Back to Top

Penny McMorris and the International Quilt Museum’s 25th Anniversary

Posted 06-28-2022 by Janice | Posted in: EQ News and Press Just Because

Over the years, many of you have had the pleasure of interacting with our cofounder, Penny McMorris, either at quilt shows or when you called in to our support line with a question. And many of you also know the story of how Penny and Dean created the first version of Electric Quilt (if you don’t, you can learn more about it here). But did you know how Penny helped to support contemporary quilt artists and about her contributions to the creation of the International Quilt Museum?

The International Quilt Museum is home to the world’s largest publicly held quilt collection with the mission to build a global collection and audience that celebrate the cultural and artistic significance of quilts. The IQM was established in June 1997 when Ardis and Robert James donated nearly 1,000 quilts to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is celebrating their 25th anniversary this month! Penny was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 25th anniversary celebration and also contributed to the catalog of the museum’s 25th anniversary show.

Watch Penny’s keynote speech on Facebook

Penny McMorris Speaking at the International Quilt Museum’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, May 2022.

The International Quilt Museum is especially near and dear to this EQ employee’s heart as it was one of the places that supported my doctoral dissertation research when I was a graduate student. So I was thrilled to learn more about Penny’s connections to the IQM and to share that information with you!

Penny’s love of quilting started when she was little. She says “I remember when quite young playing with fabric and being fascinated with the effect caused by putting one print fabric next to another.” Penny made her first quilts in the 1960s, inspired by the arts and crafts movement and magazines that featured quilts and patchwork clothing: “By the late 1960s, as a few quilts began appearing in Vogue and home décor magazines, along with patchwork clothing, I was already interested in both antique quilts and art history, so my interest in seeing if my contemporaries were making quilts felt natural.”

She quickly realized that what excited her the most was “seeing, and showing others, what other quiltmakers were creating…thanks to Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine (first published in 1969) I was able to discover new work by dozens of artists I admired and ask them for slides.”

Cover of the catalog for Penny’s exhibition, Ohio Patchwork 76: An Exhibit of Contemporary Ohio Quilts. Courtesy of Bowling Green State University’s Center for Archival Collections, pUA 1956.

Penny really wanted to see these new contemporary quilts in person, so she organized a quilt show, called Ohio Patchwork ’76, in Bowling Green, OH: “I was so eager to see new work by my contemporaries that I thought if I (and my assistant, my 10 year old daughter Erin) could create an exhibition for quilts made in the previous 5 years, and limit it to Ohio residents so the task would not overwhelm me, that I would find artist quilt makers. So, I got an NEA grant, with assistance from a BGSU History Professor. The show opened at the Bowling Green State University Art Gallery. And with the help of the Ohio Department of Travel and Tourism I found other venues in Columbus, Dayton, and Cleveland. I chose about 25 quilts myself from the entries I received. That was how I first saw quilts by Nancy Crow and other young artists who I later got to know well.”

In the hopes of sharing contemporary quilt artists with as many people as possible, Penny pitched the idea of a TV show to the local PBS station, WBGU. A year later the station gave her the green light and Penny got to share these quilts and artists with an even larger audience! “The 1981 series had 26 shows, and the 1991 series had 13. After I got over my complete terror of the TV cameras, I loved every minute of planning the shows, and interviewing artists and historians, like traveling to Lawrence, Kansas to talk to Barbara Brackman about her then new Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns (3rd edition now available from EQ). The local PBS station making the shows, WBGU-TV, was amazing. They never said no to any idea. So we traveled all over the country talking to quilt makers, and taping them at work, and that was really my favorite part. I was amazed that quilt interest was spreading world-wide, so the shows aired in Great Britain, Australia, and Japan.”

Penny McMorris hosting Great American Quilt on local PBS station, WBGU-TV.

Check out some of Penny’s episodes of The Great American Quilt on WBGU’s YouTube!

Penny was first introduced to Robert (Bob) and Ardis James by quilt artist, Michael James (no relation). As the Corporate Art Curator for Owens-Corning Corporation, and through her various correspondence with quilt artists, Penny was well positioned to assist Robert and Ardis with their burgeoning collection of historic and contemporary quilts.

