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Fort Bend Quilters Soar to New Heights


The completed "Comma Comet" quilt on display at QuiltWeek in Paducah.

The completed “Comma Comet” quilt on display at QuiltWeek in Paducah.

Original “Comma Comet” design arose from collaboration

By Anna Saikin

When Pam Biswas and Janet Gannon met at the Houston Modern Quilt Guild Retreat in May 2014, they instantly connected over their love of math. Gannon, a math and science teacher who started quilting in 1996, was working on a “wonky stars” quilt, with each star the same size on a white background. Biswas, who worked in information technology and software development for financial applications, suggested that they make a quilt with different size stars and sketched a possible design on a napkin. As Biswas notes, they “have an affinity for numbers,” and the idea of creating a new pattern together appealed to them. After the retreat, Gannon transferred the sketch to graph paper, and set to work on “Comma Comet,” a quilt they successfully entered into the American Quilter’s Society’s show in Paducah, Kentucky.

AQS is an organization that includes all ages, design styles and methods, and annually hosts seven QuiltWeek events that support the fiber art community. The Paducah QuiltWeek show may not be familiar to those who do not quilt, but it is the most competitive and prestigious AQS show. Biswas, an award-winning quilter, had two previous quilts selected for QuiltWeek shows. Her quilt “Duomo Steps” was selected for the Des Moines show and was later selected to travel around the country in the Modern Quilt exhibit. Another quilt, “Point Me in the Right Direction,” was accepted to the 2014 Paducah show, and it later won a second place ribbon at the Coastal Prairie Quilt Guild show in 2014. After their meeting at the retreat, Gannon and Biswas discussed submitting a quilt to the 2015 Paducah show, but it was not until a few weeks before the December 1 deadline that they finalized their plans.

“Comma Comet” is an inspiring collaboration between two professional quilters. They designed the quilt together, but divided the sewing so that Gannon primarily made the top and Biswas finished the quilting. To make a quilt, a top is first sewn, followed by quilting, or stitching, the top to the batting, which can be made of cotton, wool, synthetic materials or a combination of fibers, and the quilt back. “Comma Comet” uses wool batting to avoid the crease marks that can happen when a quilt is folded and stored before being displayed. Although they had a general idea of the size and colors of their quilt, they originally envisioned grouping the stars in the center of the quilt. After Gannon finished creating the wonky stars, they used a design wall to adjust the pattern so that the stars were arranged like a comma. Once they arranged the wonky stars in the shape and design, Gannon copied the design and began connecting them with grey fabric.

Gannon and Biswas discuss their process with the confidence and enthusiasm of experienced quilters, but the success of “Comma Comet” was far from certain as they created it. They began working on the quilt on November 21, and submitted it to the Paducah show on December 1. While other families gathered to watch football or shop on Black Friday, Gannon was sewing around the clock, working through Thanksgiving in a whirlwind of fabric. “Comma Comet” is made using Art Gallery Fabrics, which Gannon sells through her company Modern Quilt Love. At one point, they ran out of the grey fabric they used as the quilt background, so Gannon ripped out material she had used in another quilt. When that wasn’t enough, she bought back some fabric she had already sold to a customer by meeting them in the IKEA parking lot. When Gannon and Biswas compared the grey fabrics, they realized that the dye lots for the fabric bolts were slightly different, but they feel that the variation adds rather than detracts from the design. Biswas finished the quilt by working all night, just in time for the deadline.

The pattern for “Comma Comet” was inspired by their mutual love of modern quilting designs. Modern quilts use traditional quilting techniques but emphasize bold design and color elements. Gannon enjoys the freedom of modern quilting, stating, “Nobody told Picasso what paints to use.” Biswas adds that she likes modern quilting because it can use big pieces of fabric, an aspect that came in handy as they put the final touches on “Comma Comet.” Both prefer to machine quilt and use Bernina and Innova quilting machines. Biswas, who first learned to sew as a young girl by making her own clothes, started quilting in the 1980s when she had her second child and began long-arm machine quilting around 2008 using a Jerome 6600 machine. Biswas now helps others finish their quilts through her businees, Pam Quiltaholic. Gannon and Biswas plan to continue sewing together and are working to develop a collection of quilt patterns.

Gannon and Biswas encourage beginner quilters to jump in and learn something new. Gannon recommends that anyone who is interested in quilting should take classes or experiment with precut fabric such as jellyrolls (2.5” x 44” strips of fabric) to take some of the guesswork out of their first quilts.

Guilds can be a great opportunity to meet other quilters and trade sewing tips. Biswas is a member of the Coastal Prairie Quilt Guild, and both are members of the Houston Modern Quilt Guild. Charity organizations such as Project Linus and Quilts of Valor accept donated quilts that provide good opportunities to practice new techniques while contributing to a worthy cause. Gannon and Biswas stress that anyone can become a quilter, and Biswas, a member of the planning committee for the Coastal Prairie Quilt Guild show, reminds us that it is not too early to start planning and sewing for the 2016 show, appropriately named “Quilt Happy.”

Pam Biswas pins star pieces to the design wall.

Pam Biswas pins star pieces to the design wall.

 

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Online resources

Janet Gannon’s business, Modern Quilt Love (modernquiltlove.com)

Pam Biswas’ business, Pam Quiltaholic (pamquiltaholic.com).

Coastal Prairie Quilt Guild (cpqgtx.org)

 

Fort Bend resources

The Fort Bend area is home to a thriving quilting community. Biswas and Gannon recommend the following stores for information about classes or to purchase supplies:

 

Quilter’s Emporium

11925 Southwest Freeway, Suite 11

Stafford, TX 77477

281-491-0016

quiltersemporium.com

 

CJ’s Quilt Shop

5529 FM 359, Suite E

Richmond, TX 77406

832-222-2033

cjsquiltshop.com

 

Jo’s Quilting Studio

4424 FM 2218, Suite 2

Richmond, TX 77469

281-232-6565

josquiltingstudio.com

 

Quilter’s Cottage

920 FM 359

Richmond, TX 77406

281-633-9331

quilterscottagefabrics.com


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