On the Road: Quilters Unlimited, Northern VA

Look at these pieces! I’m so proud of my students: (clockwise from upper left) Laura Robertson, Mary Rockey, Suzanne Meader (note how her clothes match her fish!), and a detail of “Flying Free” an entry into the QU Quilt Show by my past student Julia Graves.

I had a homecoming of sorts this past week when I taught at the Quilters Unlimited show just south of Washington, D.C.. I grew up in Wheaton, MD, just north of D.C., so I feel pretty comfortable in the area. In fact, when someone asks me where I’m from, even after 30 years in Maine, I often hesitate: am I from the Washington, D.C. area? Or from Maine?

I was only gone for a week and that included two and a half days with my childhood friend, Jet. Yet for such a short trip I have lots to share. Six (count ’em six!) slide shows! Plus a video! Hmmm, maybe I went over the edge this time. But since you can take them or leave them, here they are.

First there are the two classes I taught: “What Goes Around Comes Around” and “Cutting Loose.” Then there were the special exhibits at the Quilters United show. Finally, there were my sightseeing trips to the National Zoo and to the Textile Museum at George Washington University. Prepare yourselves for lots of photos! Enjoy.

What Goes Around Comes Around

I don’t often teach my one-day spiral class, “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Most students seem to want something longer. But I always enjoy it and think the students do, too. It’s fun, freeing, low-stress and yet still manages to cover all the major aspects of fabric collage. I have my students draw a simple spiral on a piece of backing fabric, then introduce them to gluing, cutting to the drawn design, the use of values, contrasting colors, and finishing (though they won’t get to that until after class). Limiting the subject this way really focuses attention on the technique rather than on the subject.

There was certainly an overabundance of Susans, Sues, and a Suzanne in the classes. At least four students plus me in each class, making it clear that Susan was at one time a popular name though not a popular baby-name these days. Maybe that’ll come around again too.

Here are the student projects (at various stages of completion) in my spiral class:

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Cutting Loose: Fish, Bugs, and Butterflies

Seems like I’ve seen a lot of fish, bugs, and butterflies this year. Most people at the Quilters United two-day class used patterns of mine. A few drew their own.

When Cecile Batchelor contacted me about how large she should enlarge the fish design, Heads Over Tails, from my book Serendipity Quilts, I wrote to her go big. ‘Cause bigger is always better in this collage process. She certainly took me at my word!

The ladies of Quilters Unlimited (in both classes) continued the trend this year of being well-prepared for class. I hope this is partly due to this blog. As homework I send an email to upcoming students with links to posts such as “Why Glue?” and “Why Color Is Irrelevant.”

Here are the projects from that second class:

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Quilters Unlimited Special Exhibits

The Quilters Unlimited annual gathering, which encompasses eleven different guilds from the area, includes an impressive quilt show with special exhibits and vendors mall. Both were fun ways to spend any free time at lunch and after class. And it’s always nice when someone in a class needs a piece of fabric to be able to scurry off to find it. I was even able to find some goodies to bring home (imagine that!).

There were two special exhibits at the show: one which matched the show theme, “Virginia’s Beautiful Waters”, and the other celebrating our national parks 100th anniversary. Within both of those exhibits, people told me how they had used my fabric collage technique for their entries. One woman challenged her smaller group to create fish from my books, Freestyle Quilts and Serendipity Quilts, in honor of me teaching and speaking at this “Beautiful Waters” show. How cool!

Check out the slideshows below. I’ve included a picture of each tag to identify the artist and to explain the piece:


I would have needed much more time than I had to photograph and do justice to this special exhibit. So, I concentrated on the quilts inspired by my books and just enjoyed the show.

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This National Parks exhibit was amazing in its scope and contained many beautiful quilts. I took photos of just a few, I had mere moments to spare. I highly recommend checking it out if it travels near you in the next couple years. There is also a beautiful book available, containing images of all 177 quilts plus write-ups of all 59 National Parks! www.npscentennialquilts.com

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Lecture and Short Interview

My Saturday evening slide show was really well-attended, with 200 or so people in the audience. Someone said afterward that they couldn’t believe it was an hour and a half the time went so fast. As I’ve said before, a good audience makes all the difference. What probably helped was they had some nice refreshments ahead of time, including a cake decorated by my two-time student, Linda Cooper, in honor of my quilt “Crocodylus Smylus.” A good start to the evening.

