Tag Archives: Award Winning Quilts

So You Want To Make A Winning Quilt: Outstanding Modern Quilt

Z is for Zoey won Outstanding Modern Quilt at Road to California 2017. Sponsor Riley Blake Designs awarded $5,000 to maker, Mary Kerr and quilter, Karen McTavish.

Family and quilting goes hand in hand for Mary Kerr. She grew up in a family of quilters and her latest winning quilt, Z is for Zoey, was made for her granddaughter, Zoey Rose, Mary’s “very own mini-me.”

A Road 2016 faculty member and curator of the special exhibit, Quilt As Desired, Mary has a special affection for vintage designs. She wanted this piece to reflect the convergence of the past….her love of vintage with the excitement of the future….Zoey’s place in the modern world.

Z is for Zoey was inspired by a a single long strip from the 1930s. Tongues of fabric had been hand appliquéd with black thread on both sides of a muslin strip. It was never incorporated into a quilt and at one point someone even cut out one of the fabrics to reuse. The quilt married Mary’s “love of vintage textiles with the freshness of the Modern quilt aesthetic.”

Mary thought long and hard about the design. Once she decided how to create the “Z,” the top came together in just a couple of days. Then, according to Mary, Karen McTavish “added the perfect background with her distinctive lace quilting.”

While both Karen and Mary were “very pleased” that Z for Zoey won Outstanding Modern Quilt, Mary says, “My Zoey takes full credit for the win!”

For the near future, Mary plans to continue to teach, write books and hopefully inspire others to work with vintage fabrics.

You can learn more about Mary on her website.

So You Want to Make a Winning Quilt-  Outstanding Innovative Quilt

REBORN was the 2017 Road to California Outstanding Innovative Quilt winner.   Made and quilted by Molly Y Hamilton-McNally, Molly received $5,000 from sponsor, SewBatik.

Molly Y Hamilton-McNally is a familiar winner at Road to California. In 2012, she won Best of Show for Everlasting Bouquet, a quilt she made and that was quilted by Cindy Seitz-Krug.

Fear, loneliness and deep depression brought Molly to quilting in 2000 when she was diagnosed with cancer and later her mother and husband passed away. Molly realized that she had to find some way to bring her back to the light. An acquaintance encouraged Molly to take a class in basic quilting. Unexpectedly, she found herself developing a passion for this art form.

Now remarried, life is bright again for Molly. Reborn depicts the rising of the ancient phoenix and represents Molly’s rebirth as well. 

It took Molly roughly 1-½ years (the equivalent of 1600 hours) to make Reborn. Molly enjoyed the opportunity to continue to improve her abilities using her favorite technique, needle-turn reverse applique.

What was Mollie’s reaction when she heard she had won Outstanding Innovative Quilt? She says she was appreciative and happy. Also, she was pleased to have been honored by Road to California and gratified that her hard work had paid off. She plans to use part of her prize money to help pay off her longarm machine.

What does Molly’s quilting future hold for her? Molly wants to continue designing large, award winning quilts as well as small quilts which she will use to teach others her techniques.  To learn more about Molly, please visit her website.

Meet Road’s Display Manager Debby Bennett

Road 2017 began a new era for displaying quilts accepted in to Road’s annual quilt contest.

Continuing the tradition of a family owned and operated  quilt show, Debby Bennett, mother-in-law to Road’s Show Manager Matt Reese, was hired to freshen up the displays located throughout the main Exhibit Hall.

Work began in mid-December, 2016, to plan out the exhibits. Debby reported that her goal for the displays was to organize the quilts by category. Within each category, Debby worked with size, colors and themes to highlight each quilt.

At that time, all Debby had to work with were the pictures and dimensions of all the quilts accepted for the contest. It took Debby and her daughter, Jennifer (Matt’s wife), approximately 30 hours to organize and map out the 255 contest quilts. This was all just preliminary work until the winning quilts were chosen (the day before Preview Night) and adjustments would have to be made to the original plans.

During the judging, Debby was present so that she could have access to each winner’s information. When the judging was completed on Tuesday, Debby re-mapped the winners’ booths and fine-tuned the rest of the booths.  

Because maps of the display areas were prepared earlier, Debby felt the hanging process went by more quickly and efficiently than in the past. It took Debby and her team of 15 volunteers approximately 10 hours to hang all the quilts.  

When her job was done, Debby became a regular guest at the show, shopping and enjoying the quilts. She also was able to have a fun evening with her family at Party Time.

