Monday, January 27, 2020

Road to California 2020, Part I: The Quilt Show

Road to California, a terrific quilt show, took place last week, ending on Sunday. There was something for everyone - traditional, art, modern, and group quilts; challenges, guild raffle quilts, and more than a dozen wildly diverse special exhibits. Great classes. Hallway massage. Polite Boy Scouts who, for a small donation, watch your bags while you shop. Tons of vendors.

Also, it's next to a mellow, convenient little airport - you could walk from the Ontario, California airport to the convention center. So it's not surprising that this warm and welcoming show attracts 50,000 viewers, plus entrants and vendors from around the world.

I have loved 'Road,' (as we locals refer to it) for many years, even before they started accepting my quilts! On the latter achievement, I'm still in happy shock. One of my quilts was juried in last year, and one more this year. This feat took merely 30 years of intensive practice.

The quality and passion of the quilts at Road always blows me away. For this blog post, I will focus on a few of the many spectacular non-award-winners. You can easily look at great photos of the award winners on the show's website, here. Some of the quilts below did win awards, however - I just couldn't resist posting them.

Quilts shows are an out-of-body experience for me - I'm in a tizzy - so I can't take pictures of every quilt I adore. If your quilt isn't here, there's a 99.99% chance that I loved it. If your quilt is here and you wish it weren't, I will remove it (email me at

I welcome corrections, clarifications, etc. Some of the labels are at a distance from the quilts, and I get confused - write to me and I will correct any errors. I have no financial affiliation with any of these quilters (except me, at the end.) Let's go!


I'm going to start out by presenting my own personal 'courage-in-artistry' award to the two most out-of-the box quilts at the show that I just loved. First, Steph Skardal of Dublin, Ohio, made "Fish Scale, Chain Mail." The loops you are seeing are all quilted. Steph writes, "I was inspired to bring elements of crocheting and knitting into quilting...I took inspiration from metal chain mail formations to determine how to weave individual quilted rings together....Half-rings were individually quilted and joined together via hand stitching."
Another stunningly unique piece was this interactive quilt by Flora Joy of Johnson City, TN, whose  work I first encountered at last year's Road. It's called "Pop-Up Stories". Viewers -  especially schoolkids - are encouraged to open the flaps one by one and use what pops out to tell a story.

Closeup. Along with fun and imaginative, Flora's craftswomanship is perfection.

See more of Flora's innovative quilts on her website, at I wrote about two more of them in last year's Road to California report, here

I photographed the next quilt, by Roberta Lagomarsini of Bishop, California just because I thought it was beautiful. When I read the label, I learned it was much more. Her description of "Old Town Street View - Syria" reads, "Freeform squares of whites, blues and greys laid under and over each other represent city walls: ink, red, teal & orange - hanging laundry and the greens the meager plants growing in the dark passageway. Black squares represent the desperation of war, Orange the firefight. White Light shines through giving hope that peace will prevail."  
Also addressing important issues: "Global Warming" by Zina Clark of Long Beach, CA. 

Michelle Cain of Groton, MA, made, "47XY+21" Explanation: "When our son was 10 hours old, my husband and I learned our baby has Down syndrome. 47XY+21 is an abstract rendering of our son's ...chromosomes...including the extra chromosome on the 21st pair that causes Down syndrome. As the heart surrounding that trio suggests, we feel nothing but love for our son's bonus chromosome. We can't imagine him without it. We wouldn't want him any other way."
Here's "Mesmerizing" by Jodi Robinson of Enon Valley, PA.  She calls it "My modern spin on a spiral quilt."
The colors and quilting in "Antelope Canyon Mosaic" by Kimberly Lacy of Colorado Springs, CO, made me swoon. (The judges swooned too.)
Next, "Kaleidoscope Quilt" by Gail Weiss of Portland, Oregon, quilted by Nancy Stovall. It's English Paper Pieced, with 3,113 pieces. It took her 10 months. When I got home, I discovered she sells this pattern and other very unique designs from her blog,
Kathy McNeil of Arlington, Washington made "Bliss," which is what it induced in me.
Cindy Seitz-Krug of Overgaard, AZ, says that with the quilt, "Alternative Grids," below, she wanted lots of negative space to show off grid-based quilting designs in her books and Youtube tutorials. Learn more at her website,
Next, "Lotus" by another well-known designer, Karen K. Stone of Dallas. (I took pictures before I noticed each artists' names!)
Beth Nufer of Brookings, OR made this flawless and unusual quilt, "Cody's Cubes," quilted by Clem Buzick.  "I wanted to make a modern design quilt with a 3-D effect...I love tumbling blocks, so that worked out for this quilt." I can only dream of achieving this level of perfection when I grow up. 
Maureen Wood, from Rosedale, BC Canada, made "Imagine," from a pattern by Jacqueline de Jonge.
Nearby, another rainbow/mariner's masterpiece, "Mardi Gras" by Marlene Speed of  Victoria, BC, Canada. My photo doesn't show the thousands of Swarovski crystals on this quilt.
Here's "Ballet," English Paper Pieced by Alice Ikenberry, of Richland, WA, quilted by Teresa Silva, and designed by  Willyne Hammerstein.
"Starcrazy" by Catherine Butterworth of Lindfield, NSW, Australia was another jawdropper (and award-winner). "I used what I call quilted trapunto. This is where elements of the stars are quilted and then padded before the quilt is sandwiched."
Those round forms you see poke out a couple of inches! They're kind of bosomy, in a wonderful way!

