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Not Made by Me – QuiltCon

I’m finally getting a chance to do a [not-so] quick sum up of my thoughts on QuiltCon this year. This year was pretty different for me in two ways: I didn’t sign up for any classes, and I also had the pleasure of being faculty.

Not signing up for anything was a huge change, as the last two times I went to QuiltCon, my schedule was packed. But this time I had a chance to wander the show floor and really take in the quilts. I also had time to meet and hang out with people and it was FANTASTIC. I love the classes (and I’ll be teaching a workshop in 2017) but it turns out finding a balance is pretty important for me.

Seeing all the quilts and really getting a chance to enjoy them was wonderful, and I walked away from this QuiltCon even more inspired than usual. I’ve already been putting that into motion with some new quilts and designs which are a pretty far cry from my usual work. I’m very excited about the new directions!

But this isn’t about stuff I make. This is about the wonderful stuff I saw while I was at QuiltCon. So, I wanted to share a few of the quilts that I found really inspiring this year for various reasons including one quilt that I got to keep and take home!

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One of the interesting things about this year’s show is that the quilts were in two different buildings. The first building was where all the vendors were set up, and all the lights were artificial with no windows. The second building had a ton of high windows that bathed everything in natural lighting, and it’s probably not a coincidence that all the photos of quilts that I enjoyed were taken in that building. It just showed off the quilts so much better. It also was not very well signposted that there was a second building, so there weren’t huge crowds there which was a nice experience. I’m sad to think that people may have missed some of the most amazing quilts by not knowing about the second building though.

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The Color of Squares – Juli Smith

This quilt (The Color of Squares by Juli Smith) was one of my favorites of this year’s quilts. From across the room, the orange and black bars really stood out, and then when you got closer, it devolved into something more chaotic and less structured. I loved the way she managed that, and I spent a long time studying it to figure out how she’d accomplished it. The complimentary colors (orange and blue) along with the high contrast of the black and white paired with the improv work made the whole thing feel very dynamic. This photo honestly doesn’t do this quilt any justice.

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The One for Eric – Chawne Kimber

This quilt (The One for Eric by Chawne Kimber) won first place in Improvisational Quilts and also was featured in the LA Times newspaper. This quilt is a testament to the power of quilting as a meaningful storytelling medium and was a reminder to me that there’s room for meaning in my quilts. The quilt was made in memory of Eric Garner, who was killed in a chokehold by a police officer last year. The words in the quilt were Eric’s last words. I can’t even write about this quilt without crying, and in person it was even more powerful.

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Horseshoes & Hand Grenades – Rebecca Burnett

Rebecca Burnett’s Horseshoes & Hand Grenades quilt does a great job of showing how much you can do with variation of negative space. The quilt uses two colors (navy and white) and only HSTs, but manages to be an incredibly visually compelling quilt. I have a tendency to over design, so I spent a long time looking at this quilt being inspired by the wonderful balance of simplicity and complexity.

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Night Flight – no. 1 – Heidi Parkes

Night Flight – no. 1 by Heidi Parkes is another improv quilt that I was really inspired by. Like the previous quilt, there’s a wonderful balance of simplicity and complexity. It’s made up of two basic shapes, squares and lines (and a couple odd triangles!) and a limited color palette. The two blues that are so close in color create a beautiful texture to the background. And of course the hand quilting: wow.

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Retroreflective – Stephanie Ruyle

Finally (not that there aren’t many more quilts that I loved, but this post is getting long enough), Retroreflective by Stephanie Ruyle. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Stephanie and gushing maybe a little fanatically about her quilts. To explain the photo above, the left is a photo taken without flash, the right shows the same quilt, with the flash on. Stephanie incorporated retroreflective fabric (that greyish white material you see on emergency vests that shines super bright when light is shone on them) into her quilts to add a bit of a hidden element. I saw a lot of experimentation at QuiltCon this year, pushing the boundaries of how people are using fabric, and it was lovely to see. This particular quilt (as with the rest of Stephanie’s work) is a great example because it doesn’t rely on the retroreflective material to be an amazing quilt. The retroreflective adds another layer if you know about it, but the design stands on it’s own quite well. I feel that’s what keeps this from getting pushed over into the “gimmicky” category.

Beyond the quilts, for me QuiltCon is really about all the people I have a chance to meet and spend time with. Far and away the highlight of my trip every year is having a chance to spend time with so many people that I generally only get to interact with online.

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This year, I got a chance to hang out with people from the South Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild whom I haven’t seen since I moved across the country last summer. And they totally had a surprise planned for me! I was meeting them all for dinner and when it was time to go, I stood up and thought “oh god, why is everyone looking at me? Did I spill something?” But no, they were gifting me with this thoughtful quilt!

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They all worked together to make the quilt from the Rock Candy block I designed, and used the extra blocks to make a huge tote bag. I’ve never had anyone make a quilt for me, and I am in love with it. 😀 I couldn’t ask for a better memento of my time at QuiltCon this year. Thank you so much to all the wonderful women who put such thought and care into this. It means the world to me!

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