Nancy Kerns
Award Winning Quilter

After catching up with award winning Quilting Artist Nancy Kerns, we were quite impressed with her detailed approach to reconstructing Baltimore Album quilts. Apparently we weren't the only ones, as the American Quilter’s Society judges were also impressed.

But more about her awards, her journey in quilting, what Baltimore Album quilts are, her passion for fabric collection and categorization, and much, more as we sit down with Nancy Kerns for our Conversations on Fine Crafts and Arts.

We met Nancy at her new house in Maryland about a month (July) after she just moved into it (June 2011).

--Click thumbnails for larger image--

Greetings Nancy, and thanks for agreeing to our Featured Artist interview.

To start, please tell us about your primary Art interest?

Nancy Kerns,Mary Simon,quilt,Baltimore albumAlthough I have quilted in many different styles, my primary focus has been the reproduction of Baltimore Album quilts. In addition to reproducing these quilts, I am passionate about the aesthetic beauty that comes with hand sewing these quilts.

What are Baltimore Album Quilts?

Baltimore Album Quilts were made in Baltimore, Maryland around 1846 through 1853. They are appliquéd quilts (applying a piece of fabric by sewing it onto a base as opposed to piecing where the quilter joins pieces). The word "Album" in Baltimore Album quilts refers to a collection of blocks. Usually there are no two blocks the same in the quilt.

The blocks of these quilts include many symbols such as:

  • Red woven baskets (pictured)Nancy Kerns,Mary Simon, quilt,Baltimore album
  • The language of flowers,
  • Monuments to honor fallen soldiers (Mexican-American war era)
  • Christmas cactus
  • Birds and butterflies
  • Cornucopia
  • Two Blue Eagles – War memorials
  • Capital buildings
  • Lithographs from newspapers of the time
  • Album books – representing signature albums (pictured)Nancy Kerns,Mary Simon, quilt,Baltimore album

How did you get started? Tell us about your journey in this art form.

When I was about 8 years old, I went to a fabric store with my mother. My mother parked me by the remnants table while she did her shopping. She said I could have one piece, but of course I wanted of each. This carries on to this day where I want a piece of almost every fabric I see - because quilters collect fabric.

At an early age, I learned to crewel embroidery, make yo-yos, knit, crochet, and needle point.

I went to a California State Fair while in college and saw quilts. At that point I decided I really wanted to quilt. I first started doing patchwork quilting on a machine. Later I began to get more and more into doing everything by hand. Although it takes longer, the look that the handwork gives you, I don’t feel like the machine can duplicate. The heirloom quality of handwork is exceptional.

Sometimes in my handwork, I still may use a machine a little to sew long straight seams between blocks, and my first round of the binding may be attached by machine. But I almost always hand quilt any hand appliquéd quilt that I make.

I get my best work done while I’m in my own home. But I do like to socialize while quilting as well. I’ve recently been invited to join an invitational quilting group that only does handmade work.

Have you won any awards, competitions, or recognitions for quilting?

Probably my biggest award and recognition has been for my Mary Simon Rediscovered quilt. The American Quilters Society awarded that quilt the "Best Hand Workmanship" award for 2010.

What do you like best about Quilting?

For me the contests have never been a primary goal. Actually seeing the design come alive is the most fulfilling part.

Also finding that perfect fabric for that leaf of flower pedal is very rewarding. (see Nancy's Fabric Room below)

Which is your favorite quilt?

Nancy Kerns,Mary Simon, quilt,Baltimore albumOf the three Baltimore Album Quilts, the Mary Simon Rediscovered is my favorite (pictured at top). Although it took nearly a decade to complete, the research, fabric matching, detailed blocks, and recognitions of this quilt have been a joy. And from that quilt, probably my favorite block is the Musical Instrument block (pictured).


Nancy Kerns,Roseville, quilt
One of my favorites earlier quilts is my Roseville quilt (pictured), from 2001, designed by Maggie Walker and named after Roseville pottery. I love the colors and learned a lot of techniques including creating shading and using a clear transparency technique (video below). It's interesting in the Roseville quilts how blocks overlap each other.


What can you tell us about your Fabric Stash?
(or better yet, show us)


Nancy uses a technique called needle turn where she uses here needle to tuck under the edge and stitch it down. Below, Nancy demonstrates the techniques of using "Clear Transparencies" and of "Turnings Points".


We hope you have enjoyed our conversations with Nancy Kerns - Award Winning Quilter. You can find more information about Nancy Kerns, view close-ups of her Mary Simon Rediscovered blocks, and read her quilting tips on the Nancy Kerns website.

And remember, go to fine craft and arts shows including the many Quilt shows, and to Brothers-Handmade.com, to:

"Come See What Amazing Things Your Neighbors Are Making"©



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