From afar, Cynthia England's quilts look like paintings. The intricate detail and shading seems impossible to accomplish with something as indelicate as a pair of scissors and a sewing machine. But, as England will show Monday at her slideshow presentation, if you know the technique, nothing is impossible.
England is the inventor of the "picture-piecing" technique that she stumbled upon when she made a mistake and realized the mistake looked better than the correct method.
¤ Cynthia England presentation: "Creating a Pictorial Quilt" as part of the Delectable Mountain Quilter's Guild monthly meeting
¤ 6:30 p.m. Monday
¤ Steamboat Springs Community Center on 13th Street, next to Bud Werner Memorial Library
¤ $3 for nonmembers
On Monday, she will share the technique that begins with taking a photograph, tracing and enlarging details and organizing and numbering the fabric. In her quilt "Open Season," England was able to use 280 kinds of fabric without the eye getting confused.
"I think of myself as a camera," England said. "I mark the darks first and then the lights, and I make a color chart with all the fabrics. I give them all a number." Once the lights and darks are in place, she fills them in with intermediate values to create contrast.
On England's Web site, www.englanddesign.com, she has several free patterns with pictures of herself using the picture-piecing technique.
England used the technique in her best-known quilt, "Peace and Quiet." The piece was listed as one of the "Top 100 Quilts of the 20th Century" by a committee of quilting publication editors.
Pictorial quilts have become more popular in recent years as people have used them less as bed coverings.
"Now, quilts are less utilitarian and mainly seen as an expression," England said. "Making pictorial quilts is a lot more fun. It's not repetitive like sewing the same block over and over. You see the picture take shape as you're making it."
England still makes the occasional traditional quilt, but she noticed that when she added pictures to her quilts, she got a much better reaction from people.
"This hobby has taken me all over the world," she said. "I've given workshops in Taiwan, Japan and Mexico City. It's just gotten bigger and bigger. Now, I have a business out of my hobby, which I never meant to happen."