Sunday, July 30, 2017

We Have a Winner!

QuiltNebraska was held July 27 to 30 in Kearney, and on Saturday evening, we drew for the winner of Scarlet Sampler.

I'm pleased to announce that Deborah Hickman from Omaha is the new owner of the quilt. It was great fun to call her and share the good news. She is excited and looks forward to receiving the quilt someday soon.

We made a matching pillowcase to hold the quilt, and machine embroidered some of the information on the band. It's pinned to the right-hand side of the quilt in the photo above.

I'd like to thank everyone who supported NSQG by purchasing tickets on the quilt. We sold all 4999 of them, which is the number allowed by Nebraska's gaming laws. Many people purchased 20 or 40 tickets. Every single dollar helped us reach our goal. I'm so grateful for people's generosity.

Thank you to Jan Wilson, the current president of NSQG, who gave me the opportunity to work on Scarlet Sampler. It's been a privilege.

A huge thanks to Keri Wheeler, who was such a big help in every way. Keri and I did most of the piecing, and she's really good at patchwork. She's a precise piecer and that really paid off. Keri also served as the "quilt mom," which meant she oversaw the ticket sales, kept track of the money, took the quilt to guild meetings, sat and sold tickets in many venues, and generally kept things on track. Keri was invaluable!

Debra Bauerle did the extraordinary hand appliqué on the quilt. She does gorgeous work! I'm so grateful that she consented to help us. Thank you, Deb!

Glenda Herz also contributed to the quilt, and we're grateful for her part as well. Kris Vierra is a wonderful longarm quilter, and we owe her a big thank you, too. The quilting really brought the quilt to life and we highly recommend Kris's work. She's a pro.

As for me, I took lots of last-minute photos. Sending this quilt off into the world was harder than taking my firstborn to college! I feel like a piece of me goes with it. I am thrilled that its new owner is a quilter who will take good care of it and treasure it always. I was very worried about that. Now I can rest easy!

It's been quite a ride. Farewell, Scarlet Sampler.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Getting Started: NSQG Raffle Quilt

Welcome to the blog of Scarlet Sampler, the newest raffle quilt for Nebraska State Quilt Guild. This quilt was made during late 2015 and early 2016. It will be given to one lucky winner in July of 2017. Its dimensions are 81" x 99". 

Please note: All of the background fabric is the same white, a Kona Cotton Solid from Robert Kaufman in the color Snow. The photos have shadows, but the quilt does not. 

The team responsible for the quilt is Jan Wilson from Red Cloud, president-elect of NSQG; Diane Harris from Bladen, Keri Wilson from Kenesaw, Debra Bauerle from Imperial and Glenda Herz from Lawrence. Scarlet Sampler was quilted by Kris Vierra from Lincoln.

We first met in the early fall of 2015. We discussed a number of ideas and eventually decided on a sampler quilt in shades of red. Since Nebraska celebrates its 150th birthday in 2017, we decided to make our state's history and heritage the focus of the quilt. 

There are 149 blocks on the front of the quilt if you count creatively. (The small Four Patch blocks each count as one.) On the back is the 150th block: the beloved Nebraska Windmill. This design by Bud Dunklau earned first prize in the Lincoln Quilter's Guild's 1977 Nebraska Block Contest. It became the official state quilt block by virtue of a legislative resolution. 

We hope you will like this quilt as much as we do. It has been a labor of love, a learning experience and a test of our stamina. We hope its eventual owner will treasure it.

Significant Quilt Blocks in Scarlet Sampler

Many of the quilt blocks in Scarlet Sampler (81" x 99") relate to Nebraska. 

The three large tree blocks are not only beloved traditional designs, they also symbolize Arbor Day, which was first celebrated in Nebraska in the 1870s. 

It is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. Read about the history of Arbor Day

One of Nebraska's most recognizable landmarks is Chimney Rock near Bayard in Morrill County. It is the most famous landmark on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. Our block depicting this National Historic Site was drawn and embroidered by Jan Wilson. Read more about Chimney Rock.