Penny says that she helped the Jameses purchase approximately 100 quilts from roughly 25 artists and remembers their meetings fondly, “It was almost always Ardis I’d meet with. I’d fly to New York City, take the train to Chappaqua, be met by Ardis at the station and driven to their home. She was a delightful woman, very good-humored, generous, open to new ideas and wanting to share her love of quilts with others, and in so doing perhaps inspire them to begin collecting. In between our visits we shared letters and slides by mail, including New Yorker cartoons she would send…. I remember the fun Dean and I had because of their generosity. They began sponsoring a dinner for all the artists attending the opening of each Quilt National in Athens, Ohio, and always included us. It was a great and fun way to meet new artists and see old friends, as well as meet with Ardis and Bob.”

Of the many pieces that she assisted Robert and Ardis in acquiring, Penny says she has three favorites, all of which are now a part of the collections at the International Quilt Museum: Dashboard Saints: In Memory of St. Christopher (who lost his magnetism) by Terrie Mangat, The Women: Mask Face Quilt #1 and The Men: Mask Face Quilt #2 both by Faith Ringgold.

Dashboard Saints by Terrie Mangat

Terrie Mangat, Dashboard Saints: In Memory of St. Christopher (who lost his magnetism), 1985. Made in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cotton; machine pieced, hand appliqued, reverse appliqued, embroidered, transfer print. Ardis and Robert James Collection, IQM 1997.007.1093.

The Women: Mask Face Quilt #1 by Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold, The Women: Mask Face Quilt #1, 1986. Made in New York, New York. Cotton; painted, machine pieced. Ardis and Robert James Collection, IQM 1997.007.1082.

The Men: Mask Face Quilt #2 by Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold, The Men: Mask Face Quilt #2, 1986. Made in New York, New York. Cotton; painted, machine pieced. Ardis and Robert James Collection, IQM 1997.007.1083.

Carolyn Ducey, the Ardis B. James Curator of Collections at the International Quilt Museum, sums up Penny’s impact on the contemporary quilt movement, “Penny McMorris’ impact on the studio quilt movement is immeasurable. She recognized the quality of work created by giants in the quilt world. Pauline Burbidge, Nancy Crow, Michael James, Therese May, and Jan Myers-Newbury are just a few of the artists whose work Penny suggested for the Ardis and Robert James Collection. Penny helped create opportunities for these artists that enabled them to continue their creative work at an early, pivotal time in their career and launched them on a national stage. The team of Penny McMorris and Robert and Ardis James were the first studio art collectors and their influence is easily recognized still today.”

To hear more of Penny’s stories and learn more about Robert and Ardis James and their impact on quilt history and contemporary quilt artists, you can watch a recording of her keynote address during the IQM’s 25th anniversary celebration.

If you want to learn even more about the founding of the IQM and the James collection (with mentions of Penny), you can also watch this discussion between curator Carolyn Ducey, former director Patricia Cox Crews, Ann Dillow Crowley, and Merikay Waldvogel.

Faith Ringgold’s quilts on display in the “An Evolving Vision: From the Studio” exhibition of quilts from the Ardis and Robert James Collection. Courtesy of the International Quilt Museum.

Finally, the IQM has put many of the key works collected by Robert and Ardis on display. If you cannot visit the show and the quilts in-person, you can view it virtually on the museum’s website.

Have you been to the International Quilt Museum, or do you remember watching Penny’s shows on PBS? Tell us about your experiences and memories in the comments!

EQ8 Block Spotlight: Fan Dance 3

Posted 06-10-2022 by Jenny | Posted in: EQ8 Block Spotlight

Welcome to the EQ8 Block Spotlight series! Each month we highlight a block from the EQ8 Block Library with a few design ideas. Then we want you to show us what you can do with the block. If you’re a brand new EQ8 user, I hope you’ll join in the fun! This monthly series is great motivation to dig into the software and practice your new EQ8 skills. And if you’ve been using EQ8 for a while, I hope these posts will inspire you to try something new! This month’s block: Fan Dance 3 Where to find it: 02 Contemporary Pieced > Fans Design ideas to get you started This first design uses a Horizontal Strip quilt layout. The fan blocks are set in alternating Pieced Blocks and Half Drop Blocks strips. The fabric used in this quilt is the Floradora collection by Jen Hewett for Ruby Star Society and

Freedom Road – Winner Announced!