Deb Hyde from West Bloomfield, Michigan made "Persephone," a portrait of the Greek goddess. The closer you get, the more astonished you are, as you realize that it's entirely pieced from 1" squares - arranged in the traditional  Amish 'sunshine and shadow" concentric diamond pattern! To me, it's staggering.

"Darshan of the Deities," was made by Mellisa Sobotka of Richardson, TX. "In Indian philosophy and religion, Darshan refers to the beholding of a holy person, sacred object or deity, especially in image form. The experience is considered to be reciprocal and results in the human viewer receiving a blessing." 
Rhonda Denney of Emporia, KS, was inspired by a sepia photograph to create "Lunchtime Secrets."  It's whole-cloth and dye-painted to look like a page from a photo album. You can see most clearly on the lower right that it even has faux photo corners! 
Also based on an old photo, Jan Hutchison of Sedgwick KS made "The Gault Family Band." Her grandfather is the trombone player in the original photo, taken around 1900. Music still runs in her family; Jan and her sister are musicians. She wrote, "This quilt combines three important parts of my life: family, music and quilting."
Cindy Stohn of Chandler AZ, made "My Big Face. She wrote, "As a study in color, I created this self-portrait inspired by the painting style of Chuck Close. I first created the image using paint chips on a 1/2" grid, then I transferred the concept into fabric. Free-motion quilting using multiple layers of thread rings adheres the circles to the pieced square top. Over 120 colors of fabric and 56 colors of thread were used...No software, paint, or fusible products were used." 
To honor military women, Penni Barger of Ripon, CA made "Those Who Serve." It's also inspired by the Women's Vietnam War Memorial in DC. 
There was a series of stunning quilts by renowned quilter Jenny Bowker, which included this important quilt, "After the Last Sky." 
A better picture, and an explanation is on Jenny's website, at

I have a weakness for jellyfish (but not too close), and I loved "Dance Around the Moon," by Clare Marks and Carole Crist of Bremerton WA. "My mom and I live near a beautiful inlet in Washington. On a full moon you can kayak out into the bay and see beautiful jellyfish floating just below the surface....with my Mom's wonderful painting, and some quilting we brought it to life on fabric." 
A different watery world is depicted in "Messengers," by Kathy McNeil (who also made "Bliss," above.) These are Spotted Eagle rays, and she didn't use spotted fabric - "There are 1,658 turned edge, hand-appliqued spots," she wrote. The rays, she added, "are messengers reminding us to protect our coral reefs."

"Ms. Secretary Bird" by Sharon Wiley Hightower was partially inspired by a photo by Keven Law. "She is a feminized version of a ferocious five-foot tall bird that lives in the African Savannah," Sharon writes. "The actual bird was named for the quill feathers on its head, reminiscent of old time secretaries with quill pens stuck in their hair."

"Everything is Rosie," a delightful giraffe, was made by Margaret De Palma of Bishop CA, a student of Susan Carlson, whose approach to fabric collage is spreading rapidly throughout the quilt world, for good reason!
Here's "Seahorse Carousal" by Robin Long of Poulsbo, WA, quilted by Wanda Rains. 
In an endangered species challenge, I found this dimensional coelacanth by Kim Gibson of Burke, Virginia
Luana Rubin of Boulder, Colorado made this spectacular polar bear. 
The "Giant Clam" below oozes rick rack, lace, and fabulous contemporary fabric - that's my kind of clam! It was made by a quilter whose first name is Willa - unfortunately, the glare from the sign obstructed my photo of her full name - so if you know Willa's full name, or you ARE Willa,  my apologies - I love your quilt, please send me the information and I will add it! 
Another special exhibit honored the Road to California show. Debbie Nussbaum of Los Angeles made these wonderful trees, incorporating Australian and Kaffe fat-quarters purchased at shows. The quilting includes squirrels, foxes, birds and three owls! 
The Bob Ross Cherrywood challenge included had entries inspired by the iconic big-haired, big-hearted artist's belief that anyone can paint. If you're a Ross fan, it's too late to do the challenge, but I just discovered you can buy a poster of the entries at While you're at it, order some of their trademark, luscious, hand-dyed fabric. And find the rules for their next challenge - Lady Di - here. (No financial affiliation).
Another special exhibit was "Stitch Like an Egyptian - Tentmakers of Cairo". I could devote dozens more blog posts to their glorious, dense work. (Not surprisingly, books have been written about them.)

And finally, here's a photo of me in front of my pieced and appliqued quilt, "Multigenerational Luncheon Linens.
I happen to own a much better picture of this quilt.
If there were a hoarder's award at this show, I'd be a contender. It took me years to collect the linens. The central area is a tablecloth, I'm guessing from the 1950s, with illustrations of mysterious globes on pedestals. (One person theorizes that these are old-fashioned stoves, but I couldn't find any antique stoves like this on the Internet! If you have a theory, please share!)
The borders contain more vintage linens - quilt blocks, hankies, napkins, aprons, placemats, etc. And floating on top, I set twenty new English Paper Pieced hexagonal blocks. I think of them as young guests at their elderly relatives' luncheon table. If you're interested in making a quilt like this, directions are in my new English Paper Piecing book, "Hexagon Star Quilts," it's available on Amazon, here.

So that's Part I! The next installment is now up: Shopping at Road 2020!

More information about the Road to California show is here, and their great pictures of the award-winners are here.

UPDATE: A fabulous walk-through of the show is now on youtube, here:


  1. Thank you for a wonderful tour of these fabulous works of art and passion! So much beauty, technical perfection, color and ideas,no wonder it is overwhelming! Wow!!! You are in wonderful company!!

    1. Thank you, dear Jeri, wish you were here for this!


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