It’s All About Texture in Her Quilts: Meet Sue Rasmussen…plus a giveaway

Texture can be achieved in many forms and, in the art world, it often results from the way in which materials are used. Some quilters introduce embellishments such as beads, buttons, ribbons, or embroidery stitches to add that rich “I just want to touch it” look to their work. Adding visual texture through fabric and quilting designs requires a trained eye in making fabric choices and a creative and skilled hand with quilting stitches.

When we chose “texture” as the theme for this month’s posts, I thought of Sue Rasmussen and her stunning, award-winning work. She has mastered the art of combining fabric and machine quilting to give the visual texture to her work that causes many of us to ask “how did you do that?”

I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Sue at a retreat last summer. I’m delighted to share her thoughts and work with you.

What brought you to quilting?

I think fate played a huge part in my career as a quilter. When I was 10 years old, I was waiting at the Monterey County Fair to show my horse, and my father took me inside the Exposition Hall. A woman was demonstrating a machine that could actually make buttonholes by simply turning a dial on the front of the machine! I had never before seen a sewing machine in my life. I am sure no one in my family had ever touched a needle, let alone a sewing machine. I was fascinated, and glued to the floor. Finally, after several fruitless attempts to get me moving, my father asked me if I wanted it. He bought me everything: the table, the chair, all the attachments, and a brand new Bernina as my first sewing machine! I taught myself how to sew and three years later, I made my first quilt. I later graduated with a degree in Textile Sciences from UC Davis.

As a young adult, working full time in Corporate May Co, I quilted in my spare time. I made quilts for gifts, took a few classes, and began to win local awards. My local quilt shop, The Quilt Emporium, soon asked me to teach classes for them. As a ‘full time mom’ of two boys, I quilted, lectured, taught, and competed professionally.

What kind of quilts do you make?

Primarily, I make machine-pieced quilts, although I will make a fused quilt every now and then for charities. I do almost no handwork besides a few embellishments. My real quilt passion is curved pieced landscape and pictorial quilts. I took assorted landscape classes 15 -20 years ago, and when I took a workshop from Ruth McDowell, I became hooked on her piecing technique. I like the clean edge of a pieced image rather than those attained through raw edge, glued, or fused quilts, and I prefer the soft hand of a pieced quilt. I have been creating and showing my pieced landscapes for nearly 25 years, and teaching for over 10 years.

Winter’s Approach by Sue Rasmussen
Poipu Point by Sue Rasmussen

How do you attain texture in your quilts?

Texture is an extremely important design element for pictorial and landscape quilts. In my quilts, the fabric choices and the machine quilting create the texture. I began, professionally, 24 years ago as a machine quilter and teacher. As a teacher, I am constantly reflecting on the choices I make to give my quilts the desired texture.  The machine-quilting stitches are an integral element of my quilts, adding the visual texture and dimensional aspects of the piece.

Grizzly Bear by Sue Rasmussen

I view the quilting as a secondary quilt layer, as important as the pieced work itself, which–if taken and viewed separately on a white piece of fabric–would be considered a significant quilt in and of itself. The machine quilting must complement the design, adding texture to the Grizzly Bear ’s fur and dimension to the roughness of the tree trunks in Poipu Point. Thread choices are very important, and I do most of my quilting with Aurifil Threads, for whom I am a specialist.

Equally important, is the texture implied by the fabric. Fabrics are generally flat and one dimensional, but the right fabric choices can visually “imply” texture with the color and pattern. Multicolored fabrics suggest more visual texture than solids or fabrics with little pattern, and can create in the viewer’s mind a texture that is solely imagined, such as the fractured granite in the Mountain Lion or the smooth, marble-like texture of the cement arches of the Colorado Street Bridge.

What is your favorite part of quilting?

I love auditioning and choosing the fabrics. Seeing the pieces come together to build the quilt, then watching the design or image come to life, gives me great pleasure. I’m always thrilled and happy to watch a quilt like the Grizzly Bear or the forest in Winter’s Approach come to life.

Textured fabrics.
Textured fabrics.

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As I build the design up on the wall, adding a piece, sometimes removing it to try another. The quilt will take a surprising and gratifying turn. My excitement and anticipation are almost more than I can stand. I will happily work way into the late hours or will spend a solitary weekend in my studio working on a project. I make every quilt as if it were for me, choosing fabrics and images or patterns that I love. In this way, every quilt I make shows a part of me and a bit of my personality in it. I hope my quilts reflect that to the public or to the new owner.

Detail showing beautiful fabric choices and quilting used on Winter’ s Approach

What is your least favorite part of quilting?

