At almost every teaching stop of mine this year at least one or more past students came up to me to tell me about the quilt they started in a class and how now it’s finished. Some of those quilts got into juried shows, some will go on to win awards or other accolades, but always there’s that sense of accomplishment to share with me—and it’s so satisfying for me to be able to share that thrill with them. Even better is when they bring along the finished quilt to show me—as did Randa Mulford with “Winnie” the dog (above).

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing finished student quilts with you in my “Finish Line” series of blog posts—but I realized it’s been months and months since the last such installment! So, as an appropriate finish to this year of 2017, it’s time to show-off some more quilts that my oh so talented students have completed. Quite a few quilt photos have piled up—either from seeing them in person or via email—so I’m catching up with filling not just this week’s post but next week’s as well! Thank you so much to the quilters who have agreed to share their creations with you as well as with me.

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, without further ado, “The Finish Line: Completed Student Work Volume 7.” Enjoy.

Art Quilt Tahoe, Zephyr Point Conference Center, Lake Tahoe, CA:  November 2016

Last month I returned to Art Quilt Tahoe to teach for the second time in that location. Part of the retreat set-up is a quilt show from any and all past classes. With numerous instructors each year, the show is quite varied and impressive. This year there were five completed quilts from my past students—four from AQT and one from a September CA class—but I’m not gloating. The beginning stages of these quilts are in previous posts, “On the Road: Art Quilt Tahoe 2016” for one, but let me pull out those in-progress photos for you.

Let’s go back to Winnie the dog, pictured above. Randa Mulford is now a two-time student of mine as she was also in this year’s AQT class, beginning a portrait of her daughter. Both times she’s worked big, which I always encourage since you can use more fabrics that way! And Randa used some luscious purple prints in Winnie’s portrait, using them very nicely to help portray contours and fur.

She had the quilt finished to show me at Empty Spools Seminar in March of this year, and if you happened to attend the International Quilt Festival in Houston this past November, you too may have seen this purple pooch on exhibit there.

“Winnie” by Randa Mulford

My other 2016 students that had quilts hanging at AQT this year were attending other classes but I’d still pass them or see them at meals. Cheryl Braswell was pleased to prove to me that she could do more than just tractor tires. She sure can.

You can see from the original photo above, that Cheryl added some color to the old tractor, though still keeping the rusted quality. She did a wonderful job creating the rustic nature of the machinery.

Part of what I like about Cheryl’s tractor is that it isn’t fussy. In fact, in places it’s quite loose and impressionistic. Look at the tires. She didn’t worry them to death. The shapes aren’t perfectly round or realistically colored, yet they are so well constructed that the impression they give is unmistakably “tractor tires.”

“Tractor” by Cheryl Braswell

Kim Kaufman attended last year’s class with her sister, Sara Roche. They were a pleasure to work with as well as to see how well they got along together. Kim completed most of her “Yellow Spotted Salamander” in class and was working on a background when last I saw it.

It’s a striking creature because of the high contrast between the back and sides. The choice of such a dark value on the sides really help the salamander to “pop” from his background. I really like the small but important touch she added with the two strings of white dots that help separate the dark value of his underside from the nearly equal dark value of the shadow under his body. A very nice use of a print she found in a fabric.

“Yellow Spotted Salamander” by Kim Kaufman

When I saw Anita Liberman-Lampear this year, she reminded me how I had done my best to discourage her from the subject she chose last year—one of the more challenging subjects I’ve ever faced in class. Lucky for both of us that she was up for and determined to finish the task. Do you recognize the subject below and if so, quite possibly the scene?

“Lucy!” is a recreation of the famous grape-stomping scene from the “I Love Lucy” show. The quilt was inspired by the 2016 Art Quilt Tahoe quilt challenge theme:

“Art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take risks.”

Anita says that the theme “really fits what I did—this was totally an unknown world of quilting to me and much to the uncertainty of my teacher, I was willing to take risks to be sure it was one of my best, learn new techniques, including using a machine quilter and finishing it with much pride!”

“Lucy” by Anita Liberman-Lampear

Pat Smith was one of those students that quietly plugged away at her table, and every time I’d make my way back around to her, her purple cape buffalo would have emerged just a bit more from it’s foundation fabric.

The color, the flower petals that made his ears look fuzzy, even his somewhat annoyed expression: they all made me smile. And still do.

