As the year draws toward its close I, like many of you, will be doing a little reflection. In that vein, I have taken some time to burrow through my email inbox to create a new collection of finished student work to share. While I was at it, I went back through my photo archive and found photos of in-progress shots from when I last saw the projects in class. I hope you enjoy the selection—there are are more waiting in the wings—and keep sending them! Tell me any stories involved and if it’s fine to post them.

I happily receive updates from former students and those who have purchased my books. It’s always pleasant to be reminded how my work and teaching is enabling people to realize their artistic ambitions, whatever they are. Some report having won prizes at quilt shows. Others are excited to gift their work to grandchildren. As a teacher, it’s my job to meet students where they are. Each has a different idea where they want to go with their quilt, which is why fabric collage as I teach it is so useful. It is flexible enough for a beginner and powerful enough for the more advanced. So while I am obviously proud of the large-scale portraits and animal quilts that students produce, I am just as proud of the funky fish and sea turtles.

The season of giving is approaching. As I reflect on the year, it occurs to me that the students in my classes have given me so much: their time, attention, and effort. That they continue to give by sending me photos of these finished quilts is a blessing.

July 2016: The Quilt Gallery, Kalispell, MT

Kaye Burns is a repeat student, having attended classes both in Montana and in Maine—and that’s just this year! She had already started this portrait of Chief Dan George when I saw her in July. She gave herself two days to finish the piecing, then dove into the cowboy that you see peeking out behind her. Kaye is an unusually fast, and thorough worker, with her own style and own sensibilities. She has an eye for fabric collage and is truly making real progress toward mastering it. And congrats, Kaye, for Best in Show—Art Quilts at your annual county fair! Now keep going!!

“Chief Dan George” by Kaye Burns

April 2016: Quilting Adventures, New Braunfels, TX

When I met Dot Collins in April, she began an ambitious collage of not one, but two grandchildren. As all quilts do, it went through what I call the “messy scary stage”. With a lot of work on her own—as she describes below—the final result is so fun and absolutely perfect. I liked reading how she chose the background (coincidentally, see my recent post, “Telling the Story: Fabric Collage Backgrounds”).

“Susan, This was the piece I started in class. I went back down to the muslin in several places—and some more than once before I was happy with it but I love it and my granddaughters (and my daughter) loved it. When I auditioned for backgrounds, I had trouble finding one I was happy with, then I spotted a finished but unquilted Convergence quilt—ala Ricky Timms—and I thought it was perfect. So I took the border off it, used it, quilted it, trimmed it down some, then sewed the border back on to hold the tulle in place. I did use an outline of black tulle to give a shadow effect behind the girls and to bring them forward some. I have gotten several of my friends and groups doing collages, mostly fish, as they are wonderfully fun to do. Thanks for a wonderful class! I hope to take another from you someday. Dot.”

Hope to see you again too, Dot.

“Sisters Sharing Secrets” by Dot Collins

2005 (or later): Artistic Artifacts, Alexandria, VA

I’ve had Linda Cooper in classes three times now. First at G-Street Fabrics in Rockville, Md in 2004; after that at Artistic Artifacts (though can’t quite remember the year) where she started the zinnias you see below; and this past June in Northern VA, with Quilters Unlimited, where she created her second fish. As Linda says, “I’m so thankful that I got to take your QU class again. It’s got my creative juices going. So I went back and finished my Zinnias. I’m very happy with my non-critter quilt.

You see, when someone asks me about creating a floral collage, my eyes glaze over. I may have near unlimited patience to create a fluffy fur-face, but the repetition of petals can just about do me in. Thankfully, not everyone feels that way and Linda blazed on and did, finally, finish her zinnias. And aren’t they gorgeous. She put in the time and effort and it certainly paid off. Look at the variety of fabrics she used for each of those flowers!