Hmmm… I guess finishing the quilt. After I have machine quilted it, I have mentally moved onto the next quilt project, and the binding, quilt sleeve, and label seem tedious to me. In fact, I often trade my machine quilting with my friend Judy L. who does all the finishing for me. I honestly view myself as the winner in this deal.

 What do you enjoy the most about being a professional quilter?

Quite simply, I enjoy thoroughly the interaction with my students. I LOVE to teach. I love seeing the “aha!! moment” in their eyes when they have learned something or   accomplish something that before has eluded them. I take teaching very seriously. It’s my job. I have nearly endless patience and sincere encouragement for my students, and I always try to bring humor and enthusiasm to my classes.

What do you do in your free time? 

Sue and Ellie

I raise and train Golden Retrievers. I have been involved with this breed for over 30 years. My dogs are all obedience, conformation, agility, and therapy dogs. They are a fun, loving and active breed, always happy and energetic, and I take my outlook on life from them. In fact, occasionally, when my sewing machine acts up, and I say a few mean things to it in a rather harsh voice, my little girl Ellie is instantly by my side with tail wagging and a reassuring lick to soothe and calm me down. What better friend could you ask for?

Quilting 101

Sue has recently written and self-published her book, Quilting 101: What Every Quilter Should Know. Her book explains everything from machine needles, threads, battings, pins, and marking tools to home-sewing-machine maintenance. She shares a wealth of information not only in quilting, but in textile science in this informational book. It is a wonderful reference guide, assisting quilters who are interested in the details of making top-quality quilts. Sue has generously donated a signed copy of her book for one of our readers. Simply leave a comment letting us know how you feel you could benefit from this book. I will announce the winner in my next post on July 10th. To purchase a copy, simply e-mail Sue at sueqltrat@yahoo.com.

Thank you Sue for sharing your time and quilts with us. To learn more about Sue, view her body of work, and check her schedule of workshops, please visit her at www.SueRasmussenQuilts.com. She will be filming four segments for The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims this August in Montana and invites you to view them in 2013.

Happy Sewing Everyone!

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41 thoughts on “It’s All About Texture in Her Quilts: Meet Sue Rasmussen…plus a giveaway

  1. I just packed up my household in Germany and tucked all of my precious well-hoarded pieces in fresh cardboard boxes. I left my Bernina for the year and all of my sewing implements and inspiration (so it feels). We have relocated to Riverside, CA for the year and on one of my first outings on my bike (transport for the year) my eye was drawn to a local quilt shop which I quickly tucked into and felt as though I had entered an oasis (it was 90+ outside too). The colorful world of fabric and quilters made me feel right at home. The truth being, I haven’t lived in the US in over 16 years. All of my years of quilting (except the beginner days -learning with another Mom between our children’s naps) have been overseas and I have always felt intimidated or not been in a place to join a quilt guild or group of quilters. So, all this to say, I’ve missed out on all the good learning that takes place with other quilters. We are a unique, creative, committed, “passionate about our art” kind of people. I realize I have a long way to go to be proficient in any one genre of quilting, as I’ve dabbled in many and abandoned projects along the way- due to lack of know-how or inspiration. But I thank Laura, Dara, Christie and Jennifer for inspiring me along the way with their blog and creative work and introducing me to their mentors such as Sue Rasmussen.

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  2. I especially love the Grizzly Bear quilt and am intrigued by the detail shown of Winter’s Approach. I love collecting snippets of textured fabrics; it’s especially fun to use them in unexpected ways, like flower petals as feathers. It sounds like everyone could benefit from this book! In my case, because learned to sew on my own, I know I’m missing many of the basics. Thanks for the chance to win — and for telling us about this book!

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  3. Hey bloggers, Thanks for all your kind comments. Truth has it, I owe all of my landscape quilting knowledge to Ruth McDowell, Ruth McDowell is a one of a life time landscape and pictorial quilt artist. Ruth McDowell has several outstanding books about landscape and pictorial quilting published with C & T Publishing. These are outstanding books you should have in your library.

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  4. I am glad Sue has self published this book. We need more books that explain the “whys” of our quilting and how to address those things we are not pleased with.

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  5. I think this would be a great resource to better learn my machine and any hints at better sewing/quilting is always welcomed!

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  6. I, too. have a dog who calms me during those frustrating times. Molly my springer is by my side as I write this keeping me company.

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  7. I would love to own this book as I think it would be a valuable asset in learning to create landscape art ,there is so much I would love to learn. Thanks for the chance .

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  8. I like the idea of having a reference to help me to learn how to pick the right needles and products for my projects, as I begin to get into art quilting. I have short term memory so having a book that I can use time and again to remind me of the rules and ways to improve my quilting skills, would be wonderful.

