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Quilter's talent runs free

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By Deanna Godman

Local quilter Jan Darnell’s art quilt, Running Free, was accepted to be part of the juried show, A Horse’s Tale, at the National Quilt Museum in honor of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. This is the first time the Equestrian Games is being held outside Europe. Darnell is one of 24 quilters chosen for the exhibit from around the world and one of only six quilters from Kentucky.

Judy Schwender, curator and registrar at the National Quilt Museum, said that the museum has wanted to do an exhibit of horse quilts for several years. “Since the World Equestrian Games are going to be in Lexington, we thought it was perfect timing.”

Darnell decided last fall to create an entry for the exhibit. She had to rest her hip, so a friend encouraged her to spend the downtime working on the challenge. Darnell got the requirements from the museum’s website and started playing with her graph paper.

She sketched out several designs on graph paper until she got one she liked. Then she designed the background using a bargello style pattern. Then she made a grid and chose colors for each block. The grid enabled her to calculate how much fabric she needed to make the quilt.

For the fabric that makes up the horses, Darnell used a product called Texture Magic. It is a stiff fabric that is stitched to the fabric being used. Once it is in place, the piece is steamed and the Texture Magic shrinks thirty percent in every direction. This process makes the fabric textured so it will stand out. Darnell designed her quilt with the idea of playing with Texture Magic in mind. After steaming, the fabric can be cut up and pieced like any other fabric.

Most of the quilt pieces are 2 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches, but some of the pieces making up the horses are as small as 1 1/2 x 1 1/2.

When the quilt was finished, she submitted her application and photos and waited to hear whether she was accepted or not. When the date came and passed, she decided that she had not gotten in. A week later Darnell received an email stating that the selection process had not been completed and that it would take two more weeks for result notification. Two days later, she received her acceptance email.

Darnell, who lives in Elk Creek, learned to quilt in 1989. While she spent most of her childhood in Kentucky, her family has lived in several states over the years. She saw different quilting styles in different areas and decided she wanted to learn to quilt. When her family ended up in Pennsylvania in 1989, she and a new neighbor decided to take a quilting class together. She made a log cabin quilt and it is still one of her favorite patterns to do.

She said that she can tell a difference between her first quilts and the quilts she makes now in style and color choice. She chose more traditional colors when she first started out, but now chooses brighter, modern colors.

Darnell estimates that she has made over a hundred quilts, but says “it’s probably more than that.” That number does not include small wall hangings, quilted table runners or other small quilted projects.

Darnell joined the Patchworkers Quilt Guild when she moved to Taylorsville in 2000. She gets involved in quilt guilds in every city she lives in because she knows it is important to find groups with common interests. “Moving as much as we did, I knew I had to get involved in the community.”

“I’m real excited about this because it combines horse imagery with bargello piecing, and the bargello looks like a horse blanket,” said Schwender about Darnell’s quilt. “I like how the horse imagery isn’t added afterward. It’s actually part of the piecing.”

The exhibit will take place at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky August 13 – November 16, 2010.

If you have an idea for a future In Home article, please email Deanna at  ideas@funmama.net.

ideas@funmama.net. You can read more about past In Home articles at Deanna’s blog http://blog.funmama.net.