Zinnias by Linda Cooper

April 2015: Denver, CO

Karen Downs pieced this sea turtle (based on my Serendipitous Sea Turtle pattern) during a class in Denver. It’s a fiery fellow hanging out in some calm seas. The wavy edges work perfectly to help give the impression of water. Hey Karen, I’m waiting for the finished Scottish Highland “coo” from this year!

Sea Turtle by Karen Downs

March 2016: Empty Spools, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA

Carmen Goldstein’s “Tonka’s Dream” wraps Native American symbolism of bison, horses, and landscape all into one. It was fun to see the multiple images as they began to emerge. As a finished quilt, it’s striking and the colors are gorgeous. I like the darker green shadowed area she placed under the big guy. It really grounds him. Well done, Carmen.

“Tonka’s Dream” by Carmen Goldstein

March 2015: Empty Spools, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA

Roberta Walley has attended two sessions at Asilomar. This particular year she made “Walley.” There’s something about a warthog that makes a person smile—maybe in real life it would be different—but this guy is pretty darn cute. Roberta finished him with a classic complementary color scheme of red on green. It gives him a lot of energy, as does the spiral quilting, looking like he’s all wound up and ready to jump!

“Walley Warthog” by Roberta Walley

April 2016: Australasian Quilt Convention, Melbourne, Australia

Denise Griffiths took my class while I was down under with Stevie the Crocodile. Seeing classmates’ finished works in previous blog posts reminded her to send this one in. As she says, “In Australia there is an old song ‘Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree’ so I sat him in a tree, they also sing loud when rain is coming so the background fabric was just right. I have lots of these birds around my house so this quilt is special to me.”

She also said, “Actually this quilt was one of 2 quilts juried into the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara. Very excited. I really enjoyed taking your class and making this quilt. I have also started a Koala using your technique for a challenge with AQC next year. It’s nice to step outside of what I usually do so thank you.”

I learned that Denise is a noted quilt artist who is best known for her quilts of native plants, which she included around the kookaburra. Check out her blog at:

Kookaburra by Denise Griffiths

February 2016: St. Augustine, FL

Nikki Hill started her butterfly in my class last February in sunny Florida, where I got to enjoy some warmth while my husband got to enjoy a couple more snowstorms in New England. Nikki has a lot of work going on in this beauty and it was so nice to see that she not only finished it, but it’s draped with a blue ribbon. Congratulations!

Here’s the note she sent, “Hi Susan, I thought you’d like to see the end result of the silk moth I started in your Cutting Loose workshop. I added fused circles in tulle, lace and fabric, and covered it all first in a roll of bridal tulle (the kind you get at Michaels) that had glitter dots, and then in a sheet of pink tulle to hold it all down (it was a stinker to sew all that tulle). I entered it in QuiltFest Jacksonville and it won 1st Place for Large Art Quilts! Thank you again for your wonderful class; it was so much fun and I  learned a lot.  I can’t wait to start another collage (but next time, no tulle 😉).

No problem, Nikki. As I’ve said, quilter’s choice “to tulle or not to tulle”. Happy Collaging!

“Effervescence” by Nikki Hill

November 2013: Creations, Kerrville, Texas

Lorna Mullens is a faithful blog (and Facebook) follower. She has also taken several classes with me. And she was one of my past students who stopped by to say hi at my Specimens exhibit in Houston last month. She smiles all the time and it’s always a special treat to see her again.

She recently sent in her picture of this Red Tailed hawk. When I had last seen it in class, I was struck by what an intense stare Lorna had managed to achieve. She also used the contours and prints in the fabric to full advantage.

Here’s what she had to say, “Hi Susan, I read your post on Facebook all the time and thought you might enjoy seeing the attached photos of the Hawk I started. I’ve taken several classes from you at different locations and have enjoyed each and every one of them. Thank you so much for helping me continue my journey in quilting. Maybe someday I will get faster at this type of quilting. Our guild, Greater Quilt Guild of Houston, has a quilt show next year. I plan on entering this one. I’ll let you know what happens.”

Good luck, Lorna. I wish you all the best. And keep smiling.

