QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: “Rise Up and Reach” by the Southern Appalachian MQG

By Randy Case, Member & Design Team and Janelle Warren, VP Ed/Events & Design Team

SAMQG 2016Charity Quilt

The Southern Appalachian Modern Quilt Guild (SAMQG) is now almost two years old and growing! We are a gregarious and creative group of modern and traditional quilters, drawn together from western North Carolina, northern Georgia and east Tennessee and meet in Murphy, NC to explore the intriguing facets of modern quilting.

With a year of study, tinkering and sharing notions of improv piecing, negative space, wonky stars and a lot of other new modern quilting ideas, our ambassador to QuiltCon 2015 told us about all the wonderful charity quilts she had seen at the show and challenged us to consider doing one for this year.

After a bit of tentative tiptoeing around the color palette and wondering if we could actually do this, someone suggested that we make the quilt for REACH, our local women and children shelter. That was just what we needed to spark the vision. REACH’s motto is “Compassion. Hope. Shelter.”

We wanted to express how our mountains are a shelter of love and reflect love and compassion in a safe environment.  Throughout the process, REACH’s motto resounded. With that safety and security of our environment, there is hope of the light as we see so clearly in our starry skies.

We had a great idea, a great group of members and a great organization to support. Now onto the great challenge of how to transfer this into an improv quilt. Together we watched the MQG’s webinar on improv, and we were on our way.

After an initial brainstorming session with the full membership, and a frenzy of sketching and swapping of sketches among the design team, headed by Randy Case and Janelle Warren, the final concept was narrowed down. We decided on an abstract representation of a sunrise in our beautiful Appalachian Mountains with a water reflection.

2 Design Board

This gave us a chance to refine and apply the improv techniques we had been working on recently. We roughed in a couple design options in EQ7 and, after feedback from the overall team, fine-tuned the final design and generated a full sized rendering of the main panel to guide the piecing process.

We gathered at our local quilt shop, Bless My Stitches in Murphy for several sew-ins to see this vision come together.

3 Patty Singer

Patty Singer


4 Diana Randy Janelle

Patty Singer, Diana Turkovics, Randy Case & Janelle Warren


5 Janelle and Terry

Janelle Warren and Terry Baird at Sew-In Fun

We supplemented the basic color palette with a variety of shadings and prints and started constructing some improv panels to capture the spirit and shadows of our mountain scene.

Lessons in color value and improv piecing emerged.  It was fun to see our members sewing away, laughing and having fun making their own material. Stepping outside the box of perfection and embracing the flow of improv further anchored out love of the modern quilting way!

As the component stars, mountains and sunrise elements began to take shape the team’s enthusiasm also began to build.

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Wonky Stars by Jeanne Hewitt and Randy Case.

Each new addition to the design wall was met with ooohs and ahhhs along with a growing confidence in the processes we were using. Our stitching sessions were genuine sharing times and, as we encouraged each other to stretch a bit past our comfort zones, we got to know each other and appreciate each individual’s contribution.

Randy engineering the piecing.

Randy engineering the piecing.

After numerous sew-ins, we figured out how to piece it all together.

Jeanne Hewitt, Randy Case, Pam Howard, Barbara Fowler, Terry Baird, Maureen Ripper Members not pictured:  Ann Graham, Patty Singer, Janelle Warren, Karen Hopple, & Barbara Haydon

Jeanne Hewitt, Randy Case, Pam Howard, Barbara Fowler, Terry Baird, Maureen Ripper
Members not pictured:  Ann Graham, Patty Singer, Janelle Warren, Karen Hopple, & Barbara Haydon

At another sew-in, the team was challenged with using all our scraps from the front of the quilt to piece the back!

Terry & Janelle Getting the Quilt Ready for our brave new long arm quilter, Randy Case!

Terry & Janelle Getting the Quilt Ready for our brave new long arm quilter, Randy Case!

14 Back of Quilt

The back of the quilt showing off Randy’s great quilting.

Our trusty hand quilters, Barbara Fowler and Maureen Ripper, added the binding and sleeve.

We were pretty pleased with the result and thoroughly delighted to share our passion of improv quilting with our community and the REACH organization.

Buoyed by this year’s experience, and with QuiltCon 2017 just down the road a piece, it was an easy decision to do it again. We’ll see y’all in Savannah!

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: Niagara MQG


I had only recently joined the Niagara Modern Quilt Guild when the topic of a charity quilt came up. I had been involved in guilds before and with charity quilts, however this was to be a totally different game! Our group was led by the indefatigable Tara. She deciphered the challenge details, timelines and colours and stressed the improv nature of the work. Before I knew it, I had agreed to longarm the quilt too. I was swept up in the creative energy that our guild generates when we get together.

