Meet All of the “Animals We Love” Contest Winners

On Monday, we announced the winners of “Animals We Love,” the Quilt Alliance’s 9th annual quilt contest. We were thrilled to receive so many stunning, well-crafted, and story-rich entries this year. When Alliance board members e-gathered last spring to conceptualize the 2015 theme, we agreed that we wanted to offer a topic that would have broad appeal. We wanted a subject that quilters bond over when they’re not bonding over quilting. I shared with the group that some of our most popular posts on the Quilt Alliance Facebook page have featured my cat, Frazier Duane. Lightbulb: Animals We Love!


Frazier Duane checking messages.

We kept the theme open-ended as we have with all of our contests. The only requirements were size (16″ x 16″) and “quiltiness” (had to be made of 3 layers stitched together). Animal-adoring quilters from 23 U.S. states and 6 countries mailed us their gorgeous artworks. International entries came from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and several entries are the result of a collaboration of two or more quilters.

The Grand Prize for the contest is the highly sought-after HQ Sweet Sixteen sit-down longarm machine package (machine, table and bobbin winder) by Handi Quilter, Inc. Professional judges Marianne Fons, Mark Lipinski and Paula Nadelstern chose the Handi Quilter Grand Prize Winning quilt, “Giraffe Nocturne,” by Nancy S. Brown of Oakland, California. Nancy said about her win: 

Nancy S BrownI first learned about the “Animals We Love” contest through “The Quilt Show” newsletter. I have always loved animals and I thought making a quilt would be a nice way to support an organization that does such great work for the quilting world in preserving the stories of quilts and quilters. I was just hoping that the quilt would raise some money for The Quilt Alliance at auction.

So imagine my absolute surprise and delight when I received the call from Amy Milne informing me that I won the grand prize. Wow!!! What an honor—especially given all of the wonderful and varied quilts in the contest. I had a hard time choosing my own favorite for the member’s vote.

I have always been a hand quilter but have often admired the beautiful machine quilting that is being done now. So with the prize of the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen I am looking forward to trying my hand at something new. I have heard many great things about this particular machine. I can’t wait to start this new adventure!

Thanks to Handi Quilter for being such a generous sponsor in this contest. Thanks also to all of the quilters who donated their time and talent in a show of love for animals and support for the Quilt Alliance. And a very special thanks to The Quilt Alliance for all of the hard work that you do in promoting quilting and in saving our heritage by preserving our stories.

–Nancy S. Brown 


Watch and listen to a Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview with Handi Quilter Grand Prize winner Nancy S. Brown conducted on June 10, 2015 by Quilt Alliance staffer Emma Parker here.


“Giraffe Nocturne” by Nancy S. Brown (Handi Quilter Grand Prize winner)

Here’s the full report from our judges:

Many thanks to all who participated in the “Animals We Love” competition—you charmed, delighted, and intrigued us with your many and varied reflections on the animal kingdom. The three of us were pleased to have the opportunity once again to get on the phone together to “ooh” and “aah” as we clicked back and forth on the various entry images, enjoying them so much, and gradually narrowing down our choices.

This year’s Grand Prize goes to “Giraffe Nocturne.” All three of us had this particular entry squarely among our top saves. We love the maker’s fabric choices and skilled use of needle-turn applique. This is a work where everything—the pieced background with its distant moon, the composition of the giraffe in the foreground, and the many details such as the animal’s expressive eye—works together perfectly. Congratulations to the artist!

We were glad to have the opportunity again this year to each select a personal Judge’s Choice. Here are our picks:

Mark Lipinski’s Judge’s Choice pick: “Bzzzzz”


“Bzzzzzz” by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill of Woodbridge, Connecticut

Because the quiltmaker took a creative risk and interpreted the competition’s theme in a totally different way and style than the other entrants, Bzzzzz immediately caught my attention and interest. The pieced work, with its clean and graphic design shapes, was appealing to me. Blending a combination of the modern aesthetic (more than average negative space, solid and contrasting color combos, a sense of minimalism) with traditional piecework (matching points, traditional quilting, a variation on a traditional Lone Star quilt pattern) was both interesting and appealing. The use of the grey and black pieced strips in the bees’ wings adds movement and depth, while the soft hued binding only complements the totality of the piece rather than abruptly stopping the eye with a more predictable choice of bright yellow, black, or grey. Frankly, there was nothing that I didn’t enjoy about this entry.

Paula Nadelstern’s Judge’s Choice pick: “Olive, Olive You <3”


“Olive. Olive you <3” by Lisa B. Filion of Queensbury, New York

Let me set the record straight: I do not love guinea pigs. But I love this whimsical, thoughtful little quilt. I love the furry figure with her moony, mish-mashed eyes. I love the sweet green patchwork ground; I think it would be time well spent to examine the work up close to see if any swatch was used twice. I’m impressed with the carefree, impulsive effect which masks deliberate technical choices. I vicariously share the maker’s fun of slipping something macabre (i.e. the skeleton) into the sweetness, and I’m impressed with the use of pink that doesn’t mar the realism. I exalt in its fabric-ness. Like me, this maker clearly thinks, “When it comes to fabric, more is MORE!”