    Debbie

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  9. This has been a very interesting post about Sue Rasmussen and her landscapes quilts. I really love the look of her quilts and would love to do some myself. Her book would be a great help in learning how to go about trying landscape quilts. I would also like to say that this is a great blog site and I will be coming here to view the blogs from now on. Thanks for the chance to win Sue’s book. Diana in Canada

    I

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  10. I am an old sewer but a relativly new quilter afterr retiring last June. I am learning so much form blogs and quilt magazines. But your book would be a great addition to my my learning library.

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  11. I’d love to learn more and living in Canada and not having access to most of the teachers in the US, a great book would go a long way !

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  12. I’m about to leave my “incubating” period and finally start to create some landscape quilts – I’ve only done one small one in a class. And I love piecing better than raw edge. I would love to read – and use – Sue’s hints!

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  13. Every one of your posts are inspiring, but this one was even more so for me. I think because I have been trying to break out of stitching only in the ditch. Thank you so much for the beautiful photos. The interview was a lovely read, too.

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  14. i have purchased the perfect fabric for some tree landscape textured projects. But here I am 3 years later and still have not started anything. You are an inspiration! I actually have pulled out my fabric and am excited to try this!

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  15. now matter what level or experience quilter, there is always room for improvement, and it is always helpful to have a good basic quilting guidelines book to refer back to and refresh the memory. Would love to have the book for her expertise. beautiful landscape quilting

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  16. I would love to win this book! It has a wealth of information for all quilters. I’m especially interested in her piecing technique. Thanks for the opportunity!

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  17. I would love to win this book! I am a chicken when it comes to the quilting part of a quilt…perhaps this book might help me expand my horizons!?

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  18. I can learn something every quilter, and could learn many things from Quilting 101 book by Sue. I love how she quilts the naturescapes.

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  19. Wow loved the quilts and the quilting I am not at this level but will enjoy the journey to get my quilts to sing. Thank you for helping us on our journey. Quilters are such open and sharing souls.

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  20. I have a landscape quilt designed in my mind of one of my favorite running places. Hopefully, receiving Sue’s book would give me the tools to start making my dream quilt.

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  21. I feel like you have introduced me to a new friend.
    I have wanted to attempt this new skill. I love 101 instructions guides
    as they speeak to my level.
    Thank you for sharing Sue with us today. I am ready to go sew now!

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  22. Sue’s quilts are beautiful and I would love to receive her book as I have been collecting fabrics to make a landscape quilt and could use some guidance.

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  23. Sue Rasmussen is an amazing quilter, and a genuine, nice, talented lady. She teaches often at places such as Asilomar. She is in my group of “Extreme Quilters” in southern California. I plan on buying her book for sure. Can’t wait to see her on TQS!!! Gayle Simpson http://www.gaylesimpson.com

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  24. I’m a fairly new machine quilter and would love to win this book. I live in France, where there just aren’t many opportunities for classes, so I’ve never had a machine-quilting lesson. This book would most definitely be a mine of information for me!

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  25. As a relatively new quilter, I am always looking for chances to learn from more experienced master quilters. Sue’s book looks like a must-have for my quilting library! Thanks, Laura, for introducing all of us to Sue Rasmussen!

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  26. Any new pointers or refreshers I can pick up are always most welcome. I absolutely love Sue’s pieced landscape pieces, and would love to know more about the technical aspects of her process. Thanks!

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  27. love the blog seehowwesew and all the special people (and calming pets) and the new techniques that are shared. sue’s website is a good one; love her quilting and special quilts. would love her book; is it available in the stores or just through her website?

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  28. What a great post Laura! Sue’s book looks wonderful and would be a great addition to my resource library. Thanks for the opportunity to win her book. Connie in California

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  29. I can always use a refresher on the quilting basics and would love a copy of this book for reference. This book should be especially good since it is written by a quilter that does lots of teaching. Thanks!

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  30. I have to agree that fused quilts are a bit flat but all the piecing does look intimidating. Perhaps a copy of the book and a simpler pattern might be the way to start. Thanks

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    1. Hi Elle,
      Thank you for your comment. I really enjoyed talking to Laura. It’s a wonderful blog!
      I must tell you that my book, Quilting 101-What Every Quilter Should Know is not a book on this technique of pieced landscapes or a machine quilting book, but rather an in depth informational, educational book with definitions and explanations as to why things happen in your quilts and gives you the knowledge so those mistakes can be avoided. It is for ALL levels, not just for new quilters.It’s the book you keep next to the sewing machine.
      I am in the process of writing a book on the pieced landscapes, and I hope that a publisher will pick it up. Thank you again.

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