The materials for our quilt were generously donated by a local quilt shop, The Modern Bee. Our president, Susan, obtained the fabric and had it cut and ready for us to get to work. The game had just begun.

The first challenge came when deciding what the theme of our quilt would be. Even with our fairly small guild, we had more ideas than we knew what to do with. We started a Pinterest page to gather ideas — from Canadian inventions like lightbulbs, Robertson screws, zippers, snowmobiles, wine and grapes (we are a Niagara Guild after all), to inukshuks, beer bottles, donuts and Mountie hats — we have more than enough ideas for a lifetime of charity quilts!


Eventually we settled on hockey. But how to improv on a hockey theme? Again Tara came to our rescue with a fabulous tutorial on her blog. She suggested each member make a simple hockey stick member to start, knowing perhaps we would move on to words, nets, masks, jerseys — and yes, even a Stanley Cup! Finally the blocks were complete.

We met for a sew-in, thinking perhaps this part would be simple and quick. But it took a concerted effort and again the guidance and patience of Team Captain Tara, who worked magic with only a taped out quilt perimeter on the floor and a tape measure. We stitched the mismatched block sizes together until the very end of our sewing day.


Next, the longarming, which was where I came in. How to quilt something so unique? We had decided to add the words to The Good Ol’ Hockey Game by Stompin’ Tom Connors to the quilt. In addition to the words, I quilted modern squares that reminded me of the skate marks on a hockey rink.

After quilting, it was bound by Heather and labelled. More photographs were taken, and the quilt was packaged and ready for its American tour. So many steps, and each time a guild member there to pick up the puck and pass it on.


It certainly was a challenge. It pushed us all to try something new and, best of all, work with no rules — no pattern! We had no idea how this game would end, but we were all thrilled with the result. We made it through the season to the tournament and now our quilt is off to the finals… at QuiltCon 2016!

Hope you enjoy our quilt. Proudly modern quilters and always Canadian!

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: “Wintry Mix” by Seacoast MQG

By Kali Zirkle, Charity Quilting Chair

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The Seacoast Modern Quilt Guild is located in the coastal areas of southern New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts, and we wanted to represent ourselves and what we would be experiencing in February while QuiltCon was happening in Pasadena. After some discussion we decided to use Charity Quilting Chairperson Kali Zirkle’s idea of a wintery outdoor scene with a red barn in an icy low volume background as the basis for our improv with intent.

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On a Saturday in July at our guild meeting, we came armed with scraps in the given colors and our sewing machines to begin to create the quilt. Peg Connolly focused on piecing the red for the barn, Judy Durant focused on the area of sun peeking through the clouds, and most of the other sewists focused on creating a low volume background that had hints of icy blue mixed in. Everyone worked from a pile of fabric left on a cutting table in the center of the room and as the pieces got larger they were added to a portable design wall. Once we had a few sections made we started to piece them together and begin thinking about the placement of the barn within the quilt. After the meeting a small group got together to finish piecing the top, Jessica Benoit May pieced the back, and it was handed off to our 2016 guild president, Mary Gregory of See Mary Quilt for the quilting. She quilted dense swirls over the entire quilt which give it great texture and movement and attached the binding.


The quilt was donated to HAWC, Healing Abuse Working for Change, located in Salem, Massachusetts.


QuiltCon Charity Spotlight: “This Quilt is Our Quilt” by the Tulsa MQG

By Kris Farnsworth, Charity Quilt Project Manager

woody final

When the Tulsa Modern Quilt Guild first heard the guidelines for the 2016 QuiltCon Charity Quilt Challenge, the concept of “Improv with Intent” immediately inspired some of us to look at various project ideas. The thought of breaking an image down into pieces and individuals creating improv blocks to match those quickly found some support. In deciding on a subject, we considered superheroes, pop art, florals, architecture, and portraits. When one member mentioned Woody Guthrie as a possible subject, it seemed a great choice: he is a native of Oklahoma, and the Woody Guthrie Center is located right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In fact, the husband of one of our members is on the board of the Woody Guthrie Coalition, so we had an “in” with a possible charity!

Now that we had a plan, we needed to generate enthusiasm and ease the apprehension of some members who were intimidated by the project. We decided to do a trial run with a different image. While the process of making the blocks proved quite a challenge for some members, when the final product was assembled, they were impressed with the outcome and ready to tackle Woody (with the understanding that when doing the larger project, most of the individual blocks would be less complex, with a good number of background blocks needed of simple improv in one color).


