Archive for Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quilter takes inspiration from Burlingame fire

March 21, 2010


— A fire that destroyed or damaged several buildings in downtown Burlingame in April 2007 is the inspiration for a pictorial quilt selected to compete in one of the nation’s most prestigious quilt shows.

“Burlingame Fire,” a 50 1/2- by 39 1/2-inch quilted wall hanging by Ruth Powers, of Carbondale, is among the 200 quilts selected for the 2010 American Quilt Society Show and Contest, which is March 24-27 in Lancaster, Pa.

Powers said one of the buildings damaged in the Burlingame fire was a few doors away from one of her favorite quilt shops. During a visit after the blaze, the shop’s owner was showing Powers photos of the fire. An image taken showing firefighters outside a burning building caught her eye.

“I thought, ‘I could make a quilt of this,”’ she said.

The American Quilt Society typically has three shows each year, in Des Moines, Knoxville, Tenn., and Paducah, Ky. This is the first year for the Pennsylvania show, where quilters from 38 states and eight countries will compete for more than $42,000 in prize money.

Prior to the Pennsylvania show, “Burlingame Fire” was selected for exhibits in Texas, California and Kansas.

Getting ‘hooked’

Powers said she started quilting in 1989 because she wanted a wall hanging for her dining room.

“I didn’t expect to enjoy it,” she said. “I got hooked.”

In 1994, she started a quilt pattern company called Innovations in her home. She added an office/sewing studio with enough room for her sewing machines, work table and storage space for fabrics, threads, patterns and other supplies.

To date, Powers has created 55 patterns for quilts and wall hangings, which she sells at her Web site, The patterns feature piecing and applique.

To create her patterns, Powers lays a piece of fine-quality tracing paper over a photo or drawing and draws lines to section the image into sewable pieces.

She then makes a transparency of the pattern and projects an enlarged image onto the paper side of butcher paper. After tracing the image on the butcher paper and cutting out the pattern pieces, she irons the pattern pieces, wax side down, onto the fabric. She cuts along the edges of the paper pattern pieces to create the fabric pieces to be used in the quilt.

“It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” she said.

Powers said she likes to use commercially printed cottons and search for the right fabric designs and colors to portray her images. Most of her work is heavily machine-quilted. Sometimes, she uses hand stitching or beading.

Starting in 1990

Powers, a member of the Topeka Art Guild and Studio Art Quilters Association, started a blog on her site and is documenting the making of a wall hanging featuring mountain goats.

She said she started entering quilts in shows in 1990. She sold her first work at the Great American Quilt Festival’s “Discovery 500 Years” show in New York, which commemorated Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage. That quilt showed a ship on the ocean with a three-dimensional flag draped over a corner.

“The flag covered a hole chewed in it by my puppy,” Powers said.

This year, she will enter about 25 shows across the United States.


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