Hawk by Lorna Mullens

2015 and 2016: Quilt Retreats, Harpswell, ME

Jean Savalchak is a fellow Mainer and has attended a few of my Maine retreats, so I have seen this quilt in the making on a couple occasions. This portrait of her husband was truly a labor of love. There’s a great story that goes with it, but right now I can’t remember it, though it did involve a star-lit walk in the snow. I think you got it, Jean—that white lace and black tulle work perfectly. And it looks like you found a really nice guy too.

In Jean’s words, “Hi Susan, Just want you to know that I finished ‘Portrait of the Quilter’s Husband as a Young Man’. It was in our recent Hancock County Quilters Quilt Show and got lots of positive comments. Lots of people asked about the technique, and I talked up your workshops and recommended your website and blog. I found a sparkly black tulle that shimmers just like the snow that was falling when the photo was taken. I had not used the tulle technique previously (it’s not my favorite) but found that it worked well in this case. Thank you again for your help and encouragement.”

You’re very welcome, Jean. I do hope to see you next year too.

“Portrait of the Quilter’s Husband as a Young Man” by Jean Savalchak

July 2014: Summer Vacation Quilt Retreat, Harpswell, ME

Christine Stern may have made the first blue-footed booby in one of my classes, though not the last. There have been other boobies (of the feathered kind), and I hope the makers will send me completed versions of them as well!

Chris finished hers for an exhibit with fiber friends in Bayfield, WI, the Gitche Gumee Fiber Artists. Here is what the label said : “On a trip to the Galapagos islands, off the coast of Ecuador, I took many photos of amazing blue-footed boobies. According to National Geographic, females tend to pick the males with the bluest feet as their mates. This is an original design based on my photos, with an abstract background representing the rocks, plants, seashore and sky where boobies hang out. You might imagine that there’s a bit of bird poop beneath the blue feet.”

I really love that final touch, Chris. 

“Galapagos—Blue-footed Booby” by Christine Stern

2016: From my book, Serendipity Quilts: Port Townsend, WA

Leslie Dickinson had no luck enrolling in one of my classes in either California or Nevada. So she wrote that she, “gave up, bought the book and experimented. Still would love to take your class someday. Love the technique and will try with a few other projects I have in the sketch book. A little worried about quilting, wondering what the glue will do to the needle.”

I got to her a little late to reassure her that the glue matters not to the needle. She had already quilted it and said, “Here are a couple of pics, one on the long arm and the completed piece. My eight year old grandson is so excited about getting the sun for his wall. Next is the moon for him.”

I love it. Nothing like exposing the next generation(s) to the wonders of art quilts. I especially like the recurring spheres in the face. Beautiful job. It would be fun to have you in class sometime, Leslie!


“Eli’s Sunshine” by Leslie Dickinson

I intentionally placed the Sun Face (above) and Green Man (below) at the end of this blog. You see, next week is the Winter Solstice, which I have a particular fondness for since it is also my birthday (maybe that’s why I’ve always like sun imagery).

In Harpswell, Maine, (where I live) there’ll be 8 hours and 44 minutes of daylight on December 21st, 7:14 a.m. to 3:58 p.m. After that, the days do get a little longer, at least that’s what the almanac says, though it’s hard to believe since the wind will still blow, the freeze will set in deeper, and we’ll still look forward to when our first Nor’Easter (aka a really big ol’ snowstorm) will arrive in Maine. For awhile yet the mornings will still be dark, but there is that light at the end of the tunnel, and we’ll get through, and life will renew itself. Hard to believe, for us in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere at least.

So, what about the Green Man, you may ask? Well, I also have a fondness for mythology, and tales of the Green Man began with the ritual of bringing greenery into our homes in these darkest of days, reminding ourselves that eventually the light of the sun and green of the earth will return.

So until then my friends, light the candles and bring in the greens, stoke the fires and bundle up (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case, enjoy the extra sunshine for me). And Happy Birthday to those other solstice (or near-solstice) babies out there.

