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  • Writer's pictureKaren

A Night at the Embassy

Three years ago I was invited to join a group of quilters to be part of a submission for a possible exhibit at the Houston Quilt Show. Headed by Leslie Prokop and Shelly DeHay-Turner, we had to design and make a quilt to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday…and it had to include a nine-patch.

I was moving out of our home of 25 years with all the accumulated stuff and memories of family life to a three-bedroom condo. So it’s an understatement to say I was short on time. But lord knows I do like a challenge

I knew fairly quickly what I wanted to make. But it was a matter of time and space. When I finally had room to get out my sewing machine, I had only six weeks to spare.

My design was a tapestry of nine-patches warped from a two-point perspective. There would be a horizon of marine blue with a sky blue strip across the top. Combined, it would all look like a landscape at the top of the world.

Constructing Block with Freezer Paper
Constructing Block with Freezer Paper

I used freezer paper to paper-piece all the blocks. Oh, and at the last second I decided to use silver lamé in some of the blocks to add a bit of bling…a decision I cursed and swore all the way through.

The last hurtle was the long-arming. I usually rent the long-arm at The Workroom in Toronto but they were transitioning to a larger space so their long-arm was not available. At the 11th hour, I made a very basic effort on my Bernina 910 just stitching in the ditch.

Now sick with the flu, the quilt finished but not bound, I drove to Niagara Falls where all the quilts, 28 in the end, were gathered to be measured and photographed for submission to the Houston Quilt show committee. Leslie, Shelly, Jo-anne Vandermey and Karen Sirianni did an amazing job of putting together the portfolio.

After stitching in the ditch
After stitching in the ditch

I returned home with my quilt, as I still had to bind it. But looking at my quilt I truly hated the quilting that I had done. So I spent the next week picking it out. And then I tried again.

By this time The Workroom long-arm was back in business and I managed about 70% of it in one session. I was using holographic thread, another choice I cursed and swore over, but I loved the bit of glitter it gave. The remaining 30% I finished at home.

Then we got the news that our full submission was accepted. We were all going to hang at Houston.

I got the binding on with minutes to spare, as all the quilts had to be sent off within the week. I actually didn’t have the chance to take any good photos. Not to worry I thought as I would get them in Houston.

Six months past and we all gathered in Houston for the opening. As a collective, they were pretty darn special. So many different styles, shapes, colours and stories. I loved to hear how everyone came to make his or her quilt.

And as for photos, the quilts were all behind ropes so no close up photos for me. But then I thought, it would be home in a couple of weeks and I could take them then.

The Canadian consulate in Dallas sponsored our exhibit and representatives came to view the quilts. One of the delegates came from the Canadian embassy in Washington. She loved the exhibit and made a formal request that exhibit be transferred to Washington. Everyone but two, gladly accepted.

So I would get my photos at the embassy.

But as we all know, governments don’t move as fast as we would like. After 18 months we finally received word that they were going on display. Opening night was on March 8th.

Coming on the heels of Quiltcon it was a tough call if I should go. I could not take any extra time off. No time to arrange a travel partner. This was a fly-in, fly-out trip.

But I’m so glad I did it. Seven of us made the trip and we made the most of it. I put on my red dress, some bling and my lipstick and headed to Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Embassy staffs made us all feel very welcome. About 100 people attended the opening, all interested in the stories behind the quilts, making us feel like true Sew-lebrities.

The theme changed a bit. They had invited American fibre artists to make a piece inspired by our quilts. In the end, 12 American works were paired with a Canadian one. They were stunning and showed, both in their work and their artist statement, the special relationship that our two countries share.

And there is my quilt in the top row…. so still no close up photos.

Still no close up for me
Still no close up for me

With all the bustling in my life, video making has been on the back burner. So my last Youtube video I did was a Q and A with the questions I found in the comments sections of my current videos. Take a look if you have a moment.

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1 Comment

Wow! Karen, this is amazing! Congratulations to you and your peers on such a distinguished exhibition. The real-life stories behind your quilts are inspiring.

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