Every year I make a quilt for the Alliance’s fundraising contest.  I love doing this for so many reasons, but the one I want to share with you is how important this is for me as a quiltmaker.  I get to play with new ideas on a small scale and try new techniques as I think about each year’s theme…

But wait a minute!  All my quilts have been about gardens!

That being the case, please allow me to escort you on a garden tour, to show you how these contest quilts themselves have “grown” each year.  I want you to see all the techniques I’ve discovered along the way and incorporated into my subsequent work.

2008 The Home in the Garden

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In this quilt, for the first time, I tried printing a photograph onto fabric and then enhancing it with hand embroidery.  It was like “painting by numbers” a little bit, very easy, and so much fun.  I’ve made many home portraits since this first one.

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Freeform applique as applied to crazy quilting was another first for me, discovered while making this quilt.  Now it is my preferred method of choice for creating any crazy quilt block.

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Here is how those white patches look sewn down…..

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….and then hand embroidered with crazy quilt stitching.  Another first: only using one color for all of the stitching on the seams.  Again, this is something I do a lot now.

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Giving the central section an on point setting allowed for some fun in those four blue silk corners.

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A confession!  I dripped some juice on that blue silk and could not get it out!  So, do you notice those white mother-of-pearl butterflies?  You guessed it.  And again, what I tried here I’ve used since, so in later quilts, if you see butterflies you’ll know they’ve flown in to solve some dilemma……

2009 Ode to Tamar

Flowers, not quite gardening, became the subject of the next quilt.  This gave me a chance to revisit a favorite technique from my early quilt years, Broderie Perse, which is a style of applique using printed elements to create a scene on the background fabric.  Combining Broderie Perse with a crazy quilt background and border of small blocks was this year’s adventure.

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A pile of cut out flowers, ready to arrange in collage fashion.

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I have made more floral collages than I can count, but it had been several years…so I was loving this!

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The collage is set and ready to sew down in this picture.

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I’ve pieced the border blocks and have begun arranging the all black background fabrics.

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The top is all finished and awaiting embroidery.

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The black background reminds me a lot of the white background in The Home in the Garden. The fabrics and stitching again each only use one color. Many quilts of mine now use these strict design parameters.

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In case you were wondering who the Tamar is in my quilt’s title is, this label gives the answer.  While I could not replicate the quilt by Tamar North pictured here, it totally inspired the making of mine.  Using antique crazy quilts as a jumping off point for my own interpretations has also become a recurring theme for me since making this quilt.

2009 Garden Lace

I enjoy printing my own floral arrangement photos onto fabric.  For this quilt, I wanted to try using nothing but these fabrics in a quilt to see how it would look.

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Fusing lace over wide ribbon, and then using that to cover the seams between fabric  patches, was another new idea in this quilt.  Every year, I learn so much working on my Alliance quilts!

2010 Granddaughter’s Flower Garden

My cousin Tracy Seidman painted this watercolor of our grandmother’s house.  After printing the image on fabric, I set it in a border of vintage Grandmother’s Flower Garden blocks.  This began my continuing explorations of combining vintage blocks with crazy quilting and embroidery.

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Three dimensional flowers were prevalent in my work at this time, so I had to add some to this quilt too.

2011 Soil and Sky

The theme for this year’s contest was “Alliances”.  I can find a relationship to gardening in any contest theme, and this year’s quilt was no different…to me, the relationship between soil and sky is truly a romance, not just an alliance.

This quilt combined my own printed fabric (including imagery of paintings of tomatoes I found online, after I received the painter’s permission to use them), some Broderie Perse, three dimensional vegetables instead of flowers, and for the first time, stitched writing on the quilt.  I wish I had used a darker thread color so that the words are easier to read.  But these small quilts are great for teaching us what to do better next time.

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Those tomatoes are so great!  In the upper left is a photograph of tomatoes growing in our garden, too.

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The carrots are vintage millinery (can you imagine a hat with carrots on it?).  Their tops were another experiment for me.  I tried doing some machine thread-painting on water soluble stabilizer, rinsing the stabilizer away, and gluing the resultant “carrot tops” to the carrots.

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I read this quotation on the Facebook page of a man whose life’s work has been teaching small scale sustainable agricultural practices to villagers all over Africa, via the Peace Corps.  And how true this sentiment is! Click on the picture so you can read it.

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Except for the writing not being dark enough, this is my favorite of my Alliance quilts.  But there are two more that I loved making too and that have taught me a lot, so read on…

2012 Washougal Valley View

For years I had tried to figure out how to integrate a little machine quilting into my heavily embroidered and embellished crazy quilts.  It seemed to me that those two surface treatments were mutually exclusive.  But for this quilt, I was determined to find a way.

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The vintage blocks–and some flying geese strips I had made years ago of vintage fabrics–were put to work for my background.  How I love using those old blocks and fabrics!  They contrast well with the sky, which was hand painted by Mickey Lawler, of SkyDyes.

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The hills of my view of the Washougal River Valley came next, along with a fragment of hand dyed Battenberg lace for the lower border area, a gift from my dear friend Michele Muska.

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I added a little cabin, symbolic of my own home, and some three dimensional flowers to the foreground.  And….there is the quilting!  It’s in the sky!

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This is the finished quilt, in the house shape for the theme  “Home is Where the Quilt Is”.  I loved absolutely every second, making it.  I’ve made several other quilts with my little home in them, too, including the next one…

2013 20 Years in the Garden

While this year’s quilt is not a crazy quilt per se, after years of embroidery making crazy quilts, there was no way I could depict a garden in a quilt without it.

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The quilt is well along in this photo.  You know my process by now!

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A little trick I discovered is shown here.  My bed of silk ribbon lettuce needed some definition…so I used a permanent marker directly along the edge of the ribbon after it was stitched into place. Risky!  I knew if it didn’t work, I could snip out the ribbon and try again…but I didn’t need to, at least, not this time….

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My husband is always trying to get me to spend more time in his garden (weeding, I suspect.)  But this kind of “gardening” works for me!  I am gluing the squash leaves into place.

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The quilt is finished, and ready for its adventures this summer at various exhibits, and then to go to its new owner’s home after it is auctioned off.

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Always, always label your quilts.  People in the future will want this information!  On my label is my husband’s garden, the inspiration for this quilt, where we have indeed spent twenty happy years.

I hope you can see by now what an important and thoroughly joyous part of my quilt life making the Alliance contest quilts has been.

Won’t you make one too?  You’ll be so glad you did, surprising yourself at what you learn.  And you will feel such satisfaction, helping this wonderful cause of documenting, preserving, and sharing quilts and their makers’ stories.

And thank you for taking my tour!  See you in 2014…..

AllieAllerAllison Ann Aller is an award-winning quilter, author and teacher who has served on the Quilt Alliance board of directors since 2009. See more of Allie’s work, including more great tutorials and works in progress on her blog, Allie’s in Stitches.