Monday, December 22, 2014

Quilts at the Public Library

We just got done hanging this year's Art Quilts Maine Challenge Quilts at the Portland Public Library children's section. They have such an awesome, open space with lots of light and great wall space above the books. This year's challenge was, "Ocean, Lake, River--inspired by a body of water." The show will be on display through February, so make time to stop by the library.

As always, the challenge theme brought out a diversity of responses, from abstract images of the ocean to a favorite photo of a boat at sunset. The tour continues until May, with stops at Waterville and Skowhegan, and a return to Portland for the May 1 First Friday Art Walk at the Cathedral Church of St Luke. Artwork is returned to the artists at the June meeting. Interested in hosting an exhibit? Contact me through the comments and I'll get in touch with you.

Here are a few photos from the current exhibit:

Great venue at Portland Public Library

Art Quilts Maine signage

Sharing wall space with the library's own Phoenix

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Maine FiberArts Reception November 21

The beautiful reading room at the Glickman Family Library (USM Portland) is the setting for an exhibit showcasing over 30 artists, most of whom are from Maine. That's my quilt, "Mom and Auntie Jean Play Gin" you can see in the photo above. I am so excited to attend the reception on November 21, and see the work of amazing artists such as Natasha Kempers-Cullen, Cathy Worthington and Kathy Angel Lee! The reception runs from 3:00 to 5:00 that Friday afternoon.

Won't it be fun for Mom to see 'her' quilt in such a lovely setting? Of course, she enjoys it every day on her living room wall, and she wants it back, but I am sure she will understand why I wanted to loan it for this show.

In addition to quilted wall-hangings, the show includes woven textiles, fiber books, collages and much more. If you can't make it to the reception, the show is up until December 19, so do make time to go feast your eyes!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chairs, Finis?

Chair 2.1:Blue and Chair 1.4:Pink
 Maybe I have arrived at the final chairs in the series. We'll see. Two sold at the Center for Maine Craft. Four will be at Kimball St. Studios in Lewiston for the month of November as part of the Art Quilts Maine exhibit there. And let's not forget the parade of chairs at the workshop in Trenton this summer!

I plan to be at the reception for Maine FiberArts' exhibit at USM's Glickman Library on Friday, November 21, 3:00 to 5:00. If mom is up for it I'd like to bring her to see her quilt in the show.

One more fun venue coming up--Portland's First Friday Art Walk on November 7. (oops--they just called to reschedule for a date in 2015--stay tuned!). I'm hoping fiber artists and quilters from both Art Quilts Maine and Calico Quilters will join together to offer a diverse variety of all things fabric. We'll be at the Cathedral of St. Luke on State Street in Portland, from 5:00 to 7:30. If there are a lot of pieces (and I hope there will be!) the coordinators have offered to drape them over the pews--I can just imagine it. The Cathedral offers a self-guided tour of its own fabulous artwork and stained glass for people who stop in on First Friday, so make it a point to come. Refreshments available!  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Maine Fiber Arts at USM

Click here to see what made my day today!

If you are in the area, stop in to see Maine Fiber Arts' current exhibit at USM's Glickman Family Library, open every day, now through December 19. I am walking on air.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chairs on Parade!

Class sample Picture This!
We had such a good time in Trenton at Sewing by the Sea! The class was called 'Picture This!' and the goal was to learn how to transform a photograph into a quilted wall hanging. For class, I used two of my photos from Friendship, Maine to create a pattern, and used that pattern to teach various techniques such as creating elements from the photo, working with shadows and reflections, and creating trees.

