This edition of “The Finish Line”—completed versions of student work along with in-progress shots from class—has a little more rhyme and reason to it than usual. Recently I received finished photos from a class I’d taught just a few weeks ago, so I’ll begin with those and work backward with some from last year, ending with quilts that were started at Empty Spools Seminars (see my posts on 2016’s Session One and Session Two) in Pacific Grove, CA. Those seminars are held at Asilomar Conference Grounds on the Monterey Peninsula.

I have been honored year after year to be invited back to teach at that beautiful location, and finishing this post with images of work from those students is appropriate, as I’ll be flying there the very day this post is published. Leaving snowy Maine for green and blooming Asilomar—not a bad trade-off. Stay tuned for travel posts from CA and the two classes I’ll be teaching there!

By-the-way, I’m starting to run low on finished student work to include in these “Finish Line” posts. Don’t be shy. Send me those wonderful quilts to share with other readers just like you. People love to see them and are so appreciative when others take the time to send them in. Remind me when and where you took the class (if you remember) and include anything you’d like to tell us about the quilt—including your okay to post on social media. Thank you ahead of time!

MISA West, Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson, AZ: January 2017

Carlotta Brandenburg began her Preskit the Pronghorn Antelope just over four weeks ago at the Madeline Island School of the Arts winter location at Tanque Verde Ranch. And look, he’s done! Preskit has a lot of subtle (and time-consuming) shading in his fur, but Carlotta pushed through and made some really nice choices in fabrics. These gave him natural coloring but still a lot of visual interest in textures and contours from the fabric prints themselves.

When it came time to choose a background, Carlotta pulled out a beautiful piece of fabric that she had handpainted in another class, which she had been saving for the “right” project. Holding it in her hand, I had my doubts, but when she laid the antelope onto the fabric, wow. It looked great. After so many years of choosing hundreds of fabrics for this or that, I love that I still get surprised by how well certain combinations work.

In contrast to the realism of the Pronghorn, Carlotta created a fanciful desert landscape of cacti and jack rabbits for him to emerge from, basically the landscape of the Sonoran Desert—just outside our classroom doors. Why not? When she sent me the finished photos, Carlotta reported, “I did trapunto so he looks more 3-D in person. I loved the class. Thank you for all your time.”

Carlotta Brandenburg


Susan Carlson Summer Quilt Retreat, Harpswell, ME: June 2016

As many of you know, for a few years now I’ve been hosting four and five day retreats here in Maine—either at a 1761 inn a half mile down the road from us, overlooking one of the most painted, photographed, and gawked at views in Harpswell and the coast—or in the cobblestoned and restored Old Port of downtown Portland (Maine that is).

It was to last year’s summer retreat at the Harpswell Inn that Marilyn Wright and her friend Becky, found their way from North Carolina. It certainly is the ideal time for a visit to our state and the weather did not disappoint. I can’t remember if our Spring Peepers—tiny tree frogs with a big noise—were still peeping for our guests, but Marilyn came prepared with her own version. She worked from a photo of a frog with a yellow belly, but found a red fabric in her stash that had a great contour print to help define his throat and also a back stripe. No problem, red it is.

Back home, after the retreat, Marilyn added quite a bit of flair to her fellow before quilting—glittery sheers for sunlit sparkle on the water and frog. And I love his mellow-yellow flower-power attitude. Cool.

Marilyn Wright


Lyons Quilting, Lyons, CO: April 2016

I had the pleasure of spending a little extra time with Julie Ross in CO as our mutual friend Darlene was also taking the class. Julie made my blog-post writing just a bit easier by writing the following description herself:

“This was my first quilt…to honor my son who is an ace fly fisherman. I started to make my trout look realistic (head) but then shortly broke loose to fanciful and hippy-ish. I took this quilt to a family gathering to show it off and a businessman asked to purchase it ‘on the spot’ for his office (he kept upping the price) and I kept saying, ‘NO WAY! not parting with it… priceless to me.’ I know I am a beginner, but it was fun to hear that something ‘I’ made was interesting to others!”

Julie continues with: “Back story: my friend, Darlene, showed me some of her quilts a couple years ago on her computer—I loved them! and soon after she invited me to come to Susan’s next training. I flew to Denver for the fun. I was a quilting virgin but Darlene kindly purchased fabrics for me to use. I had a blast practicing playing with fabrics and digging into the creative process involved. I live on a farm so I can’t wait for my next project (barn? chicken? field?). THANKS SUSAN. THANKS DARLENE. PS—I LOVE seeing other women’s quilts—very inspirational to me as a beginner.”

Thanks, Julie! That’s one cool dude of a fish you got there.

Julie Ross

Quilting Adventures, Jordan Ranch, Schulenberg, TX: April 2016

I meet so many students every year—so many lovely people—that I never see again. But some I do have the pleasure of reuniting with, such as Laura Webb and her sister, Charlotte Lorenzo. They have an easy and complementary way about them that some siblings are blessed with. So it was fun to run into them at the International Quilt Festival in Houston last November, and I’ll get to enjoy their energy in another class next week at Empty Spools in California!

After our Houston run-in, Laura sent this: “As we discussed in Houston I am sending my ‘Schulenberg’ fish—finished and hanging front and center as you enter my house. I wanted to share the results with you. I am happy with it, however, now that it is complete I can see where more could have been done. Isn’t that always the way? I will be in your first session class at Asilomar next year as will my sister Charlotte, so I will get another opportunity. Figuring out a subject has become my mission. I have been enjoying your blog and look forward to seeing you again as well as taking another of your classes. Fondly, Laura Webb.”

Laura Webb


Empty Spools Seminars, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA: February 2014

When I met Jean Imholte in California. We were fellow Northerners enjoying and appreciating the pleasant temperatures of so-called “winter” on the Monterey Peninsula.

She was so pleasant, had a great smile, and really got the collage technique. She saw and understood the values in the loon she had chosen, and used the designs in her fabrics to their fullest to give form and a ton of interest to the feathers.

Soon after she took my class I received this: “Wanted to let you know that I finished my loon on Monday. I am very happy with my finished piece. Thank you for your guidance and wisdom. It was a pleasure spending time in class with you. I returned to Minnesota to horrible weather but the memories of California will last a lifetime. Attached are photos of the loon I did in your class at Asilomar. I enjoyed your class immensely and hope that I can attend another one someday. I chose the loon because I am able to hear their eerie call every morning and evening all summer long. Soon I will be moving to Texas and will miss them! My quilt will always be my reminder. You challenge your students to see fabric in another way and I thank you for that.”

Jean Imholte


Empty Spools Seminars, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA: 2012

Tammi Gritters has taken my class a couple times—you may remember her John Deere tractor quilt from a previous “Finish Line” post. It was a favorite of many readers.

However, before she made the tractor she tackled this pelican. This is a good-sized bird and Tammi did a great job sticking with it through all the details she added with the feathers—and then the water. She got a subtle yet effective reflection of the bird worked into the water. And look at how much the texture of the quilting added to the richness of the piece. Beautiful.

Tammi Gritters

Chris Hartman was also in that same Empty Spools class at Asilomar in 2012, with her friend Tammi (above). Chris’ creature of choice was a cow. A lovely purple cow. Made of, and surrounded by, flowers. Named Ferdinand, of course.

I love the texture and added interest that the free-motion quilting adds to this piece—especially the spirals on her snout.

Chris Hartman

Chris has almost finished a huge tiger face started in the second class she took from me. As she said, it has currently “stalled,” but I remember the amazing eyes it had. They made the tiger come alive, even in an incomplete state. I can’t wait to see the final version! Based on the what I see from the eagle below, made on her own, Chris definitely has a way with eyes.

Chris Hartman

And to finish (for now) Chris’ mini-menagerie, she sent the adorable bat below. And here’s what she had to say: “Thought you might like to see my latest quilt—official name is “Haeckel’s Bat in Pink”. Unofficial name is “Batshit” because that’s what he drove me. Your blog post about Stevie’s legs made me smile because I threw away Batshit’s little thread body FIVE times. And fished it out of the trash five times. And added more thread. Anyway, he was accepted into the Hoffman Challenge in 2014 and traveled the US and Canada. Now he’s going on to Road to California.

