Square Roots

"Pure Joy, Imagine That," by Wendy Butler Berns.

“Pure Joy, Imagine That,” by Wendy Butler Berns.

Today’s modern quilter has far more freedom of design and painterly techniques at her disposal than her predecessors — those who used the traditional forms that launched the craft.

Take Wendy Butler Berns, whose free-form quilting technique gives the impression of movement. Or Karen Combs, whose playful quilts create the optical illusion of depth and even transparency. Or Susan Brubaker Knapp, whose “whole cloth” painted quilts display Georgia O’Keeffe influences. These three quilters, among many others, will appear at the North Carolina Quilt Symposium.

Some of the best instructors in the field are converging from around the country. Barbara Vlack from Illinois is an expert at teaching Electric Quilt, the latest quilting computer software. Over four days, attendees can choose from several courses and lectures, take a stroll through the quilt exhibit and vendor booths, or hang out at the “Mountain Stitchers” gathering space, to sew and mingle.

NCQS Co-Chair Joanne Shafer credits her love of quilting to her former career as a home-economics teacher, where she learned to sew. “I was always fond of fabrics,” Shafer says. (This year’s symposium includes classes for every skill level.)
Current NCQS Board President Cindy Williams will teach at the “Terrific Triangles Retreat” on Friday and Saturday. Williams, a self-taught quilting instructor, has been at the craft since 1980.

For the first time ever, NCQS will offer classes in long-arm quilting. The technique uses a quilting machine that’s about 12 feet long and four feet deep, including a standing model and a sitting model. Although Shafer says long-arm quilting machines have been around for a decade, they require a lot of space, so getting to work them is rare.

The NCQS will raffle off a quilt that spans both ends of the design spectrum: from the traditional-style border designed by Shafer to the contemporary central landscape design by world-renowned Georgia Bonesteel, founding president of The North Carolina Quilters Guild. (The raffle benefits the guild’s educational programs.)

With so many styles and techniques to explore, there’s something for everyone. “I’ve tried it all,” Shafer says. “But I always go back to traditional.”

The 2015 North Carolina Quilters Symposium will be held May 28-31 at the Bonclarken Conference Center in Flat Rock. To register or for more information, visit westernncquilters.org or call 828-692-2223.

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