We created the boat in a traditional raw-edge applique manner; make a pattern, cut it apart and fuse to fabric, then reassemble as a single, portable element. We moved on to chairs which use a layered applique technique suitable to creating shadows and highlights on an object. As the chairs began taking shape we all got pretty excited and started pinning them to the bulletin board. Check out the chair parade! Finally we spent time learning my favorite technique for making trees--creating a negative space pattern, using batik and other bits of fabric, and tulle. So very cool.
March of the Chairs
The photo below shows one student's piece with the various elements fused in place. All that's left is to add some thread paint, layer with batting and backing and quilt. Next up? Peruse vacation photos for images and create their own, personal piece of quilted art. Nothing quite like a couple of days immersed in fabric, thread and fusible web!
Student work in progress

Friday, August 1, 2014

Honu Takes Off

Honu at Maine Quilts
Rana O'Connor 2014
Whirlwind month with lots of quilting activities and opportunities--Yea! Honu debuted at Maine Quilts and earned a ribbon. Judges comments included, "excellent choice of fabrics and placement to create stream of light." "Subtle seaweed design is well placed and well done." There were also some negatives, but we won't dwell on those! Honu is on his way to Manchester for World Quilt Show - New England XII where he will hang alongside quilts from Japan, the UK, Australia, South Africa and more. It is my favorite show, and of course we are going to spend a day lost in wonder.

Meanwhile, Art Quilts Maine had an exhibit at the Center for Maine Craft the month of July. Remember Chairs? They both sold, along with about two dozen Quiltini Pins! Guess I will be making more pins for future exhibits.

Speaking of which, I got a call from Maine Fiber Arts asking if 'Mom and Auntie Jean Play Gin' was available for an exhibit this fall at USM's Glickman Library. Mom will miss it, but she is happy to lend it. The dates are September 2 (my brother's birthday) to December 20 (my birthday.) Must be some symbolism in that! 

Classes are coming up, too. I'm teaching in Trenton August 22 and 23, at Sewing by the Sea. It's a technique class on turning photos into quilted wall hangings. Much like 'Honu' or 'Mom and Auntie Jean' in theory. The class is full and she is starting a wait list! That's exciting. Two classes are scheduled at Sew Portland this fall--the ever popular 'Beginning Free Motion Quilting', and a more advanced 'Thread Play' class. Participants will be given a piece of bold flower print fabric which they can cover with thread, both on the surface and as quilting. Kathy, who owns both stores, posted this video of me volunteering at her booth at Maine Quilts. I'm thread-painting the class sample, see?

A little R&R comes my way after the Trenton class with a long weekend's quilt retreat in Friendship. Ahh. Ocean, morning walks, afternoon kayaking, and all the quilting and sewing we care to do, with no interruptions. Can't wait.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Revelation

That's what the first room of the Pilgrim/Roy exhibit at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts was to me. The room was dimly lit, as though by lantern or candlelight. The quilts in that room were shot through with cheddar orange--garishly bright orange solid fabric in backgrounds or piecing.  Except in that light, the way the quilts likely looked on the beds they were made for in the late 1800's, in that light they glowed, as though lit with an inner fire. It was magical and revealed why women of the era would have loved that color--who wouldn't?

The rest of the show? Quilt upon quilt of excellent workmanship, representative of so many styles we know and love. Log cabins--some of silk and velvet, Mennonite and Amish quilts of graphic simplicity, an intricate Baltimore Album. Another historical tidbit--the Baltimore Album was made by many women, each contributing a square. Ah hah.

Displayed alongside the quilts were examples of modern art reflecting quilting sensibilities. Vivid color combinations, abstraction and op art, or my favorite, a piece by Sister Mary Corita Kent, 'N is for Caution (Throw Caution to the Wind)' hung beside a double wedding ring with purple background and quilts without pattern, created with abandon. Quilts and Color.. If you can't get to the show, buy the book!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Center for Maine Craft

Alison and I met at the Center for Maine Craft located in the West Gardiner service plaza to hang the Art Quilts Maine exhibit. The Center is a high-traffic location--anyone travelling past Augusta goes right by, and a steady stream of people are in and out of the service plaza. Many take a break from their travels to enjoy (and maybe purchase) Maine crafts. The exhibit runs through July 31. The collection reappears later this year at Kimball St Studios in Lewiston, for the month of November. 