“Albert With Attitude” by Patricia Smith

And the fifth finished quilt at AQT this year was this pink fellow by Laura Schmidhammer. Laura was the exception in this student group as she had recently taken my Fish, Bug, Butterfly class with the Flying Geese Quilt Guild of Orange County, CA in September.

Laura finished that two day class with most of her pink goldfish finished and background left to go. As we were later looking at her completed quilt, she told me how she had used Indian sari strips woven and laid one next to the other to create the colorful and watery background. The torn and frayed edges of the strips give a lot of rich visual (and actual) texture, as does the hand stitches she added on the fish itself. Very effective.

“Adventures Under the Sea” by Laura Schmidhammer

Just for the fun of it, I’m including (below) the other two little quilts that Laura completed, part of her triptych: “Adventures Under the Sea Three Views.” All three use techniques and inspirations in the making of art quilts that she learned this year.

Susan Carlson Quilt Retreat, Harpswell, ME:  June 2017

And now I’ll bring you back to my home state of Maine and some past quilt retreats. Lynda Flynn was a newbie to this fabric collage process and joined my June retreat with a portrait of “Buddy,” her neighbor’s pet turkey. She hadn’t intended for this quilt to be a memorial quilt for Buddy, but he reached his fine old turkey age as she was working on the quilt. What a beautiful bird he was, but a whole lot of feathers.

Lynda decided to use the big and bold flower prints of Kaffe Fassett and other such fabrics. When cut apart, those flower petals create the blocks and bands of feather patterns. She worked big, and the scale of the fabric prints worked to her advantage.

Lynda got in via the waiting list for one of my fall Portland, Maine retreats (opting against another feathered creature and working on a frog instead!) While we were there in class, her turkey quilt was delivered from her long-arm quilter and we all got to see the (almost) finished Buddy. What a great memory and tribute to an exceptional bird.

“Buddy” by Lynda Flynn

Susan Carlson Quilt Retreat, Harpswell, ME:  2015?

Chris Lamb Stern has been, I believe, in three of my Maine retreats—the latest this October—with her swimming grizzly. From a past class, she sent me this very nice photo of her “Jewel Beetle.” The darn thing is, these are the actual colors of this beetle. It’s no wonder that bugs, and beetles in particular, are one of my favorite subject matter. Well, I believe Chris agrees. In a write-up for this quilt she includes:

Never lucky enough to have a Malaysian Jewel Beetle in my insect collections at ECHS or UCD, I decided to make my own. The colors in the quilted version are true to life. Fabric collage with free-motion quilting over glued cotton pieces topped with brown tulle. Original design based on Coleopera Chrysochroa ephippigera In Living Jewels 2, photographed by Poulo Beckman.

I should have in-progress photos for this beetle, but they are eluding both Tom and I. If we find them we’ll add them, but in the meantime, what a lovely fellow this is. For another lovely creature of Chris’, check out the Finish Line: Volume Three for her blue footed booby.

“Jewel Beetle” by Chris Stern, 12 x 18 inches.

Susan Carlson Quilt Retreat, Harpswell, ME:  June 2015

I know that Sharon Waggy has been in three of my classes as well, and in this first one she collaged a portrait of her very well loved cat, Cosette (a.k.a. Cosy). I loved the direction she went with the colorful and large print flowers.

In May, Sharon sent me an email that her quilt, “My Devon Cosette in Full Flower,” was accepted and won a Second Place Ribbon in an exhibit at the WV Division of Culture and History in Charleston, WV from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

As Sharon says:

This is such an honor to have my quilt up on those great marble walls. The local newspaper ran a story about the exhibit and Cosy’s picture was in there too. The Judge noted in her comments that she particularly liked the graphic appeal of the bright colored cat on the newsprint, handwriting and printed maps fabrics in black and cream/taupe. I loved your class and Cosy is from that first one I took in beautiful Maine!

“My Devon Cosette in Full Flower” by Sharon Waggy

Susan Carlson Quilt Retreat, Portland, ME:  October 2017

Since I happen to be writing this post with my own cat, Djinni, on my lap, let’s finish this installment of student quilts with another cat quilt—this one by Martha Ginn of her “almost perfect cat”, Elizabeth.