Marianne Fons’ Judge’s Choice Pick: “Grandpa T and His Salad”

"Grandpa T and His Salad" by Cindy Cooksey of Irvine, California

“Grandpa T and His Salad” by Cindy Cooksey of Irvine, California

A high contrast, hot-pink-and-black plaid fabric as the background for pictorial applique would generally be a disaster, but in this artist’s hands it worked perfectly. That crazy, bold fabric adds whimsy and humor to the drama taking place on this quilt, i.e., the turtle’s laborious journey toward lettuce, broccoli, and tomatoes. I love the way Grandpa T’s little hind foot breaks the edge of the quilt on the left side. The fabrics the maker chose for his shell are perfect, and the quilting on the shell panels add great realism. The shading under Grandpa T’s shell and the luncheon plate, the big-stitch quilting in the background, and the loose-edge applique used for the vegetables all work together beautifully. The big risk this artist took really paid off for me!

As judges, we’d also like to send shout-outs to five other entrants. We spent a lot of time viewing their quilts, enjoying them, making the difficult decisions of just which quilt would be the Grand Prize winner and which three would be our personal choices. We want these makers to know their terrific quilts were in the running!

Judges’ Shout-outs to:

Finally, big thanks to Amy Milne for getting us all organized and together in one (virtual) spot, as well as to Lisa Ellis who designed the fantastic software (ArtCall) we used for the judging process. It was great!

Best regards,
Mark Lipinski, Paula Nadelstern, and Marianne Fons

Members’ Choice Awards

Quilt Alliance members also weighed in on the contest entries, and their votes determined the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Honorable Mention winners. It was a tough choice and even required a run-off election to determine 2nd and 3rd place!

Here are the Members’ Choice winning quilts and their makers:

First Place: “Bzzzzzz” 


“Bzzzzzz” by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill of Woodbridge, Connecticut

Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill

I am truly honored to have so many Quilt Alliance Members and Mark Lipinski select my mini quilt, Bzzzzzz, as their favorite. As a member and a quilt donor, I am proud to support the Quilt Alliance and the important work they do.

Second Place: “Eye See My Beloved” 

"Eye See My Beloved" by Maria Ferri Cousins and Syrie Blanco Walsh of Great River, New York

“Eye See My Beloved” by Maria Ferri Cousins and Syrie Blanco Walsh of Great River, New York


Maria Ferri Cousins


Syrie Blanco Walsh






Syrie and I are so privileged and thrilled that our quilt “Eye See My Beloved” came in second place in the Quilt Alliance “The Animals We Love” Quilt Contest.  We love what we do and are happy that we are able to help such a worthy cause.  The Quilt Alliance works hard to have the story of all our quilts remembered and we at Fine Art Quilting make our quilts with a story to tell.”

Your generous award will definitely go a long way.  We can’t wait to see all the wonderful Moda Fabrics, Aurafill thread and Simplicity/EZ Quilting Accessories, with a big expression of our thanks to your sponsors.
We hope your fund raiser brings in the needed funds for you to continue all your hard work in preserving and educating others about quilts and their stories.

Third Place: “Innocence” 

"Innocence" by Kathy York of Austin, Texas

“Innocence” by Kathy York of Austin, Texas

Kathy York

I am so thrilled about winning the 3rd place award and an Honorable Mention for my quilt, Innocence, which features our little mischievous kitten! And, I am grateful for an opportunity to give back to the Quilt Alliance.  I appreciate the work that they do to preserve our stories and our history as quiltmakers.  It is an honor!


Members’ Choice Honorable Mention Awards


You can view all of the “Animals We Love” contest quilts on the Quilt Alliance website here and on The Quilt Index here.

We’d like to thank all of the artists who donated quilts for this year’s contest! After a national exhibition tour that began on June 8 at the Utah headquarters of Handi Quilter, Inc, and includes stops at American Quilter’s Society and Original Sewing & Quilt Expo shows, the quilts will be sold via an online auction in November, 2015.  The auction is one of the Alliance’s most important annual fundraisers and provides crucial funds that support the operation of projects like Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories and Go Tell It at the Quilt Show!

Quilts in Motion

For the past three weeks I’ve been living and working in San Francisco. My 15-year-old daughter Lilian is doing her summer intensive ballet training at the San Francisco Ballet School, and since no housing was offered, I made the *huge* sacrifice of coming with her. 😉 Last weekend I took the train south to visit the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and new Quilt Alliance board member Nancy Bavor, who works as the museum’s Curator of Collections.  I enjoyed a wonderful presentation by powerhouse quilting twins Mary Mashuta and Roberta Horton, both of whom have been interviewed for our Q.S.O.S. oral history project.

