A STITCH IN TIME
Quilting May Date Back to Ancient Egypt, But There’s Nothing Old-Timey About These Designs
By Marsha Canright
For Houston native Cynthia England, an artful quilt is more than an eye-catching pattern or even the colorful materials bound by threads to embellish them. “A quilt has to make you forget it is made of fabric so it can be seen as a work of art,” England says.
The internationally-known fiber artist and pattern designer has won “Best In Show” three times at Houston’s International Quilt Festival, the largest quilt show in the nation.
One of her quilts, Piece and Quiet, was selected as one of the 20th century’s best American quilts by a 29-member panel of experts representing major quilting organizations.
A graduate of the Art Institute of Houston, England grew up in the Heights and Spring Branch and now lives in Dickinson. When she was six years old, her mother taught her to embroider; she began quilting when she was 13 years old.
“The more art quilts I make, the more I realize there is no limit to what is possible with fabric. I do all of my own work and many of my quilts take six months or even longer to finish. It’s a lot of work but when it’s something you love to do, it doesn’t feel like work,” she says.
Best known for developing a quilting technique called “picture piecing,” England has written two books: one on creating fiber art using a photograph and the other on traditional quilting techniques.
“Nature is the subject for most of my quilts and I try to make the scene as realistic as possible,” she says.
England creates her own designs from photographs and has operated a pattern design business for 25 years. “These patterns are not intended for bed quilts, but rather as quilt art for the home. I also make traditional bed quilts from traditional patterns,” she says.
England also lectures and has offered quilting workshops in every state in the United States except Hawaii, as well as abroad in Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Germany, South Korea and Spain. “Have quilts, will travel,” she says.
For those interested in quilting, England says it’s not difficult to learn. “I recommend taking a beginning class to master the basics quickly,” she says.
A self-taught quilter, England learned things by doing them wrong. “When you take a class from someone who is knowledgeable, it saves you time and money,” she says, suggesting that novices check online for tutorials and information on local quilting organizations. “Try Googling ‘quilt guild’ and your zip code and you will be surprised how many there are,” she adds.
England orders most of her fabric from wholesalers to make the fabric packs for her designs.
“We are lucky here in Houston to have so many quilt shops in the area with staff that are knowledgeable, offer classes and offer all the supplies you need. There is also the Quilt Festival where you can find anything because vendors come here from all over the world,” she says.
Where to start? “You can do an easy project or choose something more challenging,” she says. “As a hobby, quilting doesn’t get boring because there are so many things you can do with it.”
219 Gentry, Spring
9574 FM 1960 Bypass, Humble
England Design Studios
1201 Sunset, Dickinson
571 West Bay Area Boulevard, Webster
Hien Lam Upholstery
819 West Drew
Painted Pony ‘n Quilts
1015 South Broadway, La Porte
Pinwheels & Posies
3335 Gulf Freeway, Dickinson
Sunny Road Interiors
Teo’s Treasures Quilt Shop
1837 FM 517 East, Dickinson
Texas Quilt Museum
140 West Colorado, La Grange