Sunday, February 27, 2011

Inspired by Karen Stone

I'm on cloud nine. I just bought a quilt made using a well-known Karen Stone pattern called "Lady Liberty Goes to Hawaii" from the 2004 Electric Quilt Company book Karen K. Stone Quilts (ISBN 1-893824-27-6). Marita Wallace, long-arm quilter and owner of Rather-Bee Quilting Service in San Diego, California, made the quilt and had it for sale on Etsy. Wallace taught herself to quilt reading books by Eleanor Burns. She has pieced tops for 25 years and worked as a long-arm quilter for the last ten years.

Marita Wallace's version of Karen Stone's "Lady Liberty Goes to Hawaii"
Using Stone's book as a guide, Wallace put her own spin on things. Her version is slightly larger and less symmetrical than the 1996 quilt pictured in Stone's influential book. Wallace's quilt has eight blocks in one direction and seven in the other. Stone's quilt is six blocks in either direction. The border and corners are done the same way, but the overall organization of the blocks is somewhat shuffled in Wallace's quilt. The other immediately evident difference is the color scheme, which in Wallace's quilt seems more like the wonderfully exuberant palette in Stone's 2004 Cinco de Mayo quilt.

Wallace's quilt is the second modern-day New York Beauty quilt in my collection. I also have a quilt made by Nancy Tanguay, purchased through Etsy.

New York Beauty, 2010, by Nancy Tanguay, Warren, Connecticut
The quilts made by Tanguay and Wallace, plus other ephemera including a small unfinished batik kit quilt top will represent the modern evolution of this pattern in my upcoming exhibit, Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern. With more than 30 quilts in the group and space to show maybe 20 quilts at the Benton County Historical Museum, I'm still deciding what will go in the show. Having a quilt made with one of Karen Stone's patterns will definitely boost the show's history narrative.

Stone is a key figure in the recent wave of the New York Beauty quilts, and her contributions are multifaceted. Her quilts involve foundation piecing, vibrant colors, new ways of setting the blocks, and a dazzling mix of variations on the basic spiked wedge. The blocks, traditionally set as spiked quarter circles wedged in the corner of a parallelogram, are now turned inward and pushed together to form stacked and swirling circles.

Border detail of quilt made by Marita Wallace using Karen Stone's pattern.
The sawtooth sashing seen in the mid to late 19th century and early 20th century is no longer present between blocks, but often present as evolved elements in the borders. In "Lady Liberty Goes to Hawaii" the border plays with two alternating versions of one spike block by shifting the position of the narrow strip from the base of the points to the tips. Stone's quilts are revelations, and influential to Oregon artists  Valori and Jean Wells of the Stitchin' Post in Sisters, Oregon. Both artists used the spiked, circular shapes as pictorial elements in their quilts, and Valori wrote a book called Radiant New York Beauties. She acknowledged Stone as a source in the credits of the book.

Detail of quilt made by Marita Wallace using Karen Stone's pattern.
When asked about her experience making a quilt using a Karen Stone pattern, Marita Wallace had very good things to say. "I really loved Karen's book, and her patterns, as well, "said Wallace. "Yes, they are quite challenging, but she explains everything so clearly and her templates are just amazingly accurate and well constructed.  I used the freezer paper method to cut the arc pieces. I can't say enough about how impressed I am overall with her ability to explain things in such a way that just inspired me to do my best and take the plunge, knowing I can trust her methods."

As a preview for my show at the Benton County Historical Museum which opens on August 5th, I will be doing a talk at the Northwest Quilters Show on Friday, March 11th at noon. The show runs from March 10th through the 12th at the Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center at 2060 North Marine Drive, Portland. The Oregon Quilt Project will also be at the show documenting quilts on Saturday, March 12th. For information on volunteering or making appointments to get your quilts documented, check out the Oregon Quilt Project Calendar.


  1. I have seen her quilts before, and they are just wonderful!!! Love the scrappy look with the pattern!

  2. This is FABULOUS quilt. I'm sure it will bring you many years of enjoyment.

  3. I'm already enjoying it. If I can't have a quilt made by Karen's hands, having one made with one of her patterns is still very much a thrill.

  4. How nice that you now have this quilt in your collection and hope you and many more enjoy it.

  5. That is a beautiful quilt Bill and will be a perfect addition to your collection.

  6. To me, it's interesting how points on curves continue to resonate. Throughout time this design has represented the biblical crown of thorns, transportation and migration, politics ("President Polk in the White House"), Victorian architectural design, the railroad, the Statue of Liberty's crown, art deco, industry, machinery, the top of the Chrysler building, snowflakes and frost, the sun, and wildflowers in a field. It's pretty amazing when I think about it.

  7. I love, love, love Karen K Stone. Here's the quilt I made from this pattern:

    I love the one you picture here! It's awesome!

    Cheery wave from Camille

  8. So wonderful that you have spanned the generations with one quilt the fabrics in your new NYB. Good luck making your decision on which quilts go into the exhibit!