Maria Charbonneaux | Staff Blog - Part 2

Maria Charbonneaux

27 posts.

More Quilting Adventures

In the December 2011 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting, executive editor Jennifer Keltner describes her quilting cruise adventure organized by Stitchin’ Heaven Travel. But that’s just one type of quilting adventure. Here are a few more retreats and trips to help you take your quilting passion to the next level! We’d love to know what quilting adventures are on your quilting bucket list. Share them with us in the comments below!

1. Magic Fabrics, Special Effects Retreat. Join Christine E. Barnes, author of The Quilter’s Color Club (C&T Publishing;; 2011) for this retreat June 17–20, 2012 in South Shore Lake Tahoe, California. Learn to create the special effects of transparency, opalescence, luster, and depth using fabrics that have light and life, all in a gorgeous Lake Tahoe setting. Visit for more information.

2. John C. Campbell Folk School. This year-round school of folk arts in Brasstown, North Carolina, offers weeklong and weekend classes in fiber arts—including quilting—as well as music, cooking, gardening, and more. Besides experiencing an in-depth learning opportunity, you’ll eat meals made with ingredients from the school’s organic gardens, enjoy concerts and chair messages, and explore the 300-acre campus located in the Great Smoky Mountain foothills. Visit for more information.

3. Cultured Expressions Jamaica Retreat. Experience an intimate quilting retreat focused on landscape quilts led by designer and author Lisa Shepard Stewart. The next one is April 25–30, 2012 at Jackie’s on the Reef in Negril, Jamaica. After a day of general instruction, work with Lisa at your own pace and enjoy holistic spa treatments. A variety of batiks from Ghana are available for use, and students are welcome to work on other projects. Visit for more information.

4. Empty Spools Seminars. These five-day quilting workshops, held five times a year at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, allow students to immerse themselves in the quilting topic of their choice. The workshops are led by well-known teachers. Hours of dedicated workshop time, teacher and student show-and-tell, and beautiful coastal views make this experience an escape from the everyday. Visit for more information.

5. Sew Many Places. From Batiking in Bali to Quilting Under the Tuscan Sun, this quilting travel company helps quilters see the world. Guided by Jim West and other experienced travel planners, quilters can choose from a number of upcoming trips to India, Africa, Egypt, China, and more. Be sure to also check out the company’s Ireland tours departing from a number of cities in the United States, Canada, England, and other countries to coincide with the first-ever International Quilt Festival of Ireland scheduled for June 7–10, 2012. Visit for more information.

6. Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. See more than 1,300 quilts from around the world spread around the town of Sisters, Oregon, at this one-day festival, known as the world’s largest outdoor quilt show. Founded by Jean Wells Keenan 37 years ago, this year’s event will be held July 14, 2012. Visit for more information.

7. Sew Many Options Tours. Led by Marsha McClintock, this travel company specializes in tours geared to women who love sewing, fashion, and travel. Trips to the Sewing & Stitching Expo in Puyallup, Washington, and the fashion district in New York City are on the schedule for 2012. Visit for more information.

What other quilting adventures are on your bucket list? Tell us in the comments below!

Printable Ornament Template

Ever wondered how to turn a quilt into a greeting card?


Using a tip from reader Jenedel Wilcox of Frankfort, Michigan, we used an ornament template to trim a photo of a quilt into a shape for this holiday greeting card. To re-create this look, follow these steps.

1. Take a photo of your quilt. It helps to have someone hold up your quilt or lay it on a flat surface while you’re taking the picture so the quilt looks relatively flat and not wavy or rippled.

2. Print a 4×6″ photo of the quilt.

3. Download and print the ornament template PDF at our sister site, 

4. Cut out the ornament base, top, front loop, and back loop pieces from the pattern sheet.

5. Using a pencil, trace and cut out the ornament base from the photo.

6. Trace the ornament top, front loop, and back loop pieces onto colored cardstock. (We used the same color of cardstock for the front loop piece as we used for the card foundation.)

7. Fold a 10-1/2″x7-1/4″ piece of cardstock in half to create a card foundation.

8. Adhere the cut-out shapes onto the front of card foundation. (We mounted the ornament base onto a red scalloped circle cut slightly larger than the base to make it pop.)

9. Embellish the card with rickrack, ribbon, scalloped cardstock strips, and stitching. Add a sticker or printed greeting.

Using these same general instructions, you can use any template to make a greeting card. Click here for more holiday-theme templates or  visit for more free templates for other themes. See the December 2011 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine for more Tips from Readers.

Interview with Dear Jane Author Brenda Papadakis

More than 100,000 copies of Dear Jane: The Two Hundred Twenty-Five Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt (EZ Quilting by Wrights; 1996) have been sold since it was first published.