Posted 06-01-2022 by Olivia | Posted in: Congratulations

Thank you to everyone who participated in May’s design challenge! You all incorporated the Freedom Road fabrics in your designs so well! Winner One winner was selected randomly. Congratulations to…. Winner: Gail Kling “Freedom [Road] is a lovely collection of fabrics. This is a fitting collection for this month of May when we celebrate Memorial Day.” - Gail Kling Thanks again to all who participated in this challenge. If you’re looking for another chance to win fabric, check out June’s design challenge!

EQ Design Challenge & Giveaway – Wild

Posted 06-01-2022 by Olivia | Posted in: Contests

Summer is almost here, and boy do we have some beautiful fabric for you to celebrate with! June’s Fabric of the Month is Wild by Brett Lewis of Natural Born Quilter for Northcott! In his third collection for Northcott, Brett continues to showcase his love for nature’s flora and fauna, highlighting an untamed forest in vibrant colors evocative of the Northern Lights. A bundle of these fabrics will be given away to two lucky winners! Submit your EQ design featuring Wild below…all instructions and contest details are in this post. Good luck! To enter In order to enter for the giveaway you must submit a quilt using the current Fabric of the Month AND comment on at least one other person’s quilt you like by the end of the month. If you’re the first person to submit a quilt, make sure to come back and comment on someone else’s quilt before the contest ends. Instructions for how to submit an image are at the bottom of this

Do You EQ Too?

Posted 06-01-2022 by Olivia | Posted in: Do You EQ Too

We, here at the Electric Quilt Company, are nothing without our AMAZING community of users! If we’ve learned anything these past 30 years, it’s that our customers are some of the most creative and talented quilters around! Each month, we want to take the time to spotlight an amazing EQ user we’ve noticed. Share your EQ story in the comments below for a chance to be considered! Tell us your story! Maybe you used EQ8 to lay out a Block of the Month for your quilt group! Or maybe you used it to design a special quilt for a graduate in your life, new mother, or memory quilt. Whatever your story is, we’d love to hear it! We will select a different quilter each month that we’ve seen either here on the blog or on social media. How can I participate? To be considered, write a brief comment below and attach an

Design & Discover – Gradient Quilts

Posted 06-01-2022 by Heidi | Posted in: Design & Discover

This year’s QuiltCon 2023 Community Outreach Challenge is to create quilts that show a color shift, or gradient, in the piecing. This is a fun challenge to play with in EQ8 because it’s easy to add gradated colors, and of course, play with lots of different design ideas! Open EQ8 and click Design a quilt from scratch Click the DESIGN tab > Fabric Tools > Colors tab Click the three dots  and choose Add Colors… Click Define Custom Colors >>> The dark-teal RGB value is: R: 24 G: 78 B: 119 Enter those numbers as shown. Click Add to Custom Colors. Click OK Repeat for these other three colors. The lime-green RGB value is: R: 217 G: 237 B: 146 The eggplant-purple RGB value is: R: 70 G: 17 B: 106 The pink RGB value is: R: 234 G: 105 B: 139 Scroll to the end of all your colors

May 2022 Lessons with Yvonne–Spring Is In The Air

Posted 05-15-2022 by Yvonne | Posted in: EQ8 EQ8 Lessons with Yvonne Favorite Posts

Let’s celebrate Spring!  I am trying to be positive, it is still snowing where I live.  I really want Spring. 1. Double Click on the EQ8 Icon on your desktop and launch the program.  When the program opens, click on the New Project icon  and name the new project ‘Spring Is In The Air’.  Click on the OK at the bottom of the box. 2.  Click on the block worktable icon on the upper right side of the screen.  Click on NEW BLOCK>Pieced and Applique>Easy + Applique at the top of the screen. 3.  At the top of the screen, click on LIBRARIES>Block Library. 4.  In the block library box, click on search>by notecard.  Type in the search word ‘tulips’. Click on the word ‘search’ at the bottom of the box. Click on the OK in the search results box. 5.  Scroll over in the box until you find the

Page 1 »