What did Debby think about her first experience as display manager? “I had so much fun.” Debby was able to use her organizational skills as well as her creativity to create quilt displays that she was “very proud of.” Debby added, “The group of volunteers that hung the quilts were so welcoming to the ‘newcomer’ and receptive to my new ways. I couldn’t have done it without their quilt hanging expertise. It was truly a team effort.”

Debby is looking forward to continuing her position at Road 2018. However, she is going to make sure that she has her own tool box next time around, something she wished she had had last January!!

What was your favorite winning quilt on display?


So You Want To Make A Winning Quilt: 1st Place Innovative, Wall, Pieced Road 2016

Beth Markel won 1st Place: Innovative, Wall, Pieced for Spring Storm at Road 2016. She received $1,000 from sponsor, Artistic Creative Products.1st-place-innovative-wall-pieced

Beth Markel’s interest in quilting began when as a little girl, threading needles for her Grandmother Broyles, who lived with her family.  Grandma Broyles was always cutting a quilt, sewing a quilt, and quilting a quilt – 3 quilts in 3 different stages.  Heaven for young Beth was sitting under the quilt frame her father built for her grandmother, practicing her spelling words.

While Beth is a 5th generation quilter, for a while it didn’t look like she would be a part of her family’s tradition.  She got discouraged with sewing when her 7th-grade Home Economics teacher commented to Beth, “Stick to cooking, because you can’t sew worth a darn.”  It wasn’t until Beth was 36 years old that she decided to attempt quilting and made her first 9-patch. She has been hooked ever since.

Beth and Sophie

Beth and Sophie

The inspiration for Beth’s winning design came from an experience she had after graduating from college and starting her first job in Boston. She had to travel often to New York City and one sunny morning when she was at a farmer’s flower market, a spring storm roared through.  Beth recalls, “Literally, one minute there were purple iris and golden daffodils and crocus, and the next there were purple and yellow petals spinning and whirling through the air.” That impression has stayed with her to this day.

Spring Storm is the first in a series of four seasonal quilts Beth is designing. Beth believes “there are seasons in our lives.  Spring happens when we’re young, a little wild, tempestuous, naïve, and turbulent…the beginning of growth.  Evolution.  Storms.  Setbacks.  More growth.  Beauty.  So stand back.  No, literally, stand back!  The only way to see the twister is to stand back a way, then be slowly drawn into the joy that is every single decision, every single choice, and every single piece that together, tell a story.”

It took Beth almost 14 months to make and quilt Spring Storm partly because  the piecing got so tiny (less than ¼” x ¼”) and all the seams were ¼.”  The quilt has a lot of “stitch in the ditch” as well as quilting in individual squares.  All of the threads were tied-off and hidden because she used her regular sewing machine, a Bernina 300, to do the quilting.  Because of the basis of the piece, Beth wanted to give voice to each individual piece of the pattern.  And while her choice was “tedious and wildly time-consuming,” Beth says it was “worth the effort in the end.”

Persistence is what Beth says she learned the most from Spring Storm.  When she decided to start the 4-Seasons series based on her life, she knew she had something specific to say.  Her youth was fairly wild, and she was constantly straining against where others wanted to pigeon-hole her.  Beth has realized that growth begins “when we’re honest with ourselves, regardless of what anybody else thinks about us.”  Spring Storm actually began as a 9-patch and then a 16-patch, hearkening back to her first quilt – with determination to say something new.

When Beth heard she had won first place, she was “speechless surprised.” She used some of her prize money to enroll in a writing class to help her with her blog. The rest of her winnings was spent on more fabric.

Where does Beth go from here? She is currently working on her second piece of her series, a summer themed design, which is up to 5,000 small pieces at this point. She has a “fun & interesting” trunk show which she presents to quilt guilds, as well as teaches 1, 3 and 5-day workshops. Two of her quilts are currently hanging in the National Quilt Museum as part of the book, “Art Quilts of the Midwest” by Linzee McCray.

Thumbs InVinoVeritas by Beth Markel

Thumbs InVinoVeritas by Beth Markel

Another two of her quilts are part of the exhibit, “Circular Abstractions:  Bull’s Eye Quilts” curated by Nancy Crow, which opened in August, 2016  at the Muskegon Museum of Art.  She continues to write on her blog, discussing everything from long-arm quilting to what happens when a quilter passes away with unfinished projects.

Beth’s quilting interests are many, varying from applique, fabric painting, indigo, and fabric dying to thread painting and using Shiva sticks. Whatever she is working on, Beth remains steady with her “persistence in fine-tuning her voice, breaking down walls between groups of artists, and making textiles relevant to people who only see “quilts” as worn-out bedspreads their grandmothers made…grateful & joyfully!”

To learn more about Beth Markel and her work, please visit her website.


