Have you ever started to make a quilt–gathered your fabric and started cutting pieces pieces–only to change your mind about the design or pattern halfway through the process? Today’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight features two quiltmakers interviewed at the 2011 International Quilt Festival in Houston who shared the stories behind their quilts and the serendipitous change of plans that shaped their designs. Sometimes the detour can be just as fun as the original route!

Barbara Ann Bauer Barrett shares a quilt that started as an intricate traditional block and unexpectedly took flight:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“I call this quilt ‘Sing a New Song’. It features a large bird in the center that happened by accident. A few years ago, I thought I wanted to make a New York beauty quilt. I got started on all of the arcs that takes and soon decided that I really didn’t want to finish that. They sat around for a while on the table and one day they started to look like feathers to me. I put them up on the design wall and a bird came out. I decided he was pretty enough to pretty much stand on his own with a few friends and a little suggestion of nature. The border is interesting. It’s made of scraps from a weaver from Taos, New Mexico. She makes garments and sells her scrap bags here at festival. I picked up a couple last year and turned them into a fringed border. It’s one of my favorite parts… I think the quilt represents a joy in nature. We’ve recently moved to the country, so I have nature all around me. I’m more aware of it. I like that it used old things and repurposed them. That made it special for me. It also represents freedom. The bird is having a good time flying in the beautiful batik sky.”

Helen Ridgway tells the story of a collaborative quilt and its continuing evolution from balloons to fairies: RidgwayA

“This quilt is called “Fairy Frenzy” and it started as a quilt with five balloons and a big bow at the bottom. And since you’re looking at it, you can tell it looks nothing like that with a big bow at the bottom… We all went home from this meeting and we were all supposed to make something that looked like a balloon. So we were just doing little ideas. I remember well that I only did a quarter of mine because I thought, ‘Gosh, that got pretty big,’ and it was going to be round. I was going to have four of those… When we brought them together we thought, ‘I think those look like flowers, not like balloons. Why don’t we make a garden?’ So we scrapped the bow, we scrapped the balloons, and we decided to make a garden. We still didn’t have fairies in it at all but we all started using–I hate to tell you–ugly fabrics that we had in our stash and we put all these fabrics that we thought were ugly fabrics together and made all of these flowers. They are all paper pieced and then appliquéd onto the background.


 We had a hard time coming up with the background and somebody had this green batik in their stash so they gave it to us so we did that and then we started putting stems on the flowers, we started fraying some of them, we thought that was cute. We turned one of them upside over at the leaves, and then we decided what were we going to do with the bottom of this thing. Then somebody said, ‘If it’s a garden, we probably need some grass.’ So we took all of those greens and we put fusible on the back of them and then we kind of swirled them and put all of that green there. We still didn’t have a way to stop it. So we must have worked on ending this quilt at the bottom for three months.”

You can read more stories from the International Quilt Festival (and hundreds of other locations!) at the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Alliance’s site.


Posted by Emma Parker
Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories