I enjoy sharing my teaching travels and showing off the work of my students—they make me so proud! It’s now catching on for past students to send me photos of their finished quilts—the stage I never get to see in class. Since last August I’ve been combining the classroom images with those finished versions to create “The Finish Line” posts, and they’ve become very popular. Thanks to all who take the time to share their quilts and stories, your work is inspiring to others—just check out the comments!

Usually, those completed quilt photos are from work started in past years’ classes, however I’ve had some fast finishers recently. So I thought I’d start this round of “The Finish Line” with a couple of quilts begun in very recent 2017 classes, plus a few others, working back in time.

And please keep sending in those photos of your completed quilts! A photographer friend, Joel Davidson, wrote a guest post for me sharing his own tips for taking simple yet effective photos with a smart phone. So check it out. We want to show off your quilts in their best light.

And now, with no further adieu, “The Finish Line: Completed Student Work Volume 6.” Enjoy.

Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, Cedarburg, WI:  April 2017

Yes, it’s still April, 2017, and I’ve been sitting on this photo for more than a week now already. If this fluffy little girl looks familiar it’s because you just met her and her person, Nancy Ware, in last week’s teaching post! Congratulations, Nancy!

This portrait of Penny the Poodle demonstrates how a white dog doesn’t have to remain white when interpreted in fabric; blues and purples work just fine for those shadows. And I’m especially fond of her dainty crossed legs—it adds to our feeling of Penny’s personality. My Pippin dog did the same thing (though you would not have called her dainty).

Nancy picked fabrics for the background that were reminiscent of the oriental rug in the original photo, without having to re-create the rug in detail.

“Penny the Poodle,” by Nancy Ware

Empty Spools Seminar, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA: March 2017

A month and a half ago, I was teaching in Pacific Grove, CA, where Susan Lile took a workshop with her daughter, Laurie Lile. Susan decided to focus on the collage process by creating a goldfish (based on my pattern “Carpe Carpem”), and Laurie began a portrait of a mountain goat (which I’m hoping to see soon as well—hint, hint).

This fishy guy is bright and playful, as goldfish should be, dressed up with a little sparkle. Susan decided to place him in an aquarium-like setting, complete with a fishy pagoda. Perfect.

Goldfish, by Susan Lile

The Quilt Gallery, Kalispell, MT: July 2016 & Susan Carlson Maine Quilt Retreat, Portland, ME: October 2016

You’ve seen Kaye Burns’ work in previous “Finish Line” posts—her Pegasus horse, Coral Reef, Liberty Bell, and Chief Dan George. Kaye has attended numerous classes of mine, two of them last year; one in Kalispell, Montana, and one here in Portland, Maine.

While in Montana, Kaye finished collage piecing the portrait of Chief Dan George and began her portrait of Robert Duvall as the cowboy Gus McRae in “Lonesome Dove.” She continued work on her own, then joined my first-ever “advanced” quilt retreat in Portland, ME, where she completed Mr. Duvall and moved on to her next project (below). She’s a woman on a mission! I get to see her later this year at another Maine retreat—I can’t wait to see what she has in store this time—but I’m sure it’ll be big as well.

Robert Duvall as Gus McRae in Lonesome Dove, by Kaye Burns. Kaye shared that she quilted little cowboy hats and boots into the background!

At the October retreat, Mr. Moose was begun—an appropriate subject for her visit to Maine. As far as fabric selection goes, here’s what Kaye had to say, “It’s mostly batik, but there are a few other fabrics in there. I was thinking in terms of fabrics with dots and dashes because the photo seemed to have dots on the antlers and the fur was sort of dashes.” I loved that attention to detail. The thought of naming him “Morse” was bantered about the class, but Kaye says it’s now just “Moose.” I wish I had a photo to show the scale of this fellow, he’s as tall as I am, maybe more.

And here’s a question Kaye posed to me, which I think would be good to also pose to you, my readers: Kaye said, “It [the moose] has not yet been shown except as show and tell at my last Guild meeting. I plan to enter it in our local county fair this Labor Day weekend and I’m considering where else to enter it. Do you have any suggestions as to where else it [and Robert Duval] might get a good showing?” Well, ladies (and men), let’s see what suggestions you have for Kaye. Leave them in the comments below!

Detail of “Moose”, by Kaye Burns
A Maine “Moose”, by Kaye Burns

Woodland Ridge Retreat, Downsville, WI: September 2015

And now, here’s a mini-reunion of sorts. When I was teaching at Woodland Ridge Retreat at the end of this past March, I got to see four of my students from the September 2015 retreat—two were taking this second class, one was an assistant for the retreat, and one stopped in for lunch one day. We then had a show-and-tell including three completed quilts from 2015.

First up is Nancy Blake with Chunk, the adorable (and well-behaved) Boston terrier. His wonderfully colorful portrait is based on a photo of him dressed for the occasion and sitting at the table with his people at a dog-friendly restaurant. My own pups are very jealous of that opportunity.

We reminisced how much trial and error was involved to find a good background for Chunk’s vivid portrait. But he really seemed to pop with the African printed cloth that was for sale right there at the retreat center. Now that’s serendipity!


“Dinner Date With Chunk,” by Nancy Blake
The label from the back of the quilt, with story and original photo included.

Next is Betsy Munroe, with a portrait of her tow-headed son when he was a wee lad (he’s now in his 40’s, right Betsy?). This is a lovely memory quilt of the look, the pose, and the clothes from that moment in time. I really liked how she broke up the background into color blocks. In that way she could continue the fabric collage process and really customize the color and size of those blocks to highlight the figure.

Betsy was one of two students returning from 2015 to take a second retreat this March. See her newest in-progress creations (yes, two of them) in the post from two weeks ago, along with her friend Becky Schwartz’s striking sun face collage.

A portrait of her son, by Betsy Munroe

Finally from this Wisconsin 2015 class, Brenda Betz-Stolz, with her stunning blue heron. This retreat was held right before I started my blog and unfortunately, I didn’t hold onto all the in-progress photos like I do now. So you won’t get to see the collage process of this feathered specimen, but look at the great fabric she used to interpret those wings. Then, she just happened to have a whole cloth piece of hand-dyed fabric that made an awesome background—and for the final touch, she used her quilting design to help convey the story of this bird in flight.

“Flight of the Great Blue Heron”, by Brenda Betz-Stolz
Detail of “Flight of the Great Blue Heron”, by Brenda Betz-Stolz

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

In February 2014, JoAnne Lincoln and her sister-in-law Ann Marie Lincoln, attended my class in Pacific Grove, CA. A month later JoAnne sent me this email, “I attended your workshop at Empty Spools last month. I wanted you to know that I thoroughly enjoyed the class! I’ve finished my goat and have attached a picture. I’m starting a new project using your techniques, so, thank you!! It’s so much fun!”

I’ve held onto that email and photo for a few years now, waiting for the right venue to post it, and here it is in “The Finish Line.” I emailed her this past week asking if there was any story about the goat. Here’s JoAnne’s reply, “Well, not much of a story other than she was a favorite at the San Francisco zoo (petting zoo). Her name was Paprika. She was born at the zoo and just passed away at 15. My son and I visited her regularly.”

Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t keep most of those in-progress photos from pre-blog classes. So aside from darker shadows under the horns, there’s not much difference from end of class to finished quilt.
“Paprika”, immortalized by JoAnne Lincoln

In that same 2014 class, sitting next to JoAnne, was Ann Marie Lincoln.

Ann elaborated on her grape worker quilt for me, “The quilt name is ‘Sunrise Harvest.’ Our whole family, 10 kids, are all involved in grapes… growing them, making wine, making barrels, etching wine bottles and for most of us tasting wine. JoAnne is my sister in law and my brother Jim, her husband, manages 1000 acres of vineyard in Napa Valley. I was inspired by a Lowell Herrero painting that my sister Lynn sent me from a St. Helena Star news article about him. It’s my favorite quilt!”

Thank you to both Ann and JoAnne!

“Sunrise Harvest,” quilt by Ann Marie Lincoln, based on artwork “Early Morning Harvest,” copyright Lowell Herrero and used with permission.

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

Another student from Empty Spools Seminars, from 2012 this time, is Ellen Bill. Ellen shared, “My porcupine, ‘Patches,’ won an award at our local guild show. I’m glad you like him, it was a fun process and I look forward to trying something else soon.” Since then, I have heard through the grapevine, that Patches has shown up at other bigger shows shows as well. Congratulations on your success, Ellen, Patches is a very cute and memorable fellow.

“Patches,” by Ellen Bill

Based on instructions from my book, Serendipity Quilts

Janey Crook recently sent me this photo of her showy rooster. It looks to me like he’s quite proud of his long and flowing tail feathers. She did some nice quilting in the background too, filling the space with an equally flowing stitched design.

Janey wrote, “This is a collage quilt I made with your book at my elbow. I would love to do one of your classes and get on-going feed back but…… that will have to wait for now. I am pretty pleased with this guy though—it is such a fun process, playing with colours—wonderful.”

Rooster, by Janey Crook

And I’ll finish where I started this post, with a quilt by a student from one of my Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts classes. Jacqueline Fritsch arrived with this finished quilt to share with me. She went on to get a good start with a bold butterfly, but I thought this colorful little guy was great in the use of the prints found in the fabrics. A good way to add details, letting the fabric work for you. Even the background has all sorts of interest and movement—though by keeping it to one color range, it doesn’t overwhelm the fish itself.

I’m looking forward to seeing that butterfly now, Jacqueline!

Fish, by Jacqueline Fritsch


  • I just love your Finish Line posts! I have your book and am going to work on a project from it this summer. A friend of mine is signed up for one of your classes in Art Tahoe, I’m just a little jealous! I would really love to take one of your classes. Thanks for your posts, they are so inspirational!

    • Thank you, Lynn. And thanks for picking up one of my books—have fun with your summertime project! Please share the result so you can inspire others too.

  • Loved seeing all your students finished projects…they are all inspiring. Each one has its own story which touched our hearts and is why we make these treasures to share with others. Beautiful work ladies!
    Asilomar March 2017…I have “Iggy” the Iguana on a special design wall that I look at each time I enter my art room. He’s there watching over me as I complete other projects for family, friends and challenges that are due. Life seems to gets in front of us. Susan each time I read your blog, I get encouraged to finish “Iggy”. I may surprise you very soon. I’ll take pictures as he progresses.

    • Seeing how hard you students work is inspirational to me as well. And I look forward to seeing those final photos of Iggy!

  • Robert Duvall is AMAZING!!!! Absolutely Road to CA. I would enter in anything I could.and see how it goes. Definitely on my fav things. Great job with a great teacher.

  • Oh I love your blog and sharing of “The Finish Line”. Such wonderful inspiration and good information. One day I hope to meet you in person and take a class from you. Thank you for being such a great teacher.

  • Such gifted arts and beautiful work!
    Please consider entering into the annual Road to California event held in January.

  • These are all so beautiful. But, I have to admit “Dinner Date with Chunk” is my favorite. Such a handsome boy!!!

  • Wow…all the quilts are vibrant and beautiful! I too have your book Serendipity Quilts and will soon get started on a collage quilt. I was born and raised in Alaska so one of my favorite quilts here was from Kay Burns with her Moose quilt and she also did a fantastic job on the Cowboy quilt. Thanks for sharing!

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