So You Want To Make A Winning Quilt? 2016 Excellence In Hand Quilting

Elegance was made and quilted by Elsie M. Campbell. She received $1,500 from sponsor, World of Quilts Travel.Elegance-Excellance in Hand Quilting

“Quite pleased,” was Elsie’s reaction when she found out she had won the prize for Excellence in Hand Quilting.

Elsie Campbell’s love for quilting is in her genes; from her mother, grandmothers, aunts…… and even back several more generations.

Inspiration for Elegance came when her son took Elsie in September, 2007 to an exhibit of antique quilts from the Henry duPont collection at Winterthur, duPont’s childhood home. The collection had been opened to the public more than 60 years ago as a museum. There were some exquisite boutis (trapunto or stuffed work) quilts that fascinated Elsie. She decided that if women from the 18th and 19th century could do this form of quilting, “I surely could, too.”

Work on Elegance began soon after Elsie returned from the exhibit and continued until September of 2015 – a total of 8 years to complete. During those 8 years, Elsie also made 50+ other quilts AND wrote 2 books ALONG with her traveling schedule, teaching quilt making techniques to others across the nation. Elsie said she never doubted that she would complete Elegance. She would stitch when  she had a few moments here and there, usually in hotel rooms while she was on the road and at other odd times. Says Elsie, “A little bit of time here and there really will allow you to accomplish something significant. Just keep at it. If you enjoy the process (and I do!) it doesn’t matter how long it takes to make something of lasting beauty.”

Close up of Elsie's work

Close up of Elsie’s work

Elsie also makes heirloom machine quilted quilts, quilting them on a domestic sewing machine. While she loves to do all kinds of quilt making techniques, she started off quilting everything by hand and still loves taking the time to hand quilt.

What is Elsie working on next?   Elsie is a new iquilt.com instructor. Her online workshop is based on another award-winning quilt, Aunt MiMi’s Flower Garden quilt. The first version of that quilt won the Judge’s Special Merit at Road to California in 2009, and the second version won Best Traditional Quilt in 2014, and several top awards at the AQS Shows.

Aunt Mimi's Flower Garden II - 2014

Aunt Mimi’s Flower Garden II – 2014

The workshop features 7 online lessons, complete with patterns and professionally produced instructional videos.  Elsie still travels to teach quilting to guilds and at quilt shops and national quilt shows across the USA, delivering programs, and workshops, and generally enjoying herself. She sums it up by saying, “I love it ALL!”

To learn more about Elsie, please visit her website.


Meet Kathy McNeil: Road 2016 Director’s Choice Winner and Road 2017 Teacher

Kathy McNeil of Tulalip, Washington, won $5,000 for Song of the Sea, from sponsor Moore’s Sewing Center.Director's Award

Before Kathy McNeil became an award winning quilter, she was a hospital nurse for over 35 years. During that time, she loved the community quilts that guilds made for her patients. When Kathy’s daughter asked her mother to make her a quilt for her dorm room, Kathy vowed to try. They went to the quilt store to buy fabric and that is where Kathy saw her first pictorial quilt. As Kathy remembered, “It was like being hit by a lightning bolt of excitement. I still wake up surprised and excited that I have found this passion that makes me so incredibly happy.”Kathy McNeil

Kathy got the idea for Song of the Sea from a trip to the Seattle Aquarium with her grandchildren.  The octopus came out and literally danced across the glass in front of them. Kathy thought the octopus, “was so incredibly, a real diva of the deep.”  Kathy wanted to capture the octopus’ playful, intelligent spirit. The word “diva” that Kathy used to describe her encounter with the octopus inspired the unusual setting of the quilt. As Kathy says, “What better to show off a diva than an Art Nouveau setting?”Judy- picture from Seattle Aquatium

It took Kathy about 400 hours of turned edges using the Apliquick technique to make the quilt. Kathy is a US distributor of those tools and loves watching students gain confidence in turning the smallest little shapes so quickly.  Kathy shared her progress with the quilt in her monthly newsletter.Ophelia the octopus It was her readers that chose the name of the octopus—Ophelia.  The biggest challenge for Judy was figuring out how to make the suckers for the 8 octopus legs. She finally came up with making 321 tiny silk organza yo- yo’s to fit the visual look and texture that she wanted.

When Kathy heard she had won the Director’s Choice at Road 2016, she said, “I leaped, I twirled, I danced, I sang and shouted with joy….. Thank you, thank you for falling in love with my crazy octopus.” Ophelia has been loved by so many people as she has traveled to different shows. She has won two “Best Original Design” Awards and an international art collector has purchased her to be part of a collection of “sea creature art.”