We wanted to recognize the role of agriculture in Nebraska, and we did so with several blocks. The barn above is from Farm Girl Vintage by Lori Holt. According to, "Agriculture is the heart and soul of Nebraska. As the state’s leading industry, the impact goes far beyond the plate, providing Nebraskans with jobs, significantly contributing to the state’s economy, and touching the lives of its citizens every day. 

"Annually, production agriculture contributes more than $25 billion to Nebraska’s economy, thanks to the hard work of Nebraska farmers and ranchers working on 49,100 farms and ranches spread across more than 45 million acres. 

"...farms and ranches use 92 percent of Nebraska’s total land area. In 2014, Nebraska ranked fourth in the nation for commercial red meat production. Important commodities include cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, dry edible beans, hay, wheat and more."


This appliqued farmer block is from the Electric Quilt library of quilt blocks. Isn't he adorable? The block and all of the hand applique on the quilt is by Debra Bauerle, whose work is exquisite. 

This block called Livestock is from Sod House Treasures and Other Nebraska Quilt Patterns by Jan Stehlik. We also used the Cottonwood block from Jan's book, which is a great resource if you're interested in quilt blocks with Nebraska significance.

One of the most famous quilts ever made in Nebraska is Grace Snyder's Petit Point Basket Quilt. It was based on the china pattern seen above. Diane Harris created and embroidered a block for Scarlet Sampler based on this design.

The new block is called Petit Point Redwork. It pays homage to Grace Snyder and to her remarkable contribution to Nebraska's quilting heritage. Read more about Grace Snyder. See an online exhibit of Grace's quilts from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum entitled Grace Snyder: A Life in Extraordinary Stitches.

What would a sampler be without a sewing machine? This one was made by Diane Harris.

Keri Wheeler pieced this Indian Arrowheads block to honor the Native Americans who inhabited Nebraska's prairies for centuries.

An eagle appliqued by Debra Bauerle suggests Nebraska's place in the United States of America. Another block on the quilt depicts an American flag.

We pay tribute to three significant Nebraska authors in the quilt. This original block by Jan Wilson honors Bess Streeter Aldrich, who wrote A Lantern in Her Hand, and its sequel, A White Bird Flying. We named this block Bess's Lantern. Read more about Bess Streeter Aldrich.

Author Mari Sandoz is recognized in this original Nebraska Sandhills block by Diane Harris. It features the rolling Sandhills terrain, a fence and a short, stout windmill. Read more about Mari Sandoz.

The charming church block does double duty in Scarlet Sampler, honoring author Willa Cather as well as our faith-based pioneer roots.

First, it resembles what is known locally as "the Dane Church" in Webster county. The Dane Church and cemetery are believed to be the prototypes for the Norwegian cemetery that refuses to bury Mr. Shimerda in My Ántonia by Willa Cather. Read more about Willa Cather.

Second, the church block represents the foundations of faith that many Nebraska pioneers practiced and cherished as they settled a harsh and sometimes unforgiving land.

Be sure to peek at the many applique blocks by Debra Bauerle. This one celebrates sand cherries, a Sandhills staple for Nebraska pioneers and for today's residents, too.

This traditional applique motif is also a favorite. It's one of the blocks we added to the quilt just because we thought it was beautiful.

The same is true of this Reel from the Electric Quilt block library.

Some foundation paper piecing helped us create odd shapes and sharp angles with ease. The block above was made by Keri Wheeler.

We further indicated our love for quilting with these little spools. So easy with stitch-and-flip!

Keri Wheeler outdid herself with this fancy star. That's a lot of points coming together at the center but she made it work.

To fit 149 blocks on the front of the quilt, some of them had to be small. The 4" blocks above and below were labors of love for our team.

Some of the 4" blocks are simple and some are more complex.

The many different kinds of baskets represent Nebraska's bounty in all things.

