Corrections or additions?

This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the June 13, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Quilting’s Patchwork Feast

There may come a time — and it’s not far off —

when quilting will be recognized up there with jazz as one of


most brilliant, improvisational art forms. This week the State Quilt

Guild of New Jersey is hosting "2001: A Quilter’s Odyssey,"

Friday through Sunday, June 15 through 17, at the New Jersey


and Exposition Center in Edison. Billed as the largest quilt show

in the Eastern United States, the "Odyssey" features an


of more than 400 quilts competing for awards, plus a hundred more

in special exhibits. Following on the guild’s debut show of 1999,

this is the result of two years’ planning.

The State Quilt Guild of New Jersey was incorporated in 1997 to


the art of quilting and gain public recognition of quilting as an

art form. "We’re actually the backwards quilt guild," says

founder Melanie Normann from her home in Howell where she also runs

her business, the Threadmakers Quilt Studio.

"The concept of a statewide New Jersey quilt show predated the

guild. I wanted to do the show but needed a sponsoring entity, so

I brought together a group of professional quilters and we decided

to form the state guild as the non-profit entity." Twenty-five

of the state’s local quilt guilds are also members of the state guild.

"Although there are still people who make quilts for beds, today

quilts are off the bed and onto the wall," she says. Nationally

women are the predominant makers of quilts, but there are more men

quilting today than ever before. "Men are more likely to become

professional right away," Normann notes. "Perhaps otherwise

they can’t justify the time they’re spending at it."

Normann grew up in Middlesex County, attended Valencia Community


in Florida where she was a chemistry major and an art minor. She


quilting in the early 1970s. "It was actually a result of my


streak," she says. "All the women in my family for last two

generations have been painters, so I insisted on doing something


"I’m attracted by the impact of the design and the colors that

are used to express it," she says. "I care far more about

that than technical skill." Like the quilting field in general,

Normann’s quilt-making has evolved over the years, from her earliest

traditional work to the art quilts she now makes. "Today my work

is very painterly, so I’ve come around full circle."

"There’s a tactile quality to fabric that no other medium has.

You may look at an oil painting for its texture, but you don’t


touch it. Quilts make people want to touch them — make them want

to snuggle up under them. We actually have to put up guards at the

show to keep everyone from touching."

A team of certified judges will evaluate the show’s

entries in 14 categories that include Art Quilts, African American

Quilts, Youth Quilts, Quilts as Clothing, and Traditional Quilts.

This year’s special "challenge category" is the Self-Portrait

Quilt in which quilt artists have been invited to interpret the theme

literally or symbolically. Among the special exhibits is one by the

Montclair-based Nubian Heritage Quilters Guild, celebrating the legacy

and artistry of African-American quilting, and a show of 50 quilts

by young people.

The three-day event includes workshops, classes, and lectures by a

faculty of eight of the nation’s most respected quilting teachers.

In keeping with its space-age title, the exhibit will update quilting

to its contemporary art status with modern techniques that incorporate

computer generated photos and applique methods to incorporate


and landscape elements into the design.

Classes, workshops, and demonstrations are designed to appeal to


at all levels and some openings may be available for on-site


Author and artisan Lynn Kough gives a humorous but practical lecture

on fabric selection, "Too Many Choices Too Little Time," on

Friday, June 15, at 2 p.m. She is the author of two books on quilting:

"Stretching Tradition: New Images for Traditional Quilts"

and "Quiltmaking for Beginners." She will also teach a


class she calls "Surprise." Other workshops and classes range

from brushing up on basic skills and sewing machine techniques to

more intricate work such as transforming drawings into patterns,


painting, and reverse applique.

Ruth McDowell, an acknowledged expert on machine piecing, leads a

two-day seminar on that topic. Another six-hour workshop on


Painting and Embellishment" is led by Yvonne Porcella, known for

her hand-painted fabrics, wall hangings, and art quilts. Dierdra


teaches Tahitian Applique, a free-form applique method that requires

no pins or ironing. (For a schedule of classes and workshops, go to

the website at or contact Libby Schoenwolf,


Youth is part of the focus of the burgeoning art of quilting and the

show will include a display of 50 quilts by children. Ten sewing


have set aside for the children’s hands-on quilting classes for girls

and boys ages nine and up, that takes place on Friday and Saturday,

June 15 and 16. Working with fabric kits assembled by guild members,

each young quilter will create a small wall hanging to take home.

As part of the children’s program, 10-year-old Sara Hahn of Manalapan

with give a talk titled "Kids Can Quilt." Hahn has one of

her own prize-winning quilts in an exhibit touring the country.

In New Jersey alone, more than 15,000 women, men, and children are

counted as practitioners, and as members of the state’s 40 clubs and

guilds. Quilters have become the largest individual purchasers of

fabric in the country, and sewing machine manufacturers are also


their product for the quilter’s market. The show will include 45


offering displays, demonstrations, and all the latest gadgets and

supplies. There will also be an extensive sales section of books on

quilting. The New Jersey Quilt Convention’s debut show, in 1999, drew

more than 5,000 visitors. The group is hoping for an even greater

crowd this year.

— Nicole Plett

2001: A Quilter’s Odyssey, the State Quilt Guild of

New Jersey , New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, Edison,

732-591-0257. To reach the Expo Center take Route 1 north to 514 East,

Woodbridge Avenue. Go four miles and turn right into Raritan Center;

follow signs to Convention Center and Exhibition Hall. $10; under

12 free. Friday to Sunday, June 15 to 17, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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