HJ/EDJune 12, 2006

Dassel woman enjoys applique quilting

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Mary Ann Harkman of Dassel is thrilled by all the new techniques enhancing the accuracy of quilting today.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” she said she asked herself, whenever a new technique was introduced. “It speeded up your basic quilt making.”

The rotary cutters, mats and excellent rulers make piecing a quilt together so much easier, Harkman said.

Harkman first started quilting in 1978, when a friend from a medical clinic in which she worked in Buffalo invited her to a quilting class in Waconia. Harkman sewed often and made her children’s clothes. Making quilts was different and that intrigued her, she said.

During the ‘70s quilters didn’t have the tools they have now, though. They used cardboard templates, traced on the back side of the fabric, and sewed by hand, Harkman said.

She remembers her first quilt well. It was maroon, black, green and peach-colored, and had a Southwestern-style design.

Later, she discovered applique quilting, and that quickly became her favorite.

“I have many applique quilts started. It’s all handwork,” she said.

Harkman uses a fine needle and thread because applique pieces are very small compared to regular quilt squares.

“They’re a lot of fun to do if you have the patience. There are so many different techniques with applique,” Harkman said.

One of her quilting teachers, from when she and her husband, Harlan, lived in Phoenix, said to trace the pattern on freezer paper, for example. Then iron the freezer paper to the fabric and trace around it, she said.

Because applique quilting involves smaller pieces, this technique improves the accuracy significantly, Harkman said.

One of the most difficult quilts she ever made was an applique miniature quilt. Because it was a miniature quilt, the applique pieces were even tinier than usual, she said.

The miniature quilt and its folk art design was made into a wall hanging.

Harkman doesn’t do much applique quilting during the summer because she spends a lot of her time gardening. She finishes up on quilts she already started and gets quilts ready for the county fair. Harkman has won several first place and grand champion awards in Wright and Meeker county fairs.

Harkman has four sewing machines set up in her sewing room at their home in Collinwood Township, where they moved in 2002 from Fifth Street in Dassel. She currently is making a quilts for two grandchildren as gifts for when they graduate from high school, she said.

Harkman advises beginning quilters to have patience, cut and piece the quilt together as accurately as possible, and most importantly, attend a class with a teacher nearby. Beginning quilters always have lots of questions, she said.

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