April 2015: Empty Spools, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA

So here’s a Green Man by Sally Wright. As it turns out, Sally’s husband is a Solstice baby too! The very scale of this piece is impressive, which you can see by the in-progress class photo below. He (Sally’s Green Man) is certainly a celebration of color, growth, warmth, and abundance. Sally is an art quilter and you can check out her website at

Happy Solstice everyone.

Green Man by Sally Wright
Green Man detail
Sally and the Green Man in progress



  • Thanks for sharing these, Susan! They are incredible and so inspirational!! Can’t wait for the workshop in Maine this summer….my head is spinning with ideas! Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice!!

    • You’re very welcome! It will certainly be a pleasure to have you in class again, Suzanne. We’ll have nice and long daylight by then – Summer Solstice time! Merry Christmas and Solstice to you too.

  • Such a lot of inspiration! I took your class 2 years ago in Houston, and have followed you since. Thanks for the beautiful attitude you exude, and your generous sharing and encouragement for so many of us. Happy Birthday!

  • Thank you for sharing. I dream of doing a class with you! And the winter solstice is special to me to, being my wedding anniversary (25 years this year). Why not get married on the longest night if the year (wink, wink”). We will have less daylight than you, living in in north central Alberta, but I always remind people that after that day we can enjoy a few extra moments of precious daylight! Best of the season to you and yours. Kathy

    • A magical choice for a wedding date and a big anniversary year for you – congratulations! And yes, less sun and a lot more cold than we have here. I’ve taught in Canmore in February and experienced 35 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Oh my goodness. And I was told that at that temperature Fahrenheit and Celsius merge. I guess super cold is super cold. Sending you warm wishes for a beautiful season.

      • I was at that conference in Canmore that same year and it certainly was cold. Reminded me why we’d moved away from Alberta! Unfortunately, I took someone else’s class which I did enjoy and learned a lot at but I am regretful that there wasn’t more time so I could have taken yours too. Seeing your work and your students’ inspires me so much. Happy birthday and enjoy your special day in the warmest way possible.

  • Happy Solstice/Birthday! My younger brother was born the 22nd. I remember when we drove to the hospital to pick up my mother. She and Daddy walked out the door and she was carrying something. I remember her red cape! My older brother and I were waiting in the Studebaker. When she finally was seated in the car holding her bundle, my brother asked, “What is it?” Mother smiled and said, “Santa Claus brought you a new baby brother.” At my infinite wisdom of 3 years I said, “I didn’t ask for that. You can just take it back.” It is a very strong memory that comes through every year on the 22nd. I enjoy reading your memories of your students. I am still timid and fearful of stretching my wings. Thank you for your beautiful work and your teaching.

    • Thank you for that great memory, Juliann. How funny. Since I was the oldest, there was no such conflict of interest! And as far as stretching your wings go, sometimes you just have to jump from the nest. And fabric makes a pretty soft landing pad if needed.

  • Sue,
    Thank you so much for including the project for my grandson. We called it Eli’s Sunshine, we lost our daughter, his mother two years ago and I told him that the Sun and the Moon will always rise to greet him. This was a special project for me.
    Will send the moon pics too.
    Leslie Dickinson Port Townsend, WA

    • You’re welcome, Leslie. I’m so sorry about your daughter—Eli is lucky to have you in his life. I’ve now updated the title of the sun, and will look forward to seeing that moon, as I’m sure Eli is too. Wishing you and yours a warm and glowing holiday season.

  • Oh my gosh! My heart just jumped into my throat with the Red Tailed Hawk. I have always loved birds of prey. They are so regal and proud. There always use to be some around my home in Orange Park Acres, an equestrian community in Southern California. Those 30 years I spent in that house were memorable and a past chapter in my life, but I will never forget the birds. My congratulations to you and your students for excelling so with their projects. Me…I still have to quilt my little Turtle that I did in you Harpswell Retreat in Oct 2014. Time passes too quickly, but I have several of your memorabilia from Society Thank You so Much.

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