Bonnie Keller recently took home the Coats & Clark Wall Handworkmanship Award at the AQS Show in Paducah, Kentucky. Bonnie loves designing, creating and working with fabric from intricate hand work to portrait quilts to art quilts. Her winning quilt, Creme de la Creme is an amazing work of art and quilting. We asked Bonnie to share with us here inspiration and process in creating this masterpiece. Here is her story:

I have loved William Morris’ work since I first came across it at one of the showrooms at the Design Center in Seattle when I was an Interior Designer back in the 1980s and 90s. When I stumbled into quilting in the mid 90s, I started seeing and collecting the reproduction William Morris fabrics, and also started collecting books on his work. As I was contemplating doing a whole cloth quilt about 4 years ago, I knew I wanted to try to interpret his design into hand quilting. It took me about 6 months of picking a flower here and a vine or shape there to come up with an overall design for my quilt. Then I started doing little test pieces, experimenting with form and thread color. I wanted it to have a quiet elegance, with texture and subtle shading.
After drawing out my pattern full size, I used washable blue marker to transfer it to my fabric. Then I backed it with a bright white polyester batting and used water-soluble thread to stitch around all the leaves and flowers before cutting away all the extra batting. (I only cut one tiny hole in my quilt which I can’t even find anymore!) I then added a lightweight wool batt and a bright medium green William Morris backing fabric RIGHT SIDE FACING INWARD. That fabric adds a subtle shading to the background of the quilt so that the flowers, leaves and vines all stand out as whiter. All the outline hand quilting was done in a medium green 40wt. hand-quilting thread. When the outlining was finished I washed the quilt to remove the blue marker and the dirt that had already accumulated on it by all that handling. Next I did the background hand quilting with a two-ply 50wt. extra-long staple Egyptian cotton thread in a limy green. The background quilting is both 1/4″ (cross hatching) and 1/8″ (echo) apart. It took FOREVER! The vines and stems were all trapuntoed with bright white Acrylic yarn, using a blunt, short tapestry needle to thread the yarn through between the layers of the quilt.

After the background quilting was finished, I washed the very dirty quilt again, then blocked it and bound it. Next came the addition of Tsukineko All-Purpose frosted inks to some of the flower centers and to the ogee-shaped ribbon that meanders through the quilt center. I did that with a very tiny water color brush. To add even more dimension, I used both white and several shades of green silk embroidery floss to enhance leaves, ribbons and flowers. Then came the beading with several types of pearl and crystal beads. There were also squares in each corner where I added embroidered butterflies. I used the white Acrylic yarn again to add more trapunto to some of the flowers which seemed to need more dimension. The satin rat tail cord was hand sewn on next to the binding for the last touch. FINISHED AT LAST! It only took me 3 1/2 years from beginning of the design process to the finished quilt. I named it Creme de la Creme, because it was the best work I was able to do.

Close up of Creme de la Creme

It has been accepted into three shows so far. PWQS, Tacoma, WA where it won a First Place, Road to CA., where it won Best Wall Quilt, and AQS, Paducah, where it won the Wall Hand workmanship Award.

My next challenge? I am taking that same pattern design and doing it in hand applique using many of my own hand dyed fabrics. I think I’ll machine quilt this one. I don’t want to spend as much time!

About the Author

Lynn is Director of Consumer Services with Coats & Clark.

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