I had planned to write this post some time ago, but kept putting it off for one lame reason or another, so please forgive me for my selfishness.
I really love this quilt, but have been hesitant to write about it. My reluctance to write has nothing to do with lack of adjectives, it has to do with emotions. You see, I photographed this amazing piece while staying at Sharon’s studio the week after Bill passed away.
My time with Sharon and her husband Gene was filled with many wonderful and pain-filled moments. This stunning quilt represents one of those magical and transcendent moments. Talking about Sharon and Gene always makes me weepy, so I need to stop or I won’t be able to finish this post, but I promise to share more from my stay in the future.
Here’s where the story of this beauty begins . . .
Sharon casually mentioned this quilt at the end of a brief conversation we had earlier this year. She said she’d been working sporadically on this top for a while (around 13 years) and felt that it was finally time to finish it.
She made it sound like it was no big deal, just something small she had to get off her To-Do List. Sharon said she only needed to finish the outside border and the top would be done. She also said she’d probably never enter the quilt in competition, she’d just add it to her trunk show. (Remember that comment while you are looking through these photos.) That’s the last time I heard about the quilt from Sharon.
In early August I received a surprise email, with a photo attached, from my friend DeNiece. DeNiece was at the International Quilt Festival, Long Beach Show and wanted to know if I could figure out who made the quilt in the photo?
I love to do this type of thing, so I took her up on the challenge. I studied and studied the photo, but I could only come up with one name—and that name was impossible—based on what I was looking at. Sharon.
The quilt featured many of Sharon’s signature design elements, such as hearts, feathers, daisies and most recently birds—but I knew this couldn’t be Sharon’s quilt.
How did I know? It’s rather obvious isn’t it? I’m sure you spotted it right away. Oh . . . you are good. That’s why we’re BFFs. I learn so much from you.
That’s right! Everyone knows that Sharon hasn’t used printed fabric since 2005. This was a dead giveaway. This quilt was obviously made by a wannabe. In spite of this certainty, I couldn’t come up with another name. I was stumped.
Begrudgingly I told DeNiece I didn’t know who it was, but SOMEONE was obviously copying Sharon’s style—and although it was nice—it’s wasn’t Sharon’s work.
That’s when she sent me this . . . Why oh why, didn’t I listen to myself?
Since so many of you seemed to enjoy the guided tour of Sharon’s last piece, I’m going to do it again for this one.
As I mentioned earlier, this quilt has been in the works for 13 years. Can you believe it . . . 13 years? I know most of us would consider this a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, but not Sharon. This is just one of many beauties waiting for their turn to be awakened.
Are you ready? Okay then . . . let’s get on with the show!
Oh my goodness, where do I begin? There are so many amazing details in this quilt for me to tell you about, I guess here’s just as good a place to start as any. This all seems perfectly random doesn’t it?
Okay, let’s begin this adventure with a look at one of the outer corners of the quilt. Then we can start working our way towards the center. I know what you’re thinking. (I’m psychic.)
Outer corner? Where’s the outer corner?
Well, my friends, you’re looking one now. I know . . . (Now, please wipe your chin. Your keyboard is getting messy and we’re just getting started.)
That’s right quilters and quilteets. This and three other equally glorious and regal feathered hearts anchor the corners of this deliciously beautiful quilt.
The feather plumes extending from the heart’s base are not plumes at all. They are actually part of the elaborate swag border that frames the entire quilt. It makes me tingle just to look at it.
I know the feathers are amazing, but I want you to check out the center of this heart. Isn’t that cool? This center is one of my favorite design elements in the quilt.
Now you’re saying . . . “Tom, I don’t get it. What’s so special about the center?”
Well, since you asked . . . I’ll tell you what’s so special about the center. That wonderful chicken wire pattern you are looking at is actually hand embroidery. That’s right . . . embroidery. It’s not a printed fabric. I am in love!
Now your thinking . . . Who Stem Stitches a chicken wire pattern, when they could easily buy a printed fabric that looks like that? (I’m psychic, remember?)
Oh, I know . . . Pick me! Pick me! I know the answer to this one . . . Sharon.
Besides being delighted with the embroidery, I was also smitten by the fill choice. This quilt is extremely elegant and has a definite Victorian vibe, so the contrast between the two styles is fantastic.
