Karen Brewer has added another ribbon to her bulletin board.
The Chilliwack quilter recently took home an award in the Canadian Quilters’ Association’s 2016 National Juried Show. She placed second in the people/critters category.
Her piece, Apparitions of the Night, is a mandala involving swans and butterflies.
“I think I’m stuck on mandalas. It’s one hundred per cent symmetrical, so how can you screw up,” she laughs.
It’s a black, grey and white square quilt — about three feet by three feet — with hints of green, gold, orange and a few other colours. Eight swans make up the mandala in the centre, and a series of butterflies, hearts and ribbons connect the birds.
She used cotton and organza — a shiny, transparent material — to make the quilt.
A quilt is like a sandwich with a layer of batting (cotton filling) between two layers of fabric. Often more material is cut and appliquéd on top of the quilt, like the white organza swans on Brewer’s.
Her appliquéd swans are slightly puffy compared to the rest of the quilt. This technique of adding an extra layer of batting underneath details of a quilt to help raise them up off the surface, is known as trapunto.
When doing the trapunto, Brewer decided to arrange the layers underneath her swans just slightly to give her quilt a dark, nighttime feel. Instead of placing the extra batting directly under the sheer white organza to get a bright white swan, she placed it one layer lower, underneath the black cotton.
“I purchased some organza for the purpose of trying shadow trapunto,” she said in her artist’s statement. “However, when my glance fell on a piece of the organza lying on top of some black cotton, the effect intrigued me. It was reminiscent of something ghostly and ethereal. I decided to simply appliqué the organza directly, then trapunto the figures.”
There are fine, intricate top-stitch details, and satin-stitched butterflies on her piece. The end result is a very detailed, and unique, award-winning quilt.
This is Brewer’s third national CQA award. She got an award of excellence last year and a third-place award in 2013. A member of the Abbotsford Quilters’ Guild, she has also won awards within her quilting group.
It’s pretty impressive for a self-taught quilter.
“I always enjoyed sewing, but never enjoyed tailoring because things wouldn’t fit,” she says.
So, after buying a ‘learn to quilt’ book about 25-30 years ago, she had a new hobby.
She’s made “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of quilts”, plus table runners, place mats, preemie baby blankets and more.
Brewer quilts about four to six hours a day, nearly every day. She has two sewing machines in case one breaks down.
“I would go nuts if I couldn’t sew for two weeks,” she says.
Her dedication and love for quilting has paid off.
“When you quilt you can impress lay people, but when you get the support and the recognition from your peers and other quilters and they say ‘hey your work is good’, then that’s very satisfying,” says Brewer.