Quilter works Anglo-American angle

The central portions of a quilt titled “After Hadrian” are shown in this best of show winner at the recent Home Machine Quilting Show in Salt Lake City. Its creator, Sue McCarty of Roy, Utah, based it on medieval British history, which she finds “fascinating and important,” she says.

England is Sue McCarty’s cup of tea.

Stitching together, literally, stories of the common heritage of two great nations — America and England — this master quilter from Roy, Utah, added yet another best of show ribbon to her impressive collection and $2,000 in prize money at the recent Home Machine Quilting Show in Salt Lake City.

McCarty’s previous quilts have won top awards and more than $55,000 at prestigious contests in Texas, Ohio and Kentucky, and at least three of those now are in the permanent collection at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.

For her latest winner, “After Hadrian,” McCarty chose the complex and turmoil-filled subject of medieval British history “because I find it both fascinating and important,” she says.

“Politically, those were the people that gave us the Magna Carta and our concept of government by the people.

“On the cultural front, they gave us the very language we speak, as well as incredible art, architecture and literature.”

The quilt’s title, “After Hadrian,” refers to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who built a stone wall in A.D. 122-128 across northern England to guard against barbarian invasions.

McCarty’s educational background in English literature no doubt influenced this quilt, as well as the fact that she lived in England for two years while serving in the U.S. Air Force.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a green so brilliant as a dew-sprinkled morning in England where, if you look close enough, you might see a fairy or two playing about the ferns. Not that I ever did, but one can hope they exist,” she says.

McCarty’s construction process matches the quilt’s theme in its intricacy. Because the church and the warrior were dominant forces during medieval times, she represents them with a large jeweled cross and a sword in the center. Above the Roman design radiating from the center of the cross are blocks dedicated to Wales and Scotland. Below are areas for the Irish, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and Normans.

Two side panels, or banners, were inspired by illuminated manuscripts.

The fabrics are silks and cotton sateen. McCarty used a variety of threads, paint, ink and pencils on the surface. She says the process took approximately 800 hours over eight months.

She describes the quilt’s structure as a layering process, beginning with a large piece of white fabric.

“I then reverse appliquéd a gold piece of fabric atop the white,” McCarty explains. “The three areas at the top are simply cutouts, which exposed the white fabric underneath.”

Then she added a small piece of gold fabric at the bottom and a silver piece on each side.

“Everything else is ink, paint or thread. The designs were drawn with blue water-soluble marker, outline-quilted to stabilize the piece, then inked, followed by more quilting and more inking/painting.”

With painstaking care and precision, McCarty individually quilted the letters that form the story on the side banners with her Gammill Vision longarm machine.

A portion of the banner reads:

“William, duke of Normandy, arrived with an army to destroy the last Anglo-Saxon king, claim the English throne, and form a dynasty that would eventually unite into the new empire — Britain.”

McCarty’s next goal is to have “After Hadrian” accepted into the International Quilt Festival this fall in Houston, then into the 2015 spring American Quilter’s Society contest in Paducah.

Based on McCarty’s past history, I predict she’ll be standing in the winner’s circle once again.

Email Sherida.Warner


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