More than 100,000 copies of Dear Jane: The Two Hundred Twenty-Five Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt (EZ Quilting by Wrights; 1996) have been sold since it was first published.

In preparation for the “Anything-But-Plain Jane” story in the October 2011 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting (available on newsstands and at quilt shops now), I chatted with quilter, author, and the original “Janiac” Brenda Manges Papadakis. Her book Dear Jane: The Two Hundred Twenty-Five Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt (EZ Quilting by Wrights; 1996) has inspired quilters all over the world to make their own versions of Jane A. Stickle’s quilt, Sampler. Read on to learn more about Brenda and her book. Check out a slideshow of Dear Jane quilts on 

MC: What did you first think of Jane A. Stickle’s quilt?
I saw the quilt in Plain and Fancy: Vermont’s People and Their Quilts by Richard Cleveland and Donna Bister (Quilt Digest Press; 1991), and it took my breath away. So many of the blocks weren’t familiar to me, and I was impressed by the geometry, especially the triangles. Most of the blocks were unique to her quilt. But, to be honest, I had no interest in making or teaching miniature blocks at first. And I didn’t care for brown fabrics! Now they’re my favorites. Everything comes full circle, I guess. I started drafting blocks from the photograph in Plain and Fancy and thinking about Jane and what would have been happening in her life when she made the quilt. The letters are an outgrowth of my questions.

MC: What was your first Dear Jane class like?
I started my first Dear Jane class in 1992. At the time, we called the blocks Baby Janes. Each month we made four blocks and focused on a single technique. My students helped me name the blocks. If a student’s block name was chosen, I bought her 1⁄2 yard of fabric. Eventually, my students said they wanted to make the whole quilt. I laughed because I was teaching middle school and working at a quilt shop and had no intention of teaching all the blocks. I told my students, “I have a life.” Later that year, I got permission from The Bennington Museum in Vermont (where the original quilt is located) to draft the remaining blocks and eventually the triangles. I had no idea Dear Jane would become my life! I’m so blessed to have this journey.

The Dear Jane II collection from Windham Fabrics was inspired by some of the fabrics that appeared in the original quilt. Printed panels showcase the square blocks and the triangle borders.

The Dear Jane II collection from Windham Fabrics was inspired by some of the fabrics that appeared in the original quilt. Printed panels showcase the square blocks and the triangle borders.

MC: Thousands of quilters from all over the world have interpreted this quilt using your book. You’ve helped design two Dear Jane fabric collections for Windham Fabrics. There’s also Electric Quilt software for the Dear Jane blocks and Dear Jane acrylic templates from EZ Quilting. What do you think of this phenomenon?
BMP: I’m just a quilter who saw a picture of a quilt. It wasn’t that I had any vision to start a phenomenon. I just wanted to distribute the blocks to quilters who wanted them so they could make their own versions, and a book seemed like the best way to do that.  It wasn’t until after the book was published and I started teaching that I realized people wanted to make this whole quilt, exactly as it is! I still pinch myself at times. I used to think Dear Jane would be interesting to about 5 percent of the quilters. Now, I believe everyone comes to Jane in his/her own time. There is so much to be learned in making this quilt, and all the techniques can be applied to other quilts as well.  Another reason, I believe is the interest we have in the Civil War. We’re coming up on the 150th Anniversary of the War, and we want to know more about it.

MC: What can we learn from the quilt?
BMP: This quilt affords us so many chances to learn and improve our skills. I’m a big believer in the Dear Jane motto: “Finished is better than perfect.” I remind my students that quilting is supposed to be a joyful experience. Sometimes we tend to beat ourselves up. I believe that every time you make a block, you should do your very best that you can that day. This quilt is a learning quilt. By the time you make 10 more blocks, you’ll be discovering a new technique and learning something more challenging. Enjoy the journey!

Jane was not really a technician. She was a designer. Her work was not always perfect. She simply wanted to translate the ideas she had into fabric. I use her as an example that we don’t have to be perfect either. Just look at how much we love her quilt!

MC: What tips do you have for making Dear Jane quilts?
I’ve made about a dozen Dear Jane-inspired quilts, but I have not yet re-created the entire quilt. I’m working on one right now though. The one thing I always do to figure out how to make a Dear Jane block is to start with the center. If I can work out the center of the block, then the rest of it falls into place. There are many tips at
and in the software. The Dear Jane subscribers’ list is a wealth of information. Almost 2000 people from around the world are available daily to help you make your own Jane. They are also there to help and encourage you in all aspects of your life. I think they are the best group on the internet. They are the list that knows everything!

MC: What do you know about Jane A. Stickle?
I think she did go to school, because there are records that her father left 25 percent of his estate for her and her brothers’ education. At that time, many women weren’t educated. If they were, they could be teachers and nurses. I don’t know how much math education she had, and I don’t know how much was just natural talent. She’s just super gifted.