Winning the Director’s Choice was such an unexpected gift that Kathy and her husband decided to use her winnings to make some awesome family memories. They took their daughter and her family on a cruise to the Panama Canal while Kathy was teaching.Kathy's family

What is on the horizon for Kathy and her quilting? “A wonderful balance of teaching trips, time with Mother Nature for inspiration and taking the summer off to write a new book on borders. I wake up every day feeling very blessed to be part of the quilting community.”

To learn more about Kathy McNeil, please visit her website.

Meet Laurie Tigner: Road 2016 Teacher and Quilt Award Winner

South Dakota resident Laurie Tigner had never been to Road to California before. The 2016 show ended up being an “absolutely fabulous” experience for her as Laurie not only got to teach three classes, but she also found out she won awards for two quilts she submitted!!

Laurie Tigner with Road's owner, Carolyn Reese

Laurie Tigner with Road’s owner, Carolyn Reese

Laurie won first place for Traditional, Wall, Other for Cameo Rose.

Cameo Rose made and quilted by Laurie Tigner

Cameo Rose made and quilted by Laurie Tigner

A whole cloth quilt, Laurie used a technique that she continues to learn about. She chose batik because when she painted over it, it gave the fabric a look of stone with shadows and provided the sculpted look of a real cameo. Laurie tried three times to get the appearance she wanted. At one point, being discouraged, she threw the quilt away. Her husband rescued it out of the trash. Laurie took the piece, squished it in a ball and threw it in a corner where it stayed for 3 months until she heard that HMQS needed another quilt for their show. She added  ”tons more color” to finish the piece and turned it in. To Laurie’s amazement, Cameo Rose ended up winning first place in the Wall Quilt category. Then it won first place at Road 2016. Laurie has promised the quilt to a friend after she shows it two more times to get back the time and money she put in to the project.

Laurie won another first place honor for doing the quilting on Janet Stone’s winning entry, This One’s Four Ewe.”

"This One's Four Ewe" made by Janet Stone and quilted by Laurie Tigner

“This One’s Four Ewe” made by Janet Stone and quilted by Laurie Tigner

Janet is a close friend of Laurie’s and asked her to do the quilting. Laurie confided that she was “scared to death” to work on the quilt knowing Janet’s status as a master quilter. Laurie “lived in fear” that she would bring Janet’s reputation down. When Laurie heard the quilt had won first place for Traditional, Large, Applique, she was so relieved. “I didn’t humiliate myself.”

What were Laurie’s first impressions of Road?  “Huge” and “Friendly.” She was particularly impressed with all the attention to detail.

Laurie’s Road classes all focused on using her Inktense Fabric Painting technique. She said she loved her students in her classes. “They were the best.” One day, Laurie remarked how she couldn’t believe how wonderful California oranges were compared to the oranges she got back in South Dakota. Laurie was totally flabbergasted when the next day, one of her students brought Laurie a bag of oranges from her tree!! “I didn’t expect that.”

To learn more about Laurie, please visit her web page.


Meet Patt Blair: Road 2016 Winner and 2017 Teacher

Patt Blair won 3rd Place in the category Art, Critter for Summer Hunt at Road 2016Patt Blair-3rd place

Patt Blair is no stranger to Road to California. A resident of the mountain community of Mt. Baldy, California, she is surrounded by inspiration for her quilt designs. The idea for Summer Hunt came several years ago from another piece of hers, Winter Hunt, where an elusive mountain lion hunted in the late afternoon snow. Patt knew for years that Summer Hunt would come into being; it just took a while to come up with the look she wanted.   An east coast artist, B. Hautman, had produced a similar piece and was kind enough to allow Patt her own modified interpretation of his image.

It took Patt about 11 weeks to finish Summer Hunt. First, she immersed herself in paining the subject so that she could really come to know it. Patt spent 8 weeks on the quilting. The further along she got on the quilt, the fewer hours were dedicated each day in the project. The blocking and facing only took a few days.Patt Blair-summer hunt detail

As a quilter, Patt puts a lot of introspection in her pieces. She feels that it “absolutely pays off to really think about the elements of a piece; to decide what importance they will play in telling the quilt’s story. For example, Patt normally loves quilting airflow (the sky) using a motif that draws attention to its easy movement across the horizon. No such attention was warranted in Summer Hunt’s sky so a much more subdued motif was used.

Patt was happy to hear she had won third place in the Art, Critter category, which had the highest number of entries for the 2016 show. “A piece becomes like one of my children; I was proud of it.”