Rana O'Connor
Six artists contributed to this collection. In addition to a few wall pieces (you can see my two Chairs on the back wall, for instance) I brought along a box full of Quiltini pins,a smaller item I developed and quickly got addicted to making earlier this year. Each pin is crafted from bits of quilted fabric sealed with a satin stitch. Then the fun begins! Embellishments include beads, glitter, stamps, rhinestones, paint and found objects.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Chairs, Chairs in July

While developing a workshop for an August class at Sewing by the Sea in Trenton, I made several versions of Adirondack chairs. These two proved to be too small to be manageable for students. So fussy! Such tiny pieces! I never throw things away though--even if I never use them again, bits and pieces from old projects are pinned to the design wall as visual reminders, like the trial wine glasses for 'Mom and Aunti Jean Play Gin'. (The ones on the quilt are the second pair, created after the experiments on how to make it look like the glasses had wine in them.) Coincidentally, I had two green squares from an exercise in perspective also pinned to the design wall. Put the two together and 'Voila!' Just loved them! A little thread paint and quilting later, mounted on stretched canvas, and the two are nearly ready to hang at the Center for Maine Craft exhibit that begins July 2, featuring several artists from Art Quilts Maine. Swing by the Center if you are out and about this July--it's in the West Gardiner travel plaza where 295 meets 95, so you pretty much have to go by it if you travel past Augusta. Starbucks, rest rooms and Maine crafts--what a concept!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Old Fort Johnson

What a lovely day we had at Old Fort Johnson near Amsterdam, NY on Saturday! We started the day with quilt historian Kris Driessen, who brought many antique quilts to illustrate her discussion of dating and appraising quilts. She was very informative, talking about various fabrics a historian looks for to help date a quilt, such as double pink, or turkey red, and sharing some little known facts that we New England quilters take for granted. For example, quilts designed for four poster beds are an east coast phenomenon--western families did not have four poster beds, so that unique shape is unknown to them. Likewise, shirting fabrics were commonly brought home as cut-aways from shirt factories and mills found mostly in New England. The best part? Kris allowed us to pass her quilts and tops around to handle and examine the fabrics, note the stitching, admire the rich colors. After a grand picnic on the lawn (it was a gorgeous day and one of the women brought a to-die-for chocolate cake) we reassembled for my trunk show. I brought a baker's dozen art quilts--including the unfinished Honu. Like Kris, I enjoy letting others handle my quilts and discuss details of technique and style choices. We worked our way from Back Bay Winter, completed in 2006, to the present. I brought some of my Quiltini Pins--you can see my post on them here. Once I got started making them I found it hard to stop--I get more ideas as I work. I think I've made nearly 100 so far. They were a hit at the gift store!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Friendship, Maine
Done, with a week to spare! Well, except for the label. I printed it out, so it is drying. Oh, and dotting the i's on the quilted names of places in Friendship. All that will have to wait til after the weekend. But this quilt is going with me to Amsterdam (upstate New York, that is!)

I've been invited to be part of a day-long quilt workshop at Old Fort Johnson, titled "From Antique to Art Quilts: Quilting as Artistic Expression." The Fort has a new exhibit, "Pieced in Time: Antique Quilts from Montgomery County" that I am really looking forward to seeing--if I bring white gloves do you think they will let me handle the quilts?

On Saturday morning, quilt historian Kris Driessen will present an hour and a half lecture on the influence fabric, economics, politics and other factors had on early quilts. I am on after lunch, with a trunk show of about a dozen art quilts. I'll try to tie my discussion in to Kris' a bit, and talk about the tools, fabrics and techniques that influenced the modern quilt revival, and have made art quilts (and a wide variety of other styles) so popular. Should be fun!

Friday, May 30, 2014


Friendship, Maine 2013
Deadline looming so I should get going on the major construction bits still to be completed. I think I am finally done fiddling with the photos. Here is the original photo, and the print on fabric, embellished with thread, colored pencil and glitter. For all the time I put into enhancing this photo, I hope the finished piece is dramatic enough without going over the top. I don't think I am in danger of going over the top though--my issue is generally too much attention to details that no one but me ever notices! The flowers are thread-painted. Foliage, chairs, even the water and sky are hand colored with Prismacolor pencils. I added glitter to the water to mimic the effect of sunlight bouncing off the surface--it is blinding in person, standing on the shore squinting at the water--I'd love that effect to come through. If I can get this quilted this weekend, I think I have a shot at finishing the binding, label and hanging sleeve before the June meeting. Onward!
Friendship, Maine photo on fabric

Monday, May 26, 2014

Threadpainting the Day Away

Threadpainted Letters
Memorial Day Weekend was quieter than expected. We cancelled our BBQ because my husband came down with a nasty cold so we were hanging out at home. Which suited me well enough, as it gave me time to make progress on the challenge quilt. Here is a shot of the background.