When you have an opportunity to view Scarlet Sampler, we hope you'll look closely at the symbolism we included. There are many layers of meaning in this piece, and perhaps even some yet to be discovered.

Would you like to have this quilt displayed at your Nebraska event? Please email us:

How to Keep Track of 150 Quilt Blocks, and Things We Actually Said

How do you keep track of 150 quilt blocks, six people and numerous deadlines? It took some creativity.

This is my original quilt sketch on a large piece of graph paper. I had to arrange and rearrange, count and recount, erase and re-erase.

I kept several spreadsheets saying who was making which blocks, and which blocks symbolized what. Jan Wilson was a walking encyclopedia of Nebraska history, and kept coming up with more ideas for the blocks. Eventually we had to say "good enough" and be satisfied that the quilt referred to Nebraska in distinct ways.

I kept a running list of things that went through my head as we progressed. Here are some of the best, and worst.
  1. I don't remember agreeing to this.
  2. I don't even like sampler quilts.
  3. Mary Ellen Hopkins said, "All reds clash well."
  4. You mean I don't get to keep this quilt???
  5. I am so sick of this quilt.
  6. We will never make the deadline.
  7. I am terrified that nobody will buy a ticket.
If you'd like to help me prove #7 wrong, please buy a ticket for this quilt.

If you'd like to have this quilt at your Nebraska event, let's talk. Please email us using 

Nebraska Football and the Big Red N

I couldn't imagine making a quilt about Nebraska and not including something about Big Red football.

At the same time, I didn't want this quilt to be about football, because our beloved Nebraska is so much more.

I thought long and hard about how to honor football on Scarlet Sampler.

I considered creating a bouquet of flowers. Then the leaves could double as footballs, since some leaves are actually shaped like footballs.

I wondered if I could stylize the big red N, and make it look like lightning or flower petals. I conjured up several other equally weird possibilities.

In the end I settled on paper piecing a stylish red N I designed myself in Electric Quilt. It's very small, just 4" x 4", so you have to really look for it. I challenge you to find it!

I'm pleased with this addition to Scarlet Sampler. We've honored football and its place in the culture of our state, and we've maintained the quilt's traditional beauty. I think you'd call that a touchdown!

Where are the Cranes?

A quilt about Nebraska just wouldn't be complete without a nod to our beloved Sandhill Cranes. I kicked around many ideas about how to include them, and in the end I decided on the simple half-square triangles in red that surround the quilt center. I think it's a fitting tribute.

Learn more on Nebraska Flyway and Crane Trust.

Scarlet Sampler: Finishing Touch

What's on the back of Scarlet Sampler? Well, a couple of really cool things.

There are 149 blocks on the quilt front, but the real climax of this quilt is the 150th block that lives on the back. It's a 38" Nebraska Windmill. Look closely at the areas of light red—each one is the shape of Nebraska. The dark red shapes are the same shape in mirror image. Totally ingenious!

This block was designed by E. S. "Bud" Dunklau for the Lincoln Quilters' Guild's Nebraska Block Contest in 1977. It earned first prize and became the official Nebraska state quilt block by virtue of a legislative resolution introduced by State Senator Shirley Marsh. Read more on the state historical society's website.

I purchased the backing fabric at The Quilter's Cottage in downtown Kearney. I chose it because the colors and the scale were perfect.

But when I looked at it more closely, I was delighted to find little scissor motifs. I can't imagine anything more appropriate for a quilt back.

I made the quilt label in MS Word and printed it on printer-ready fabric from Electric Quilt Company. The font is Harrington. It reads:

Scarlet Sampler

Designed and made by

Diane Harris, Keri Wheeler,
Debra Bauerle,
Jan Wilson and Glenda Herz

To benefit

Nebraska State Quilt Guild

Nebraska celebrates 150 years of statehood
 in 2017. This quilt contains 150 blocks
symbolic of Nebraska's history and
heritage. For details, visit

The quilt's eventual owner may wish to add another label with his or her name and the rest of the story.