An evening with Karen Stone

This article is based on notes I took during a presentation at the Dallas Quilt Guild on January 2, 1997. This article was originally posted to usenet January 3, 1997.

Karen lives in Dallas, and gave a slide show and trunk show to her guild last night (1/2/97). She took the podium saying she still feels like "everybody in the room knows more and sews better" than she does. Nobody designs like she does, however.

She first became aware of quilting while living in Indiana. It was a hobby that she always meant to try, but never seemed to get around to doing in addition to all the other things she enjoyed. Then she decided to make a baby quilt for her first child. She went to Wal-Mart and found _It's Okay if You Sit on My Quilt_ by Mary Ellen Hopkins, and with the help of a friend and the local So-Fro, she picked out fabrics for her first quilt. The result was a lovely, traditional, pieced lavender and white baby quilt with a scalloped border.

For her second baby she made a quilt in brighter fabrics, having heard that babies were stimulated by primary colors. She said she soon learned that her baby needed no additional stimulation.

She showed us slides of several quilts in traditional patterns, but non-traditional settings, made as she developed the urge to do something different. An Ocean Waves on point was her first try at an original setting. (I wish I could describe these quilts...)

Around this time she was drafting patterns with crayons, she said, and observed that "One thing with crayola, it always looks better in fabric."

Using a reversible Log Cabin technique, she made several quilts, experimenting with color and design to develop geometric patterns. She said the individual blocks are a lot of work, but once one is finished, the quilting is finished, too. In making these quilts she realized that she needed an incentive to finish a certain amount of work each day, and that "a piece of Godiva chocolate would do the trick".

Still wanting to "change, grow, do something different" she tried tesselating patterns. She said it was a difficult concept to understand at first, and she felt she was really struggling with it for a while. Several of these quilts had a whimsical, lopsided look, but were definitely original. There were a few places she thought she could "fake it" with pieces that didn't quite fit. As a result, she got "friendly quilts -- at the bottom it waves."

Most of these wallhangings have pieced backings because, she claims, she couldn't afford to buy whole yardage for them. So she used the leftovers from the front, and what ever other pieces she had available to her.

Then, she realized that paper piecing could help her to "jump a level technically". She used paper foundations to construct several Keepsake Challenge quilts, saying she likes challenges because they force her to work with fabrics she wouldn't have otherwise chosen.

She made a Pine Burr quilt, and observed that it was probably one of her favorite patterns since it was so much fun to work on. On the quilt she showed us, she said she discovered she enjoyed working with the antique looking fabrics.

Subscribing to the idea that "if you see fabric you like, buy it", she has guiltlessly developed a "fabric collection that is very functional." The famous New York Beauty quilt came about when her collection had "matured" and she felt she could shop from her stash and not a store. Not being able to concentrate on any one pattern long enough to keep doing it, she decided to make the blocks as a sampler. When they were finished, she says they sat in the closet for a long time until she saw the "stars" that go between the blocks and set them on a tilt. As for the narrow points in the border, while working on them she realized she would never get them finished, and so the second half of the border set is wider on that other side...

New York Beauty, by Naomi Orbeck, from a pattern by Karen Stone.

She bought all (most?) of the fabrics in her Indian Orange Peel quilt while shopping impulsively at the Dallas Quilt Show a few years ago. When she was done and looked in her bag she saw she had lots of red and taupe, and told a friend that this was going to be her next quilt. She says her friend replied "Oh no it's not, you haven't had enough sleep."

Karen showed us a beautiful Clamshell quilt, which she says she designed while doodling in church. She said it was probably her other favorite quilt. Criteria for selecting fabrics for this was that each print had to have two or three different colors in it -- it couldn't be monochrome.

Meanwhile, she was marketing a line of patterns based on her designs, and having pictures of her quilts published. It took being on two covers of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine before her mother thought she was serious enough about quilting to pull family quilts out of the closet at home. Karen said she didn't know she had a family tradition of quilting. She showed us several slides of quilts made by family members, including a Lone Star and a lap-sized Dresden Plate.

The Unusual Feathered Star quilt came about while she was grieving over the death of a beloved cat. She felt she needed to be working on something, and chose a palette of dark colors. She found and old drawing that she hadn't liked when she first made it, and knew at that time the design was "right". Her husband likes to refer to the quilt as "Road Kill 1, Buzzard on the Windshield."

Of the Lady Liberty Goes to Hawaii quilt, Karen said she made it as an example to teach the paper foundation New York Beauty pattern off of. She simplified the block pattern and made them all identical so there would only be one pattern to do in the class.

Her aim when making the Prickle Fish quilt was to do something that looked like spiders. Her favorite colorway is what she calls "yucky yellow" and she had not been able to use them in many of her other quilts. She felt the design looked better on point, and made slightly different blocks for the corners. Since the corners were different, she used a black braid to separate the two sections, accenting what might otherwise look awkward.

Karen prefers to use cotton batting in her quilts, saying that it's "like an orange. If you pick it up you can tell if it's juicy, and poly doesn't weigh right."

I had the opportunity to speak with her after the show, and I asked about the waves in the Lone Star. She said they came about because that particular top had not been blocked before it was quilted. (Damped down and allowed to dry flat) She also explained how, with very little error in the pattern the block can either be too small and form a volcano, or too large and develop a wavy border. If the diamonds are not exact, the pieces won't fit right.

I received permission and photographed many of the details in her quilts, however I did not get permission to share them with you at my web site.

This article generates many requests for information on Karen Stone's schedule, contact information, and patterns. I'm sorry to say that I cannot give you any information about her availability for shows or meetings. To contact Karen, look for her information on her published patterns. Her patterns are available in most quilt shops and mail-order catalogs. Foothill Fabrics seems to carry the entire line of patterns at their web site.

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