I probably figured out the most tedious way possible to get words on this background. About half way through I thought, "most people are going to look at this and assume I used an embroidery machine to make the letters." But no. I went super old school. Printed words on tracing paper, cut and arranged them on the background. Held the paper in place with a little spray glue (the same 505 I use to baste my quilts) and outlined each word free motion, then tore away the paper, filled in each letter with variegated thread, then on to the next word. And, because I didn't have enough of the variegated thread I started with, I bought a second, slightly different thread, and randomly changed threads at various points along the way.

My first thought was that I wanted the words to be truly in the background. I layered the quilt with batting and backing before starting the letters. About a third of the way through I decided I'd rather have the letters not sink in so far. So, I separated the batting and backing and pinned it out of the way, pinned a tear away stabilizer behind the quilt top and went back to work, outlining and filing in each word. I would not normally switch techniques like that mid-quilt. I wonder how noticeable it will be in the final analysis? Whether it turns out to be horribly noticeable, neutral, or a brilliant design decision won't matter though. If it is a challenge, I decided I must be unafraid to experiment.

In the spirit of this piece, that started with a title and dimensions and has taken shape as I've gone along, I still have several technical issues to solve before it will be complete. I wish I could say it was going to be magical when it gets done, but this one has its own ideas!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

New Work

Friendship, Maine 2013
Life sometimes gets in the way of keeping up with my blog--when time is short, I'd rather be quilting than blogging! Things are hopefully settling down for a bit.

At the Art Quilts Maine meeting in April, I had to submit the title and dimensions of my challenge piece for this year's challenge: "Ocean, Lake, River, a piece inspired by a body of water." We've known what the challenge was since September, but all I knew in April was that my piece would be inspired by this photo. So, I gave it a name and came up with dimensions, and have spent the last month creating the quilt to go with the size and title. Working backwards did add to the challenge! It's not done yet, but it is coming along--hopefully will have it ready to go for the June meeting, when we are to reveal the quilts. Along the way my initial design idea completely morphed, but it is still true to the submitted name. That's what I'm working on. I also think I know how I am going to finally finish Honu--which I will exhibit at Maine Quilts in July, so that's on the back burner.

I've been invited to do a trunk show at Fort Johnson in upstate New York--alongside a display of historic quilts. I am looking forward to that! I plan to bring my quilt pins along in case people want to purchase something that day--I think I'll call them 'Quiltini's'. More classes on the horizon as well, including one in Trenton, about two-an-a-half hours north, but it comes with the offer to stay at the store owner's camp, a little side adventure. I'll send out an announcement as soon as dates are confirmed.

Now back to quilting!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Free Motion Classes

Lynn D's Feather!
Spent another excellent Saturday teaching free motion quilting at Sew Portland. My students in this class are mostly at the beginner stage--if they have completed quilts, they have usually tied them, or maybe stitched in the ditch. With lots of information and encouragement, my goal is to get everyone out of their comfort zone and confident in their ability to go home and quilt as desired! This class has been popular--I think this is the 5th time I have taught this workshop, and it is usually full. The midday break gives us a chance to play with the very cool Pfaff powerquilter. It's great because everyone can quilt on it with no special instruction--it works just like your home sewing machine, but is designed for quilting, with a 30 x 36" table and lots of lighting. Maybe some day.........Back at their own machines, we take time to learn simple feathers. Check out Lynn's first-time feather which she turned into a quick pillow at home! I'll be scheduling another round soon, and am thinking about what else might be fun--another quilt using those adorable charm packs? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Calico Quilt Show

Fabric pins by Rana O'Connor
I'm a member of a guild chapter, Calico Quilters. The group has a show every other year, exhibiting members' work and raising money for chapter activities. This year's show is on April 26 and 27 at the Rowe School in Yarmouth. In addition to the quilt display--which is in itself worth the drive--there are vendors, a raffle table with handmade table-top items, like place mats and table runners, and a sale table for all things quilt related. Somehow I got the idea to make fabric pins. Like miniature art quilts.

