Creating Heirlooms

Often our other hobbies, or our jobs, influence our quilting. This is especially true of award winning quilter Susan Stewart. Susan has been in our magazine quite a bit, including being our “cover girl” for the November/December 2012 issue. Her unique quilt designs incorporate aspects of heirloom sewing techniques, and that’s no accident. I asked Susan to share with us how her background in heirloom sewing has influenced her quilting, and vice versa. Here’s what she said:

“I started sewing when I was five years old.


I made most of my own clothes from childhood on…

dress teenage

…and still do!

dress now

In 1998 (I was not yet quilting,) I discovered heirloom sewing, and fell in love with the laces, the fabrics, the delicate techniques.

pink dress

I made a career of it, teaching, writing, and designing. So, when the quilting bug bit me in around 2004, it was only natural that I would try to take these techniques and use them in my quilts!

Learning to make a quilt top was not a problem for me – it is just a big flat piece of embellished fabric! I knew how to sew Y-seams, how to accurately piece, how to appliqué. What I needed to do was teach myself what to do after the quilt was layered! So, with the help of Diane Gaudynski’s books and a lot of work, that’s what I did!

Here was the first quilt I made after I turned to this new-to-me task, Heirloom Dreams.
Heirloom Dreams

 You can really see the heirloom sewing influence here – puffing, shaped lace insertion, pinstitched bias appliqué, and of course, machine embroidery (which is the direction in which my quilting really took off.)

Heirloom Dreams detail

TulipFire is another example of a quilt in which I incorporated some heirloom sewing techniques – shaped lace and pintucks.

Tulip Fire

I had followed quilting for years, and brought some of those techniques, such as bias appliqué, into heirloom sewing…


…then back into quilting.

bias two

 Even the quilt on which I’m currently working has some of these heirloom elements
current quilt
I had given up doing a lot of heirloom sewing for several years, while working on my quilting with machine embroidery skills. But I’ve recently started doing more. So, in addition to my Craftsy class on The Machine Embroidery Inspired Quilt, I have two classes on heirloom sewing techniques:Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques, and Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques.”


Thank you so much Susan for sharing your beautiful work with us, both here and in the magazine!
To learn more about what Susan is up to, visit her blog. We can’t wait to see how the quilt shown above turns out, as well as how she continues to creatively merge heirloom sewing and quilting together.

3 Responses to Creating Heirlooms

  1. Fantastic and beautiful! I’m always filled with joy at living with such a fine lady, and getting to see her beautiful works each day! I’m a very blessed guy! Thank you for sharing her work for so many of us to enjoy in print! P.S., she’s a very fine cook too!!!!!

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