The geometry, scale and formal nature of the fill balances out the many curves that surround it. Most people would have created a fill that mirrors the applique—but not Sharon. Oh no . . . not a Master Quilter like Sharon.
Sharon knows that the contrast between the two elements will give the viewer’s eyes a chance to rest before they take another joy ride along the surrounding feathers. She could have quilted the pattern, but the embroidery adds a level of color that unites all the components of the heart, without taking attention away from the all-important feathers.
I love Sharon and her work for obvious reasons, but her attention to detail makes me weak. Look at how she has masterfully layered the elements in the applique and embroidery. Each element doing its part to support the whole.
Sharon understands the importance of value (lights and darks) and its placement. This sensitivity and understanding allows her to create the illusions of depth that you see throughout the quilt.
At first glance the quilt appears very formal and very symmetrical, but upon further inspection, you will see that this is not the case at all.
Each abundant bouquet is unique and filled with surprises. The overall quilt design remains balanced because there is uniformity of scale. These design elements are not mirrored or repeated as is commonly seen in this style of quilt. (Wipe your keyboard. You’re drooling again.)
Each bouquet is delicately tied with loose bows and cascades of soft pink and green ribbon. These etherial ribbons dance across the surface of the quilt creating a visual feast—not only for the eyes—but for all the senses.
Tucked within the bouquets you’ll find many surprises. Each surprise, like the one above, is filled with detail and personality. Look at how Sharon has used the Cretan Stitch to add texture and color to the bird’s wing. I love the subtle variations of blues and purples combined with the metallic thread. It’s just scrumptious!
FYI: Sharon dyes her own floss, which gives her the ability to create the exact color palettes she needs for any given project. I know . . . it’s ridiculously wonderful stuff.
This is another great example Sharon’s undeniable skill. Look at how beautiful the embroidery work is on this section. I love how the wispy Feather Stitch vine delicately twirls in and around the applique and embroidery elements.
Isn’t this amazing? Look at all that detail. I am obviously speechless.
I know . . . What more can I say? It’s just exquisite. Each tiny detail makes my heart sing.
I love how Sharon has deftly used the values in the fabric to make the Blue Roses practically jump off the surface of the quilt.
In addition to the gorgeous bouquets, Sharon has created these luscious latticework heart arrangements. Each heart is supported by a pair of Lovebirds gently holding the ends of a flowing green ribbon.
I love the way she has used the blue fabric on the Lovebirds. The coloration of each bird is similar—but not matchy-matchy. This type of subtle detail creates added interest and helps move your eye around the quilt.
Speaking of details, take a look at the Bullion Knots at the end of this flower bud. These knots add great texture and another surprise element to this exceedingly complex piece.
Before you go, check out the Stem Stitch that outlines the circle. You are not going to believe this, but that circle is only a quarter-inch in diameter. That means Sharon’s Stem Stitches have to be tiny, tiny, tiny to get around that edge so smoothly. It’s such a beautiful detail. I might have to marry it.
Look at how she has Chain Stitched the lattice. The subtle variation in floss color is fantastic all by itself, but notice how Sharon has overlapped some of the stitching in various rows.
Because these overlaps are random, a more casual look is created. Sharon could have easily stitched this section in a more formal way, but this random approach is better suited for the attitude of the quilt. These variations and overlaps reinforce the overall design aesthetic.
This magnificent bouquet lies at the center of the quilt. When I see it, I can imagine someone running through an English Country garden grabbing a bit of whatever is blooming and making a bouquet. It’s regal and beautiful and free and wild—all at the same time. It reminds me of Sharon in many ways.
As most of you know, Sharon has been a friend of mine for many years. She’s actually more like a sister, than a friend. You see, Sharon came to the hospital and stayed with me during Bill’s and my darkest hours. She gave me peace and strength when I couldn’t find it on my own.
After Bill’s passing, she offered me a place to stay and provided me with an island of tranquility in my storm of emotions. I doubt I would have survived the ordeal without her.
I can’t begin to express my gratitude for all that Sharon has done and continues to do for me. Allowing me to photograph this quilt and share it with you is just one of the many gifts I have received. Each gift leaving me either speechless or in tears and sometimes both. She is a constant blessing to me.
Thank you Sharon.