As project manager, I took our digital inspiration and cut it into images to each inspire a 5”x5” (finished size) block and named them each with coordinates in a spreadsheet to make assembling the finished blocks easier. We ordered fabric and distributed all the material and images. In order to kick the project off, we hosted a sew day to share techniques and advice.


As the blocks started to be turned in, they were identified, labeled, checked for size, and given a trim if necessary. We held another sew day to create some time to focus on knocking out more blocks and to start assembling the top. When we first laid out the loose blocks and started to see how it was coming together, we all felt added motivation to see the finished product and were ready to tackle the remaining blocks.


Once all the blocks were in, they were all joined into the final quilt top. One of our members, Brenda Shreve (brendasredbarn.com), agreed to quilt the project for us with a combination of matchstick and a guitar/music pantograph with even some lyrics from “This Land Is Your Land” thrown in! Then all it needed was the binding, sleeve and label.

The Woody Guthrie Coalition, a nonprofit corporation, hosts the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in mid-July to commemorate Guthrie’s life and music. The festival is held in Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma with the simple goal of  ensuring Guthrie’s musical legacy.


Woody Guthrie photo by New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Al Aumuller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: Postcards from North Caroline by the Charlotte MQG

by Elizabeth Busscher, Vice President, 2015


First off, please let me say how proud I am of all the members who contributed to this quilt. When I proposed this project, I got some grumblings from the group.  Apparently, improv quilting is not our favorite! But, I think we all can agree – the end product was totally worth it!

To prepare for this challenge, our guild reviewed some basic improv techniques by watching the MQG webinar “Improv with Intent” and discussing how we as individuals could create blocks that were improvisational, but still form a cohesive quilt. We decided a quilt with six individual blocks, each with its own theme would work best for our group.

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At our September meeting, we brainstormed the themes for each block, all to be captured under the umbrella “Postcards from North Carolina.” The six ideas represented are:

  1. Beach
  2. Mountains
  3. Sports
  4. Fields/agriculture
  5. Charlotte City
  6. State bird/flower

From there the guild broke up into six teams and created individual postcards. This was a great program for our guild as it allowed for sewing time, and time to get to know other members. We also very quickly learned who was not a fan of unstructured cutting and sewing – me for one!  It was definitely a challenge for some of us. Others had issues with the limited color palette, but we all got over our fears quickly. 

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At the October meeting, we revealed each group’s finished block. It was wonderful to see those piles of fabric turn into six finished blocks. A big thanks to Keleigh for taking all the blocks home and making them into the finished quilt top. (And for free piecing all those letters!)

And another big thanks to Vicki for quilting and binding. It looks amazing!

When this quilt returns from the show, we plan to vote on a charity that will receive it. I’m sure whoever the final recipient is will treasure it. I know I’m honored to have been part of the group who made it.

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: 35 Sisters by the Pittsburgh MQG

By Amanda Hancock, President

35 sisters front finished

When the color scheme and challenge theme (Improv With Intent) was announced for the 2016 QuiltCon Charity Challenge, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to represent our fair city! Pittsburgh is well known for the beautiful golden steel bridges that surround the downtown skyline. Three of the most iconic of these bridges are affectionately termed “The Three Sisters.”

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For this challenge we expanded an image of one of these sisters to quilt size (70″ x 90″) and then deconstructed it into 24 manageably sized blocks. Guild members were then given these block images along with packets of fabric that were no bigger than fat eighths (and were in fact mostly small strips) and instructions to improv piece their block using the image portion as a reference point. In the end the blocks were put back together to reconstruct the bridge in its entirety. The final effect is a cool, impressionistic image of the bridge which is at once cohesive and also expressive of the individuals who contributed to the effort.


We were lucky in this endeavor to have had Sherri Lynn Wood visit us while we were working on this project to lead a workshop on improv piecing. Many of the members have expressed their gratitude for this opportunity, and we all agreed that the concepts and skills learned during the workshop were instrumental to our success with the challenge.


Initially, many of us felt nervous and apprehensive about the project. How would it turn out? Would it look crazy? What if my block doesn’t look like her block? What if the lines don’t match up! How do I even do that curve?! However! Many agreed in the end that it was a very freeing experience to shake off all the rules, lay the apprehensions aside, and just make. Many are even asking when we can do this again! Overall, the experience really brought us together as a guild. We are, as of this blog post, a guild that is 34 women strong. We named this piece “35 Sisters” as a nod to both the bridge itself and the hands that constructed this version of it.


As of yet, we have not identified a charity to donate this quilt to. We would like to donate it to an organization that can perhaps auction if off to raise proceeds to maximize its potential impact for the greater good.