Her husband wasn’t in the Civil War, and she did not have children that fought. But I think the war affected her life, because of the fact that she stitched “In War Time 1863” and “Pieces 5602” in one of the corner blocks. In times of turmoil, we can always rely on math and science. Maybe she felt that she could not control what was happening in the world, but she could count the pieces she put in her quilt—she could control what was in that little sphere. I like to think she was saying, “I’m in charge here. These are my designs.”

MC: What quirks have you noticed about the blocks?
I’ve drafted all the blocks to be 4-1/2” square, but the blocks of the original quilt actually range from 3 to 5” square. When I was measuring the blocks while drafting them, I realized they are different sizes. I think that’s the miracle of Jane’s talent —she would add sashing around a block until it was the right size. She was really consistent with the triangles. I think she used little samples of fabric, and this affected the size she made her blocks—sample cards were about the size of a 3x5” index card.

MC: What have been some of the more creative Dear Jane themes you’ve seen through the years?
One lady made a quilt with a woman whose gown was made with Dear Jane blocks . In another quilt, the blocks were placed in a circle, radiating from the center. To me, all the quilts are beautiful and as unique as their maker.

MC: How do you think Dear Jane has impacted quilters?
When I received my copy of the book I started crying. My husband asked me what’s wrong. I told him, “Now everybody in the world will know about my relationship with Jane Stickle.” He said, “I thought that was our goal!” It is just that I had put my heart into this project, and I realized it was there for the world to see.

I’ve sent books to about 36 or 37 countries in world. I thought this journey was about getting everybody the blocks, but it’s not. It’s about a community of quilters who have created friendships and bonded over this quilt. The joy for me is when Janiacs gather at quilt shows and various events and share the Dear Jane quilts they’re making and the fabrics they’re using. It’s like a worldwide friendship circle. It’s all about those friendships, the quilters, and their work. I’m just a messenger.

If I have one message for quilters, it is to keep a journal. That is the lesson I learned while studying the diaries of the 19th-century women.  I can tell you Jane’s story, and mine, but yours is the one that is important to those who love you. It doesn’t have to be a fancy diary–notebook paper will do. Just write a note beside the blocks you make. One entry I read said simply, “It rained all day, so I quilted.” I thought of that lady and the difficult life she had at that time, and I cried for her.

Visit to learn more about Brenda Manges Papadakis, purchase the Dear Jane book, or get tips and tricks for making the quilt.

Interview with ¡Quilt Fiesta! Author Cheryl Lynch


I recently chatted with author and quilt designer Cheryl Lynch to learn more about the inspiration behind her latest book ¡Quilt Fiesta! Surprising Designs from Mexican Tiles (2011, Martingale & Company).

This book contains instructions for 10 quilts, placemats, and other fusible appliqué projects inspired by beautiful Talavera tiles from Puebla, Mexico. To get a glimpse of another quilt from the book, read the Global Perspective column on page 104 in the October 2011 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine (available on newsstands and at quilt shops now).


MC: What gave you the idea for ¡Quilt Fiesta! Surprising Designs from Mexican Tiles?

CL: I was first exposed to Mexican folk art when my husband and I took a trip to Cabo San Lucas for marlin fishing and whale watching. While there, we decided to spend a day in the little town of Todos Santos. My eyes popped at what I saw there: The folk art was so gorgeous! I realized tiles clearly look like quilt blocks, and the designs in the tiles’ corners would make great secondary designs when combined. After I got home, I made one or two quilts inspired by Mexican tiles. I also did more research on the topic and decided to make a second trip to Mexico to visit Puebla and find more inspiration.

MC: Why Puebla?

CL: Puebla is known as The City of Tiles. It’s a colonial city located inland, and it’s where Talevera tiles are made. There are tiles everywhere—on buildings, stairwells, the ground. We don’t speak Spanish, so we hired a guide who took us to the tile factories and provided some of the tidbits about the culture found in the book.

This Talavera tile inspired author Cheryl Lynch because she knew the corner designs would create a secondary pattern when the quilt blocks were assembled.

This Talavera tile inspired author Cheryl Lynch because she knew the corner designs would create a secondary pattern when the quilt blocks were assembled.

MC: What did you learn about Talavera tiles?

CL: The pottery methods used to make Talavera tiles were brought to Mexico from Spain. My biggest observation is that the Mexican tiles are more rustic than their European counterparts. They’re all hand-painted. To me, it’s folk art and it proves art doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. That is my mantra in general.

MC: How does this mantra apply to quilting?