“Thanks for everything you taught me—and I hope to take another of your classes soon (and be a three-peater!)”

Chris Hartman
(reverse of quilted image above)

Empty Spools Seminars, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA: 2011 and 2014

Finishing this episode of “The Finish Line” will be Jo Kellar. Jo is one of those easy-going people that instantly put you at ease and are just so very nice. She has taken two of my classes at Asilomar, and I’ve seen her once or twice outside of a class. Always a treat.

However, in that first class, when I first saw what her project was based on I gulped inwardly. You can see it in the photo below. It’s the little sepia toned photo from 1908 of her Great Aunts Rosie and Marion at Rosie’s First Communion. And Jo wanted to take those 1/2 inch tall faded faces to use as a guide for a large quilt. Okay…. But this is a classic example of not saying no too fast.

Not long into the drawing process, Jo decided that the full length of the figures, interesting as those outfits were, would not be needed to tell this story. Wise move.
As I tell all my students, and myself too, all of these collages go through what I call the “messy scary stage”. It was pretty close to that stage in this photo, especially for little Rosie.
But here, a little farther along, Rosie is coming to life. This is where she was when class ended after five days.
And then Jo went home, substituted and re-arranged shapes and fabrics, and came up with a lovely interpretation of her original photo.

What a sweet and warm memory quilt of two special family members. Jo even filled the background with reproductions of postcards that were exchanged between the two women.

Jo Kellar

So, when Jo returned to my class three years later, I had a bit of a shock when she presented  her new subject—a Day of the Dead papier mache sculpture she had photographed at a festival. Quite a bit different from sepia-toned Rosie! Though, actually, we nick-named her Rosie #2, figuring the original Rosie would have been well over 100 years old by then (I think the official title of the finished quilt is “Catrina Rosie II”).

Upon closer examination of the photo, we realized that we weren’t looking into the back of the mouth, we were looking through the mouth. Which necessitated a change from the dark that you see above to the red you see below. Much better.

I think I saw the true side of Jo as she worked on Rosie #2. Where she had been tentative with the subdued colors of Rosie #1, she took off with this quilt. She brought a perfect pre-painted gauze for use in the scull, and black lace for the mantilla of the costume. I felt like I just had to stay out of her way and this exuberant image would present itself from Jo’s imagination.

Jo Kellar


So thank you again to my past students who have submitted work to be included in these posts. It’s fun to reminisce and to think back on the “personalities” of each of those classes. How lucky I am that even though I may teach the same class year after year, each is so totally unique to itself, and filled with such great characters—both human, and quilted.


  • Unfortunately have never had the opportunity to one of your classes but would really love to one day. Have you ever thought of showing a selection of quilts by students working from your book?? I jave a couple that I will send you.

    Just love your blogs, they make great reading.

    • Hi Janey, every so often I do receive a photo of a book generated project, no class involved. I’ve included a few of them in past Finish Line posts, though they are mixed in. Look for “Serendipity Quilts” in place of class location in the sub-header. I’d love to show yours too – thanks!

  • Susan,
    I love the Saturday morning blogs! The photos here are wonderful. Thanks to you and your students for sharing these, they are so inspirational!

  • Oh Susan…I can hardly wait to see you next week at Asilomar and meet Laura and Charlotte, and Laura’s Art piece has inspired me. I love seeing the start and completion of your attendees in the various class locations.
    I’m curious to know more on how and why their subjects were chosen. Picking my subject for next week seemed like a “no-brainer” to me and may be obvious to others. Maybe I should have chosen something more complicated. I like to stretch my artistic skills and be surprised at the results.
    I like many others enjoy reading your blogs.
    See you Friday!

  • Thank you Susan and students. It is wonderful to see creativity at its fullest . The quilts are all different and magnificent at the same time. I hope one day soon, I could take one of your seminars!

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