I picked up a book on Inchie Quilts--little, one-inch square bits of fabric, thread, batting and beads. Inspired, I set to work, trying out fabrics. One inch square is pretty small, for a pin. One piece of fabric had motifs I wanted to use. My pins ended up somewhere between 1.5 and 3 inches in size. Quilted, embellished with beads, baubles and paint, edged with a tight zig-zag stitch in various colors. Although I work assembly-line style, it takes roughly 30 minutes per pin. I've got 25 done. Enough to fill a little basket for the sale table. I'm hoping that will do!

Stop by Rowe School and see the quilts--I hope to have two of mine on display, and am volunteering as a white glove lady on the 27th, which will give me a chance to enjoy everyone's work.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Triangle Charm Quilts

Mariah's fabulous  flannel
For Charlena's granddaughter
Linda and I teamed up for another great beginner class this past Friday and Saturday. Building on the success of the charm quilts we did last year, this design started with a pack of charms and one-and-a-quarter yards of background fabric. Once everyone learned easy ways to create triangle blocks, they were off and running. The great thing about triangle blocks is the multitude of design possibilities. It is such a versatile block to have in your repertoire! Here are a couple of designs students came up with: Mariah's fabulous flannel and Charlena's quilt for a young granddaughter. Hard to imagine they were made in the same class! I was so inspired by triangles I went home and designed a double triangle border for a round robin I am working on--can't show you the whole thing as it is a secret until the great reveal in April, but look at all those 2" square triangle blocks! Our quick methods turned them out in no time.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Finished the commission piece and met up with the new owner for lunch to hand over the quilt. She was happy with the finished product which is what matters most when you are making a quilt for someone else. It is an interesting collaboration--taking their ideas and impressions and interpreting them through your own filter. Her vision was of a quilt that implied a person walking their dog on the beach but not a wall hanging or pictorial quilt, more something you could wrap up in. I love this photo of the beach-y quilt with snow in the background.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Every once in a while I get a commission to make a quilt for someone. Usually a friend, usually a baby quilt or a gift for someone special in their lives. This is a commission for a friend to give her friend as a parting gift. Her image was something that evoked Maine's beaches and the ocean where her friend likes to walk her dog. We met and chose fabrics with a distinctly Maine, not Caribbean, blue theme and a sandy background. I added a dozen fabrics to the 18 we chose together. She didn't want a complicated wall hanging, more a piece that could be snuggled in and used. A simple pattern with a graphic punch stood out from the rest and I set to work. The quilting is not finished, but enough for a sneak peak. The curves and swirls in the blue patches, done with a variegated blue thread, softens the lines and blends the colors. Just for fun I quilted footprints and dog prints in the background sand. I had planned on sand colored thread but realized you could not make out the prints, so went with a double layer of purple. Purple! Yes, purple. Do you think it works? I think I will add more quilting to that part before it is done, maybe background quilting using the sand colored thread. No border. I'll post the finished quilt when I get it done. Hope she likes it! This Saturday is Free-Motion Quilting class at Sew Portland if I have enough people signed up for it. Hope so--it is such a fun class to teach!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Classes Coming Soon

Sign up now for one of our new classes! Free Motion Quilting returns Saturday, January 25 from 10:00 to 3:00. Everything you need to know to "quilt as desired." From a discussion of various ways to finish your quilt tops to practicing feathers, this class allows time for hands on practice and consultation.

In February, Linda and I will teach another in our popular beginner quilt series--Rana's Charms starts with your choice of charm pack. Be sure you purchase one with at least 40 charms. Class begins Friday afternoon, February 21--you can arrive as early as 1:00, but come when you can, and continues Saturday, February 22 from 10:00 to 3:00. We'll be making half square triangles and exploring their myriad design possibilities. To sign up, contact Sew Portland at 797-6700, or send me an email, click here.
 Click here for Quilt gallery and quilts for sale