Monday, June 4, 2012

Jean Wells Keenan Comes to Lopez!

Quilt by Jean Wells Keenan

I have admired Jean Wells Keenan's work for years. Finally, an opportunity to take a class from her arrived without my having to drive that long distance from northwest Washington to Sisters, Oregon.

Anne Dawson, owner of the small quilt shop and a quilt restoration business here on the island, invited her to come teach here! Yippee!

As many of you may already know, Jean founded the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon in 1975. I have only attended once and highly recommend it for many reasons, not the least of which is the experience of community!  I wrote at least three blog posts about that first experience: click here for the post about Jean herself (who was inducted into The Quilters Hall of Fame in 2010); here for my first Blog Guest Interview (Barbara Bergren whom I met while in Sisters); and here for the story about the WWII era patchwork dress I found in an antique shop in Sisters.

But back to Jean's class this weekend, "Intuitive Color and Design" based on her book of that title.

After each student had introduced herself and given a very brief explanation of why she decided to take this particular class, the fun began!

In my limited experience of quilt class-taking, Jean had a very unique approach. We couldn't use our own fabrics and she limited us to solids! She brought a stack of 5 inch wide strips of solid fabrics about 44 inches long (the width of the bolt) and had us choose 5 colors each. Then she explained how to cut fabric using rotary cutter only -- NO RULER; then how to sew wonky curved pieces we had just cut.  Then we made a block just out of those wonky curved piece. Then, having stimulated our awareness of color in a new way (for me anyway), she had us go back and choose one more color.

I know the 3rd limitation of this exercise for some was how picked-over the pile of strips was before they got to it. But by the end of the exercise, I could see that no matter what colors you chose, it worked! I was amazed. And very excited!

So now just enjoy the colors and everyone's process!

Anne Dawson (in baby blue, standing) welcomes us all as we settle in.

Nancy Caleshu, co-host of this weekend event with Anne Dawn, assists Jean in this photo.

Our Second Assignment

We all get to work very quickly...and as you can see below, these gals are well into their projects before I took time from my work to go take photos.

Some came dressed so colorfully....

.....down to their toes even....

that we were even more inspired!

Works in progress

This is my tablemate, Pat's work

I LOVE these three blocks of her work, especially.

 Here is our work side by side.  Our first assignment was to make a block of all curved practice sewing just curves as Jean had demonstrated! Horrors, I thought! Curved piecing?  It brought back nightmares of clothing construction in college Home Ec!  But, oh my gosh, what FUN Jean's method was! And besides, you couldn't do it "wrong"! YOu don't have to match points and seams!!!

above - Edi Blomberg's work

above - Heather Arps' work

Learning to trust yourself -- to trust your own intuitive sense of color and line placement once Jean gives shares the basic concepts -- is what it is all about.

More photos in the next post! Meanwhile, keep those needles flying!


  1. Last summer I played with some of the techniques in her book...would love to take a class with her...looks like you all made great progress!

  2. Oh, Siobhan, you will love her class! Run don't walk. Jump at the first opportunity that comes along!