pieced quilts category was Jacqueline de Jonge of Delft, Netherlands.

Paper foundation-pieced stars explode inside circles on her quilt titled “Celtic Fantasy,” 38 inches square.

“Sometimes it is difficult to work with a fabric that is so far beyond my color wheel and imaginations … but that is the challenge,” de Jonge writes in her artist statement.

The challenge fabric appears in her stars because they are the focal points, she explains.

Her entry was quilted on a longarm machine by Elly Prins of Zoetermeer, Netherlands.

Since 2004, de Jonge has taught her techniques throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. In 2011, she was featured on “The Quilt Show,” an online program co-hosted by national duo Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. Next month, de Jonge has multiple days of workshops scheduled at Quilting by the Bay in Panama City, Fla. See more of her amazing quilts and patterns for them at 

The celestial theme dominated a fair share of the Hoffman quilts; some other contestants were inspired by ancient Egypt.

For example, in the mixed techniques category, 
quilter Anna Macaluso of Totowa, N.J., won first place and $500 with her original Pharaoh’s head design titled “The King and I.”

Also, this year’s top doll award went to “Unwrapped: Queen of the Nile,” an original design by Michaeleen Munrow of Stamford, Conn.

I’m always enthralled with the doll category and how clever doll makers outfit their fairies, nymphs and mermaids.

My favorite this year was a diminutive, yet rotund opera singer made by Arley Berryhill of Albuquerque, N.M. Bursting with personality and lavishly attired with pleats, train and tiara, Berryhill’s creation was titled “She Sang … It’s Over” and received a third-place award for best use of Sulky thread.

Berryhill has 25 years of experience as a professional costume maker for Broadway shows, Jim Henson’s muppets and Disney theme parks. He teaches doll making and sells his patterns at arleyberryhill.com. 

For his opera doll, Berryhill says he embroidered over the floral print fabric with Sulky rayon thread. He then highlighted his work with “sequins, beads and stones sewn on by hand.”

“She Sang” made me laugh out loud, and now the challenge is over. Until next year, that is. Curator Julie Breidt says the 2014 challenge fabric, “Indigo,” and its coordinates will be available in stores in November or December.

Are you up for the challenge?

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