As a teacher, Patt LOVES the peaceful, playful rhythm that comes from a classroom of people all working and learning together.  She has just one classroom goal: that when students leave class, she wants them to feel just a bit “cocky.” In other words, that they will have the realization that they did the project and they’re proud of their work.Patt Blair-cardinal

Patt will be teaching painting and quilting classes at Road 2017.  She is teaching both a two-day version of Painted Quilt Art as well as a one day Painting with Inks. In these two classes, students can use one of Patt’s many drawing options or bring one of their own as instructed on her web site. ( www.pattsart.com   button:  EZ drawing). Patt will also be teaching The Filling Station, a skill building class on quilting motifs,. This class will allow students to learn and practice stitching motifs that they can use in their own work. Patt Blair-windsong

Finally, Patt will be doing a Media Mixer class exploring variety and freedom in using several surface design techniques.  Patt says this class is “totally fun and represents what my former teacher Robert E Wood Jr. coined as the meaning of CREATIVITY:  a winding path to an unknown destination.  We’ll all learn where we were going once we get there!!!”



Found at Road 2016: Quilt Winner Margot McDonnell

You never know who you will run in to on the viewing floor at Road to California.

Standing by the 3rd Place Art Pictorial was the maker and quilter, Margot McDonnell, having her picture taken by her friend to record the honor.158

What did Margot have to share regarding her winning entry?

A quilter for the past 15 years, Margot said she didn’t normally do quilts like this unless she was “obsessed with the theme.” Moody Beach, Maine, 1957 took 2 years to make. Margot spent the first year just “thinking about it.”

“I think a long time before I get going on a project,” said Margot.Moody Beach, Maine

She found the picture that inspired her quilt on eBay and bought it. It was just a tiny black and white snapshot. She named her quilt after the information found on the back of the picture. And by the way, Margot has never been to Moody Beach 🙂

The quilt is fused, quilted with a walking foot, and painted. the most challenging part were the reflections and the white surf bubbles which she cut in piece like lace. As Margot worked on the quilt, she thought about the passage of time and how the three little boys must be in the their 60’s by now.

Who inspires Margot with her quilting? “Lenore Crawford changed my life.” She taught Margot the technique used on Moody Beach, Maine, 1957. Margot was thrilled to find out she shared the Art Pictorial winning category with her mentor, Lenore Crawford. “I was honored to be named a winner along with Lenore.” Lenore won first place, Art Pictorial, for her quilt, Spanish Arches.  1st Place Art Pictorial Lenore CrawfordWhat winning idea are you thinking about for Road 2017? The packet for entries for our 22nd annual Quilter’s Contest will be available starting around April 1st on our website.

Shannah’s Cameo: The Story Behind The Quilt

Shannah’s Cameo won First Place in the category, Excellence in Longarm Quilting, for maker and quilter Karen Sievert.

Karen received $1,500 from sponsor, American Professional Quilting SystemsExcellance in Longarm

Road to California was a tremendous experience for author, teacher, free motion longarm quilter, Karen Sievert. She taught three of her own classes, substituted for Linda V. Taylor for two of her classes, and found out that she won first place in the quilt contest for Excellence in Longarm Quilting.

Every quilt has a story and Shannah’s Cameo is no different.

Karen Sievert and her husband, Vince, have three adopted children — Wayne, Shannah, and Travis — that were all drug/alcohol babies. Says Karen, “Raising my children, I have learned more from them than they have from me.”

When the kids were younger, they would help out with Karen’s trunk shows and became very familiar with the quilting world. Shannah had asked Karen to write a book and make a quilt named for her. Karen wasn’t interested in writing a third book, but she was interested in making Shannah “just one quilt” especially for her.

 Shannah’s Cameo served two purposes: not only was it a gift for her daughter, it also provided the background for teaching a new type of fills class using whole cloth. “Teaching and quilting on whole cloth doesn’t distract the students like a patterned fabric would,” shared Karen.

The focal point of the quilt is a replica cameo of Shannah’s face. A friend digitized Shannah’s image and Karen used different fills for the hair.Excellance in Longarm CameoKaren credits Stevii Graves for being the cheerleader behind this project.  It was her support that gave Karen the courage to try new techniques for the quilt that she never would have attempted before.

For classes, Karen gives students her drawing  Karen

And they practice their own fills in simulating Shannah’s hair.Student's work

This technique has led Karen to develop more classes for the future, using different image sketches like a hummingbird to promote the same idea.

Sketch by Karen Sievert

Sketch by Karen Sievert

What does Shannah think about her quilt?Shannah Sievert

Karen says Shannah “loves it.” Shannah will be able to keep it after Karen is through showing it,