ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On My Way to London

I am stopping to visit family on my way to London, Ontario to teach for the Canadian Embroiderer's Guild this week. I will be teaching a new 3-day class called "Inspired by Nature, Designed by You", and I am sure there will be photos on my blog by next weekend.
Before leaving home, I put together a one foot square quilt for the upcoming SAQA benefit auction. I didn't have time to quilt it until yesterday, on my travelling sewing machine, at my sister's house. It is all finished and packed and will be in the mail tomorrow. The title is Cavern 1, and it is inspired by Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon in Arizona.

After my sister went to bed I was up late putting together a second piece for the Haliburton School of the Arts faculty exhibition at Rails End Gallery. I had fused and cut out most of the pieces before leaving home so it was a matter of putting the design together. It will get quilted when I return home. This one is called Cavern 2 and is also based on the same slot canyon, Antelope Canyon. 
While staying in Waterloo, I had a chance to see the Grand National Quilt Show at Joseph Schneider Haus Museum. It was a busy day and I ran into a number of quilters I know, so I only took a few pictures of my favorite pieces. Hope you enjoy.
This first quilt of poppies is by Carolynn McMillan, and she did a fantastic job capturing poppies backlit by the sun.

Another favorite is also a nature piece by Lorraine Roy. Love the whimsical circular design, and the tree theme. Sorry about the light bulb at top that puts a glare on the work.
This is a detail of the piece.
Gordana Brelih's work is always a favorite of mine!
Here I am with my hosta piece, Curtain Call 2.

London, Ontario is my first stop in my marathon teaching month of June. Coming up are Edmonton, Alberta and Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Still at It!

Last week while selling hand-dyed fabrics at the quilt show, someone posed this question to me: "are you still at it"?  It is a question I get with some regularity, as though one would expect I might have given up by now ;-). I suspect there is a belief out there that making a living as a quilt artist is not possible. I used to hold this belief myself..The fact is that, at the age of 53, if I "give up" I will quite simply have to find a conventional 9-5 job. Those of us who decide to make a career as a quilt artist do so partly because we don't fit into that 9-5 mold anymore. So I've always approached my job with the attitude that I have to be successful at it because the alternative (fitting into a regular job again) is unbearable to think about. I am sure we all have difference definitions of success as well.

Given that I finally had some time to breathe this past week, I  had some much-needed time to reflect. And being out in nature (at Mer Bleu Conservation Area) for a beautiful walk on a glorious sunny Sunday of a long weekend here in Canada, my mind was free and clear to wander.

There is much about this career that you can't control, but there is one thing that is a given. You won't make it without a lot of hard work. I think it is way more necessary than talent.

Now I'm sure you will find reading what I have to say more enjoyable with some beautiful visual stimulation so I'm including photos from our walk.

What keeps the skies blue in my world is being my own boss, having a certain amount of freedom, being able to travel, and having good health. Health is a subject I've reflected a lot on this year. This year marks an important anniversary for me. In 1985 (30 years ago!) I faced a life-threatening medical condition when a malignant tumor was diagnosed in my left ear. Many of you know that I am deaf on my left side, but you may not have known why. This landmark year brings me happiness each day. When the illness was discovered I felt my future uncertain, and yet here I am much happier 30 years later. This anniversary also gives me endless excuses for being good to myself. Stay tuned as I strike off a few items on my bucket list this year!

Three and a half years ago I had another scare when my knee gave out on me and swelled to monumental proportions. I was diagnosed with osteo-arthritis. Worries about my career being curtailed plagued me for a very long time.  An exercise program helped me a great deal. Despite that, I've suffered a lot of pain in the last couple of years. Not my knees so much as other parts of my body (hips, legs, shoulders) that operate and line up differently than they should because they accommodate for my knees (which have little cartiledge left under the kneecaps). Early this year I learned that the brand of athletic shoes I've worn for a decade for my foot issues have been discontinued. This lead to a search for a new shoe, a lot of pain, a lot of expense, a lot of trials and errors.

Finally, I've found a new shoe that isn't leaving me in pain and that I don't dread stepping into in the morning. I am a happy camper! I'm walking my path a little easier now.

Being a travelling teacher has its challenges. I usually need to take two large pieces of check-in luggage when I fly. When I drive my car is usually filled to capacity with "stuff". Of course we teachers have wheels on our suitcases and wheeled carts, but that doesn't always work when we encounter a billet with stairs or a lecture hall or classroom with stairs. I've started asking for a hotel room as a first preference in my contract because I know there will be an elevator. It also gives me much-needed down time after a day of teaching. I still stay in homes if they can provide a ground floor bed and bath, and if they aren't able to provide that, then I need help with my bags. A few trips ago I came home with shoulder and elbow problems from pulling around a heavy bag. Those pains lingered through, and worsened, with all the dyeing, ironing, and cutting. 

Seven and a half years ago when I became a full-time artist and teacher, I kept a crazier pace. Yes, I do just as much teaching as then, perhaps more, but now I try to book time to myself between bookings, even if only a day alone at a hotel somewhere. I am taking better care of myself. If I don't, who will?

So yes I AM STILL AT IT!! And if time ever permits, you might see more quilted art works in the hosta theme (as well as new themes). I took these photos yesterday right in my own yard.