Among the current exhibitions was a show called “Milestones: Textiles of Transition,” which includes a fascinating video piece by the Luminarium Dance Company. The video shows images of quilts projected onto dancers performing in front of those same quilts. The result is sort of a visual quilt, a shifting and rich sandwich of images. Coincidentally, Luminarium founder, dancer and quilter Merli V. Guerra contacted me about a month ago to reach out to the Quilt Alliance about the Threading Motion Project. I asked Merli if she would write a piece about the work for our readers and I’m happy to present it here.

Quilting and motion have always been linked for me. One could say the movement of a thread and needle in a quilter’s hand is motion enough; that the swirls of color and patterns playing across a finished piece are motion to the eye. Yet for me, quilting means dancing. It means standing on the dining room table as a four-year-old, practicing what my mother had coined as “the frisbee method,” as together we tossed quilted hearts onto our fabric below. If we found we did not like what gravity had given us, we would pick them each up and start again—leaving us in the end with a set of quilts full of “motion,” and a little girl thrilled by the joy of the dance.


Quilt Vignettes
A series of short films using video projection to merge dance with quilts.
These films will be played on loop as part of the Silk! exhibit.
Choreographer / Filmmaker: Merli V. Guerra
Quilter: Judith Content
Performer: Merli V. Guerra

Twenty years later, I am still that little girl. I am still thrilled by the color, movement, energy, and emotions that greet the viewer at a quilt show, be it contemporary or traditional in design. I am also that ever-too-eager Joann Fabrics frequenter who has more newly-begun quilts filling her closet shelves than finished ones. Perhaps traditional quilting is not for me, which only adds to my amazement and wonder to find my work now on display on the East Coast (at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA) and West Coast (at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in San Jose, CA), with calls coming in from other parts of the country, from Pennsylvania to Kentucky. A few short months ago, I had never heard of the Quilt Alliance, and the word “Paducah” certainly did not ring any bells! Yet throughout this process, the more I learn, the more I realize how impressively large and supportive America’s quilting community is, even to a non-quilting interdisciplinary artist like myself.

I encourage you now, if you find yourself near either of the museums above in the next month, to take a peek at Luminarium Dance Company’s Threading Motion Project. I am writing this piece on the three-year anniversary of Luminarium’s founding in Boston, MA, and have no doubt that neither I, nor my co-director Kimberleigh A. Holman, would have guessed back in 2010 that one of our most successful projects would involve quilts! I began this series several years ago with a conversation with a local curator about my desire to show the “movement of a quilt.” After a year of determining what this meant, and how it could be accomplished visually, I picked up the phone and called Connie Barlow, the now former director of the New England Quilt Museum (NEQM), to propose the project, and soon after received funding from the Lowell Cultural Council to make the Threading Motion Project a reality for Luminarium’s 2013 Season.

Collaborating with NEQM’s exhibition Silk! and with the invaluable help of curator Pam Weeks, I selected six images from the quilt-show-to-be, projected these images onto my dancers in the studio, created six short vignettes ranging from two to three minutes in length, and filmed each in a way that allows the viewer to, for a brief moment, enter the world of the quilt. What does each express, and how does it express it? How can my dancers embody this, and set it into motion? Indeed, the Threading Motion Project quickly became an exercise in how to take a two-dimensional work of art, and redesign it for the three-dimensional, all through the use of light on skin.


“Cynthia Star”
Quilter: Janet Elwin
Performer: Jess Chang


“Gilding the Arbor”
Quilter: Bethanne Nemesh
Performers: Rose Abramoff, Jess Chang, Melenie Diarbekirian, Jessica Jacob,
Matt Johnson, & Amy Mastrangelo

As I end this narrative, that I can only hope will encourage you to take a peek at this film series by visiting one of these two museums (and more to follow!), while providing a glimpse into the thought process behind the work, it is most important to me that I call attention to the quilters directly involved, as it is their artwork that has led to my own. These five quilters come from all over the country, bringing their unique approaches and backgrounds to each of the vignettes now on display: Sonya Lee Barrington, Judith Content, Janet Elwin, Diane Loomis, and Bethanne Nemesh. I cannot thank these women enough for sharing with me their insights and enthusiasm throughout the process, as each artist’s thoughts inevitably shaped the way in which I interpreted the work into its current life on film. They are also the reason I now have such an appreciative understanding of the vast and supportive network that is the quilting community, as I now curiously await the news of where my Quilt Vignettes film series will travel next.

Thank you for reading, and happy dancing…

Merli V. Guerra
Artistic Director, Luminarium Dance Company

Merli’s “Quilt Vignettes” are currently on view at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA, through July 7 (alongside all six original quilts), and at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in San Jose, CA, through July 21. For a sneak peek of the work, view the trailer at:
All Threading Motion Project films and materials copyright of Luminarium Dance Company 2013.