Before I met Martha in October, she emailed that she had a, “panicky feeling about this giant leap I’m taking!” Well, I tell ya, Martha was attentive, excited, and absolutely lovely. She moved along so well with Elizabeth’s portrait that I missed getting early photos of her progress.

Elizabeth is an “almost perfect cat” because she has an unhealthy habit of trying to eat taut thread as it comes off the sewing machine. Well, one time as Martha was trying to snip the thread before Elizabeth got to it and Elizabeth’s whiskers got snipped too, making her a bit asymmetrical, and I suppose, even a little less “perfect.”

A month after the class, I got this email from Martha:

She is finished, whiskers and facing and sleeve! She is 34″ wide x 25″ high. I’m attaching pictures; hope you are pleased with the final quilt. The background could be better, but on my first trip out I was concentrating on the subject more. Although the snipped off whiskers is a funny story, I chose to make Elizabeth in all her original beauty.

By the way, Elizabeth, My Almost Perfect Cat won a red 2nd place ribbon in our annual South Mississippi Art Association show this past weekend. The blue ribbon went to a very successful mixed media artist who sells in several galleries. Mine was the only fabric piece in the show.

She looks perfect to me, Martha—and you’re both doing your part to further the acceptance of quilts as Art. Congratulations.

“Elizabeth, the Almost Perfect Cat” by Martha Ginn, 34 x 25 inches.

And another big thank you to all my students for sharing their work—more next week!


  • Love, love, love the quilts! Miss Winnie and my Snickers could be twins, btw😄. Each character is better than the next! Thank you for sharing all the “in progress” photos. They are so helpful to those of us attempting this process on our own.

  • Oh, these are wonderful! How wonderful to watch the process as the final image emerges, well-done ladies! I got a huge kick out of Lucy stomping grapes, a memory I’ll never forget from her television show! I can’t pick a favorite, Albert With Attitude was wonderful, the tractor resonated with me because we live in the midwest in the countryside, Elizabeth’s eyes mesmerized me, Adventures Under the Sea was so creative, Winnie stole my hear and is so lush! Amazing to me to look through all of these and know what’s possible. Thank you, Susan, for sharing the work of your wonderful students! What an amazing journey to be able to “see”!

  • It is so inspiring to see the completed works of your students, Susan! They are INCREDIBLE and give me hope that one day I will be able to complete my dream projects! The combination of creativity, patience, detailed precision, and skill required to complete these works of art makes me smile from the inside out…. thank you for sharing, and thank you for inspiring all of us!

  • I love seeing the works in progress as well as the beautiful finished pieces, Susan. For those of us just starting to try art quilts, it helps to see every stage of the process, all of it providing both insight into techniques and inspiration for our own attempts. I am lucky enough to be a student in your April workshop (my husband wants to know if I’ll be able to say that without jumping up and down by the time I get in the car to head to Portland!) and so I am closely studying all of these examples to jumpstart my learning. Thanks so much for inspiring such beauty and creativity!

  • It has been a joy to be in your classes at Asilomar. We all grow and are inspired by your teaching and our classmates work.
    I was in Houston and fell in love with the purple dog……I should have known it was started in one of your classes. I visited him many times during the show and smiled.

  • How exciting to see my Elizabeth among these finished masterpieces! Susan, thank you thank you thank you for these in-progress, up-close photos! Each is a chance to pick up another bit of learning to add to our skill set. In class I was too busy and absorbed to see much else. But these took me on a marvelous tour of lots of projects. And I love Winnie so much I will keep coming back to her.

  • I fell in love with Winnie at first sight, but I must admit that all your students are talented, what a lot of thought has gone into these incredible works of art, I do appreciate seeing the process slowly coming to life, and realize the patience that is needed to find the next piece of fabric to add to the tableau.
    Carry on the good work and continue to make us dream of doing a similar work of art. My compliments to all your students, Bravo.

  • You and your students continue to inspire. One day, I’ll take the plunge!

    The tips on using a phone camera are also very welcome. It’s the only camera I have, so I’d best get good at using it!

  • Thank you for sharing all this talent! You are so gifted. I need to tag you in our latest show. Nina Clotfelter took a class from you and shared the basic technique with us. Your books are a great help, too. They’re so detailed. We created Under the Sea, based on your technique. Check out our Facebook Page: Azalea City Art Quilters. Thanks, again.

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