Quilter designs alphabet patterns to the letter
Like mystery writer Sue Grafton, who titles each book in her best-selling series alphabetically — “A is for Alibi,” “E is for Evidence,” “T is for Trespass” — quilt designer Janet Stone also enjoys a lucrative alliance with the 26 letters of the alphabet.
Now working on her 14th alphabet quilt, each containing every letter from A to Z, Stone of Overland Park, Kan., has so many ideas for others that she intends to design a series of 26 such patterns.
Twelve of her finished quilts have won awards. In 2013, Stone’s prizes added up to a whopping $13,500, although she says, “The winnings are a bonus, but it’s certainly not why I quilt. I just have an innate need to create.”
A woman of letters since learning to write her ABC’s as a child, Stone says her mother was in the printing business and brought home typeface catalogs, “and I was fascinated by how many ways one could design letters.”
Since 2006, she has been a serious quilt maker, and her recent winners are “A Letter Bit of Baaltimore,” $7,500 Founders award, and “Letter Carriers,” $1,000 first place in mixed techniques category, both at the 2013 International Quilt Festival in Houston, and earlier that year in April, “Charm School,” $5,000 Best Wall Quilt at American Quilter’s Society contest in Paducah, Ky.
“Charm School” is now part of the permanent collection at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah — “quite an honor,” she says.
The seventh quilt Stone made, “Red Letter Daze,” received the coveted Masterpiece Quilt award in 2012 from the National Quilting Association Inc. The honor reflects “the consummate level of skill,” according to the association.
Her 13th completed alphabet quilt — “A to Z for Ewe and Me!” — Stone designed specifically as a block-of-the-month feature for members of “The Quilt Show,” an online program featuring co-hosts Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. Stone also made a guest appearance on the Jan. 6 program.
Woolly sheep often peep from among the letters on her appliquéd quilt tops, a nod to one of “the cutest animals on the planet,” she says.
Before she quilted, Stone explains, she was an avid cross-stitcher and before that, she learned to spin wool for needlepoint projects. She’s been collecting sheep-ish items since and featuring them in quilt patterns.
When pressed to share insider tips as a master quilter, Stone generously revealed her techniques:
■ Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 as a fusible on the back of her appliqué pieces.
■ Blanket stitches on a Bernina 440QE machine around the appliqués with 40-weight polyester thread, Glide by Fil-Tec (lovely sheen and reasonably priced); YLI or Superior’s 100-weight silk thread for small pieces, and for piecing, either YLI or Aurifil 50-weight cotton thread.
■ Marks the quilting design with a blue disappearing ink pen before basting together the layers with safety pins.
■ Free-motion quilts on a Janome 6600 machine inset in table with plenty of supporting space for the quilt, a convertible free-motion foot with screw to adjust to the thickness of the quilt sandwich.
Stone says she prefers this specialty foot because it “glides” across the layers, instead of hopping, “which most free-motion feet do.”
Deciding on a quilting design is the most difficult part of her process.
“I rarely think of how I’m
going to actually quilt the quilt until it’s time to do it,” she says.
With Stone halfway through her alphabet series, I’m eager to see how her letters shape up in future quilts. It’ll be no mystery at all when this talented “letter carrier” glides across contest finish lines again.