CL: I’ve been quilting since 1992, and I’ve learned that perfection can keep quilters from moving forward. I say, “Just do it and finish it.” When you’re 10 or 20 quilts down the line you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come. I think the joy in creating a project far outweighs a perfect project.

MC: How did you select fabrics for the tile-inspired quilts in this book?

CL: I love scrappy quilts! I think prints are what make quilts so fascinating. I used lots of stripes and polka dots in the quilts for this book. My view is the more fabrics the merrier. If you’re going to use one blue, use lots of blues. Quilts don’t have to be “matchy matchy.” It’s not that the fabrics I used were made for Mexican-tile theme quilts. The fabrics, the design, and the quilting work together to give a quilt a Mexican-tile feel.

Cheryl Lynch simplified the inspiration tile's design to make the appliqué pieces less complicated. To give the quilt depth, she used eight tan batiks for the quarter-circle appliqué pieces.

Cheryl Lynch simplified the inspiration tile's design to make the appliqué pieces less complicated. To give the quilt depth, she used eight tan batiks for the quarter-circle appliqué pieces.

MC: What advice do you have for quilters on choosing color palettes and prints?

CL: Fabric choice is often the most difficult aspect for new quilters, but it’s often what gives experienced quilters the most joy. I’m a big believer in what’s taught in most beginning quilting classes: Start with a multicolor focus fabric. You may not always end up using the focus fabric in your quilt, but it gives you confidence that the colors it contains will work well together.

MC: What advice do you have for quilters who want to translate tiles or other sources of inspiration into quilts?

CL: Because fabrics have so much texture and pattern, you can simplify a tile design and still get an interesting pattern using prints. Or, consider making the design more intricate and using solids.

MC: How do you find inspiration?

CL: I think of myself as a quilter first and an artist second. When I travel, I take tons of photos, and I bring my computer on my trip so I can upload the photos while I’m still there. I look at life through a quilter’s eyes—I see quilts when I look at buildings or art. I’m currently inspired by wrought-iron designs that I saw on a trip
to Barcelona.

To learn more about Cheryl Lynch, visit her website or blog.

Photos by Brent Kane; courtesy of Martingale & Company.

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Book Review Week: Day 5 Bonus!


I hope you’ve enjoyed our week filled with book reviews! What books have piqued your interest? Let us know in the comments! —Elizabeth Tisinger Beese, senior editor

Flowers,-Hearts-&-GarlandsFlowers, Hearts, & Garlands Quilt ($26.95; American Quilter’s Society, 2011)
Liz Jones

When I picked up this book, one of the Appliqué Masterpiece Series, I was hoping it offered advice for improving my satin-stitched appliqué. It does that, but offers so much more. Liz Jones’ technique for free-motion-basting appliqués before satin-stitching around them is a “why didn’t I think of that?” kind of technique that uses paper stabilizer, spray starch, and a light box to guarantee perfect appliqué placement without using any fusible web. Liz shares construction and supply tips, 32 appliqué designs, and 42 quilting motifs to make your own version of her award-winning (and stunning!) Hearts and Garlands appliqué sampler quilt.


A-Notion-to-CelebrateA Notion to Celebrate! ($14.95; Leisure Arts, 2011)
Melissa Bickle

Maybe it’s the fond memories I have of my great-grandmother helping me make Christmas ornaments with straight pins, sequins, and foam balls. Or maybe it’s the fact that the cover of this book looks like an incredibly yummy box of chocolates. Either way, I was drawn to Melissa Bickle’s book full of faux confections and other decorations for multiple occasions. How-to photos show you how to use foam shapes along with bits of ribbon, trims, buttons, pipe cleaners, rickrack, ribbon rosettes, pom-poms and more to make 16 projects. My favorites? Cutie Cupcakes, Melissa’s Candy Box, Firecracker Flowerpots, and Gingerbread Goodness. And for Thanksgiving, I’m definitely going to make Melissa’s fool-the-eye pinecones made from chocolate brown grosgrain ribbon.


B1034-Simple-GracesSimple Graces: Charming Quilts and Companion Projects ($28.99; Martingale & Co., 2010)
Kim Diehl

At American Patchwork & Quilting, we’re known for our color options, a second version of the original quilt showing how different it can look when made in other fabrics. So I was excited to see acclaimed designer Kim Diehl’s take on this concept. As she says, “…because so many quilts hold the promise of becoming so many different things, why should any of us have to settle upon just one?” Instructions are included for eight quilts plus additional projects created from each quilt’s pieced units or appliqué motifs. All of the quilts and projects (which range from embellished tea towels and eyeglass cases to door hangers, doll quilts, and pincushions) are constructed using fabrics in Kim’s signature warm, homespun, scrappy palette. Don’t skip the general quiltmaking instructions—they’re packed with useful tips and specifics for Kim’s preferred construction techniques.

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