Above is the delectable croc head and tail cake (all 20 feet would have been too much, even for a bunch of hungry quilters). Below is Marisela Rumberg, a delightful quilter and teacher, who introduced herself and asked for a selfie at my lecture. I think that was a first for me.

On Sunday at lunch, fellow-teacher Marisela Rumberg (Facebook) did a short (bi-lingual) interview. She teaches primarily in Central and South America so she translated the entire interview including my answers in Spanish. Impressive!


I arrived a couple days early to visit my childhood friend Jet. She’s the one who stuck up for me when we were two years old in the playground sandbox when a bully pulled my hair. We’ve been best friends ever since. She and her mom are like family to me so it was lovely to stay with them and their new rescue beagle/hound mix, Peanut.

Jet and me.

On the first day we all (except Peanut) went to the National Zoo. Most times people go to visit the animals. It turned out they had a fantastic new exhibit of outdoor sculptures of marine animals made from plastic trash washed onto the world’s beaches. Art with a message. The trash was collected and assembled by volunteers of Washed Ashore, under the direction of lead artists. Because there were 17 sculptures meant I didn’t see as many live animals as you might think one would. Hey, I’m a collage artist after all.

For those of you who are as fascinated by stuff like this (Color! Texture!) as I am, I took a wealth of photos including overalls down to details. My husband just shook his head, but he understands.

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We did get around to seeing the pandas though, including baby Bei Bei, born last October, who is the current star zoo celebrity. We arrived at feeding time with Bei Bei and his mom playing on the floor. Very cute. Hover over the pictures to see captions.

Next day we visited the Textile Museum at George Washington University. What a fabulous place! The current exhibit, in collaboration with Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), is a collection of works about human diasporas or dispersion, entitled “Stories of Migration.” It seemed to be a very timely show, with all the discussions on immigration and the displacement of people happening around the world. There was a great variety of works: quilts, installation pieces, clothing, embroidery. I’m glad we chose to go there. Below is just a sampling of the beautiful pieces chosen for the show.


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Whew! That was quite a trip! I’m home now, but still hit the ground running getting ready for next week’s quilting retreat here in Harpswell, Maine. I think I can slow down after that? We’ll see.


10 thoughts on “On the Road: Quilters Unlimited, Northern VA

  1. We had such fun your class. Two days was not nearly enough. Thanks for being so willing to share what you have learned from doing fabric collage. BTW the name of our organization is Quilters Unlimited and we hope you return soon.


  2. Woah! Thanks for sharing those images. The beach collages were fantastic. The Textile Museum show was inspiring. Your work is amazing. Thanks for taking the time to share.


  3. Thanks for sharing the “Washed Ashore” sculptures. Also the textile exhibit at GWU. I will share the info with my niece, who is a professor there.


  4. Dear Susan,

    I am almost to the netting and quilting on “Sloanie, I Can Dress Myself Carlson”. How do you attach the netting to the quilt before quilting it? I still have work to do on the hair and some shadowing in a couple of places but I am close. Love this quilt!

    Thank you,

    Elaine Swatniki from the second Asilomar class this year.

    On Saturday, June 11, 2016, Susan Carlson Quilts wrote:

    > Susan posted: ” I had a homecoming of sorts this past week when I taught > at the Quilters United show just south of Washington, D.C.. I grew up in > Wheaton, MD, just north of D.C., so I feel pretty comfortable in the area. > In fact, when someone asks me where I’m from, ” >


    1. Sorry I missed your question first time around. I use safety pins to baste the layers together, removing them as my sewing machine’s foot gets close.


  5. Sorry, I meant to send a picture of my progress on Sloanie.

    On Saturday, June 11, 2016, Susan Carlson Quilts wrote:

    > Susan posted: ” I had a homecoming of sorts this past week when I taught > at the Quilters United show just south of Washington, D.C.. I grew up in > Wheaton, MD, just north of D.C., so I feel pretty comfortable in the area. > In fact, when someone asks me where I’m from, ” >


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