I even turned on my sewing machine yesterday. Don't get too excited thinking a piece of quilted art is soon going to emerge. It was only to fix a blouse. I know that teaching schedules ebb and flow. Sometimes you are in more demand, sometimes less. There will be days in the studio again. Right now I'm just counting my blessings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Shows and Shows

Today I had lunch with a friend. She mentioned that she hadn't seen me ever look so tired. When I got home I realized I had forgotten to pull my morning double espresso! So that probably explains part of her observation, however, I have been going non-stop without a day off for the last six weeks. I've been teaching in a few places, and in between that I've been ripping, dyeing, rinsing, washing, ironing, cutting and bundling fabric for my booth at the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild's Festival of Quilts this past weekend.  I am home now until May 29 but have much to do to get ready for three major teaching trips in June.

While I was selling fabric this past weekend, the opening of The Grand National show, "Connections" took place at Joseph Schneider Haus Museum in Kitchener, Ontario. Here's a picture of my "Curtain Call 2" hanging in the show, thanks to Gordana Brelih. I really like the way they've hung it with another piece similar in size and colour to mine.  I will see this show on my way to London, Ontario at the end of this month. The show runs until September.

Here are some photos of my booth at the show this past weekend. This wall shows some of my patterns for sale. 

Velvets and textile temptation packs.

Velvets up close.

One meter cuts.

Fat quarters in the colours of the rainbow.

Bundles and fat quarters in neutrals.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Yesterday my copy of The Hosta Journal arrived in the mail. This is a quarterly Journal published by The American Hosta Society. I'm very honoured to be in this publication with my article "Hostaholic". 

A big thank you to quilter and hosta lover, Cheryl Clark, who drew my work to the attention of Editor Bob Olson. Thanks to Janet Mills for the design and layout of the article. I have uploaded the article in pdf format to my website, and you can read it by clicking on this link. Be patient, it may take a minute to load.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fabric Frenzy!

I think I failed to mention here that my Northcott Poppy Passion fabric arrived just two days before my teaching trip to Shelburne, Midland, and Barrie. So I had two days to get 300 meters of fabric cut and folded in order to take some with me.

That two day cutting frenzy was followed by a massage for very sore muscles!

The fabric is beautiful if I do say so myself, and it has been a great deal of fun being the fabric fairy, doing fabric give-aways and door prizes where ever I teach and lecture.

At the same time I'm having a fabric frenzy of another sort! Every other year I sell my hand-dyed fabric at the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild's "Festival of Quilts"http://www.ottawavalleyquiltersguild.org/, that takes place on Mothers Day Weekend. I started preparation for this at least a month ago.

I've lost count, but I think I've dyed somewhere in the vicinity of 200 more meters of fabric to add to my travelling store. I always like to have a very good selection for this show because it is the time when people in my own region can find me to purchase fabric.

That also means a whole lot of ironing. There have been times I have hired someone to help with the ironing, but because I'm always jamming things in available time, travelling a lot, and often doing things at the last minute, I find myself doing the work myself.

There has been fabric in the dye ots nearly every day I've been home in the last several weeks. I've spent a lot of time in my dyeing "dungeon".

In the mean time, my Poppy Passion line has been spotted at the Australian Quilt Convention in Melbourne, Australia. Thanks to Annick O'Shaughnessy for sharing these photos. The vendor is "The Patchwork Tea House".

I am amazed that the fabric has made its way to Australia so quickly, and even more amazed that the shop already has samples sewn!!

Hope to see you this weekend at the "Festival of Quilts". In the mean time, I have another 45 meters to rinse and wash out and iron and cut and bundle before then. My "Poppy Passion" line will be available from several vendors at the show.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Weekend in Timmins, Ontario

Friday I flew to Timmins, Ontario to lecture at the Timmins Quilt Guild's show, and give a workshop the following day. As the plane began to descend outside the city I noticed there was still a little snow left in the bush. By the time I flew out on Sunday night, it had all melted. It was a warm weekend indeed!

The guild's show was attended by many guests from guilds in neighbouring communities. There was a contest for the best block in the theme of "spring flowers". Yours truly was asked to choose her favorite block from among 63 blocks!

It took a lot of deliberation on my part, but I kept coming back to this block. To me it stood out from the others. While most of the other blocks featured purple and yellow (very popular colours in spring flowers), and/or pink, this block had unusual colouring and a very appealing crisp graphic quality. Yes this was the winner I chose!

This block vied with the one above for a little while. I'm sure it had something to do with the value contrasts, something that always appeals to me. It was my second choice, but I like them both.

Everyone had lunch at the show, which featured this charming cupcake tree. Every cupcake was decorated with edible spools of thread, threaded needles, tape measures and other icing decorations related to sewing. It was quite special, and yummy too! 

You can see a little bit more detail here. I was trying to travel light so relied entirely on photos from my cell phone. These photos are not as clear as my usual camera.

I was the featured afternoon guest speaker. There were about 165 people in the audience from Timmins and neighbouring communities. At the end of my talk I was presented with this gift of a hand-made tote bag by Joan, the Chair of the Quilt Show Committee. I met Joan last year at Quilt Canada in my dyeing class. She spent days creating this lovely bag using my Falling Leaves fabric line. It features multiple pockets, zippers, and compartments and a lot of machine embroidery (including spirals!). Thank you Joan for such a thoughtful gift.

I've included two photos so you can see both sides of the bag.

Sunday I taught a workshop in the conference room of the Holiday Inn, where I was staying. A group of about 15 women took the class.

They spent the day sewing free-hand curved blocks. There was a lot of my Falling Leaves fabric line being used :-)  Christina, the owner of Needleworks Studio in Cochrane, Ontario attended the workshop and brought a supply of my fabric with her.

These are Suzanne's blocks

 Lori organized the workshop and looked after all our needs that day.

A huge thank you to a warm and welcoming group of quilters!!