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Challenge: Flame of Inspiration by the Seattle MQG

by Amber Arnold, Member


The Seattle Modern Quilt Guild saw the 2016 QuiltCon Charity Quilt Challenge as an opportunity to involve many members of our guild, respecting the diversity of their individual styles, while striving toward the stated theme of the challenge. We decided to start from the traditional lone star quilt and add a modern interpretation, following the stated guidelines of improv with intent.


Members of the guild were asked to create individual diamonds using a main color and two accents in an improv style. The produced diamonds were unique and a great representation of the variety of quilting styles we see in our guild members. We organized sew-in events to work together assembling the quilt and derive inspiration from each other.


Our quilter, Megan Riley, quilted to bring the disparate diamonds produced by our members together, including words in the quilting that followed the burst of the star, starting with the flame of “ideas,” working with “shapes,” inspiring the “makers”, and ending with “art.”

As the committee chair for this project, my favorite part of the whole process was seeing the diverse work of our members unified in a single quilt in such a beautiful fashion.

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: “Milky Way the Modern Way” by the Portland MQG Hillsboro Carpool Group

by AnnMarie Cowley, member


The Hillsboro carpool gals (eight of us from Portland MQG and one deserter now with San Antonio MQG) agreed to do this challenge, and once we decided to make improv stars, off we went. One of us purchased Kona solids per the predetermined color palette. Each of us could add any solid or print that matched the chosen colors and made three stars each finishing at 3.5″, 6.5″ and 9.5″. PMQG has Sew Days at Fabric Depot, so we met two consecutive months with a plan in mind, then one last time at a member’s home. One member made the back from scraps, another quilted it, and then another bound and applied the sleeve.

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Probably the thing we learned in this challenge was about each other. Our carpool ride is usually 1.75 hours getting to the meetings, and an hour back, but we spent a lot more time together on this quilt. It was great having one member not sewing and moving the blocks around and giving direction. Occasionally, we would all break and get a consensus.

For me, I love the name of the quilt and that we met the deadline and will get to show it off at PMQG next Thursday. Important to all of us was to use fabric from fellow PMQG members: Elizabeth Hartman, Mo Bedel, Violet Craft and Monica Solorio-Snow.

Call for Submissions: QuiltCon 2018 Faculty

The schedule and lineup for QuiltCon 2017 is full, but applications are now open for QuiltCon 2018! We’re now accepting proposals for 3-hour, 6-hour and 9-hour workshops as well as 45-minute lectures on a variety of topics.

Want to stay up to date with future calls? Email riane@themodernquiltguild.com to be added to our designer email list so you never miss a call for submissions again.




Call for Submissions: QuiltCon Magazine 2017

QuiltCon MagazineQuiltCon_2016_Front_Cover_1024x1024 is a special publication brought to you by the editors of Modern Patchwork in close association with the Modern Quilt Guild. The magazine celebrates the modern quilt aesthetic and features articles about QuiltCon, behind-the-scenes interviews, tips for modern design, and other distinctive content.

QuiltCon Magazine will also include quilt patterns from MQG members and leading modern designers, galleries of beautiful quilts from the 2017 show, interviews, tutorials, and more.

We encourage all submissions; however, we are specifically looking for:

  • Modern quilts: Approximately a dozen quilt designs will be patterned in this publication and exhibited at QuiltCon. Submission guidelines are noted below.
  • Articles on topics such as:
    • Savannah’s vibrant sewing community
    • Making the most of your QuiltCon experience
    • Quilting techniques and tips

We will accept submissions for QuiltCon Magazine through Tuesday, September 20, 2016.

How to Submit:

  • Quilts: Send up to three low-resolution images of the completed quilt or a computerized mock-up (with fabric choices, quilting plan, and brief description of the project)—please include final quilt dimensions. Quilts must be original designs and available for shipping. (Note: Any quilt that is selected for the magazine is automatically accepted into QuiltCon!)
  • Articles: Send a brief description of the article you propose for publication, along with sample low-resolution images, if appropriate.
  • Quilt, project, or article proposals should be sent to submissions@quiltingarts.com with “QuiltCon” in the subject line. Attach up to three low-resolution photos per email.
  • One project or article per email.
  • Include your full name, address, phone number, website or blog, and credentials.
  • Quilts accepted for publication will be exhibited at QuiltCon. Quilt makers will be able to enter the quilt for judging and prizes at the $30 entry fee or no fee for quilts entered “For Exhibit Only.” For complete rules, visit quiltconentry.com.
  • For questions, contact info@quiltingarts.com.
  • See more information at quiltingdaily.com/submissionguidelines.

We look forward to hearing from you!

The MQG Staff and the Modern Patchwork editorial team