Quilt show depicted in cloth mesmerizes viewers
As quilters, we enjoy nothing quite so much as admiring fellow stitchers’ entries in quilt shows, large and small. We look forward to such events, even planning family trips around them at times.
So it is for art quilter Laura Peterson of Bigfork, Mont., but this is one fabric aficionada who goes beyond reviewing the patchwork on display. Peterson has refined her people-watching skills to the nth degree.
She studies the viewers’ reactions to the entries. With cameras in hand, they aim carefully to capture a quilt they want to remember or perhaps emulate. They point excitedly and exclaim to their friends, “Wow, look. How did she do that?”
This keen observation of others at a large show in California distilled an idea Peterson had for a pictorial quilt.
“My quilt design unfolded before me like it was meant to be,” she says.
The result is a quilt that depicts the actual show experience.
When Peterson finished it in September 2009, her creation measured 9 feet wide by less than 3 feet tall. She titled it “The Quilt Show” and since has received a best of show award, in addition to three viewer’s choice ribbons, a judge’s choice ribbon and $1,000 in cash prizes.
Two of the honors were earned this year at the juried Road to California Quilt Show in Ontario.
“The Quilt Show” is her homage to quilters everywhere:
“Like our quilts, we come in all sizes, shapes, colors and categories. Some enjoy straight seams and orderly lives, while others are like crazy quilts, never knowing where the next stitch will go. We’re old, we’re young, we’re somewhere in between ... we are quilters and that is cause enough to celebrate.”
The actual quilt consists of 14 onlookers admiring 12 quilts. Each of the quilts is a miniature, with the largest not more than 18 inches tall. Using a 1:6 scale, she determined that the people viewing the quilt from the aisle would be about 11 inches tall.
After sewing a background for the floor and three-dimensional, pleated drapes on which quilts are generally hung, Peterson attached the people and the little quilts by hand.
She included registration numbers on each quilt, representing family members’ birthdays. She also put ribbons on the quilts she deemed winners.
Further personalizing her work, Peterson created the small quilts to reflect her relatives’ interests.
For example, a red phoenix represents her grandson’s fascination with the “Harry Potter” books.
Making and dressing the people in the quilt was like playing with paper dolls, Peterson says. She put their bodies together with fusing adhesive, then added shoes, pants and shirts, in that order.
At times, she used watercolor pencils, markers or paint as needed for their features. And the secret she used on their hair is trapunto, a stuffing technique to give it fullness.
She wants viewers to notice that none of her little quilters is wearing a watch, “because for us there is no time when at a quilt show.”
However, one “dragged-along husband” can’t keep his eyes off his wristwatch,” Peterson says, admitting she used her own spouse for inspiration.
“The football game is about to begin, and he just got a brand-new, big-screen HD TV. Guess where he wants to be,” Peterson jokingly writes on her Web site, http://www.laurapetersonquilts.com.
What she didn’t realize was the effect her quilt was to have on the public. Peterson was inundated with e-mails asking for the particulars on how she had achieved various details.
“I am stunned at the amount of e-mails I’ve received,” Peterson says.
She couldn’t find time to quilt on current projects because she was busy answering e-mails.
Finally, she posted photos and all the details about “The Quilt Show” on the Web and referred cyber visitors to it.
Next thing Peterson knew, the Web site had “gone viral” on the Internet, showing up on many blogs and spawning even more e-mails. She counted more than 7,000 hits on her Web site in six weeks.
Her attention to detail is breathtaking, and I hope to be able to admire “The Quilt Show” up close at some future exhibit.
Peterson says she hasn’t been quilting long, starting in 2002, and after making all the obligatory bed quilts for grandkids, she moved on to art quilting.
“It just seemed to be a better fit,” she says.
That’s what you call an understatement.
Her explanation for the groundswell of adulation: “I truly believe the popularity of this quilt stems from the fact we all see a bit of ourselves in it, especially the fabric-laden shoppers.”
True to form, several of her little cloth women have shopping bags slung over their shoulders with rolls of material they’ve presumably purchased from the vendors who go hand-in-hand with any big show.
E-mail Sherida.Warner@ gjsentinel.com.
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