Quilting can be fine art, it can be utilitarian and it can be quick and fun.
Billie Lauder believes in quick and fun quilting. The nationally known teacher and author brought her special techniques to a retreat of the Shoofly Quilters Labor Day weekend.
Lauder is proud to be a third-generation quilter.
"My mother's family homesteaded in Montana, so my grandmother made quilts out of necessity and my mother learned from her. I have been quilting all my life," Lauder said.
She has been teaching quilting since 1976.
For Lauder quilting "is the past, the present and the future." The past is her learning from her grandmother and mother. The present is her current teaching of her students. And the future is the people who will pass on the knowledge of what they have learned from her to others.
Lauder has a knack for making quilting easy for all levels of quilters. She loves to develop "Quick Trick" methods of quilt construction. A traditional quilter with a twist, she loves to get quilters jazzed and excited to try a new technique for construction or look at something old in a new way.
She began writing and designing books in 1998.
"I was teaching quilting in the adult education system and people would ask for patterns and I would just give them out."
After an appearance on the HGTV show "Simply Quilts," people would write to her for the patterns and she would mail them.
"I sort of became a pattern company."
Finally, she was getting so many requests she couldn't keep up with them and began publishing.
With 24 books published by EasyMade Publications over the last several years, Lauder has a vast library to draw upon for her workshops and lectures.
In addition to pushing her into publishing, the "Simply Quilts" appearance helped Lauder launch her lecture tour, which continues to take her all over the world.
Lauder's retreat with the Shoofly Quilters was for a mystery quilt project. During the last few months she has sent participants directions for the fabrics they would need at the retreat.
"It involved searching through not only our local store (Quilter's Outpost), but through quilt stores all over the state," said one of the retreat participants. Each set of fabrics was placed in an "evidence bag" -- a plastic storage bag with a zipper-style closure -- and each bag was assigned a number.
"The sewing machine and rotary cutter are the weapons. The fabrics are the felons and the cuts they make are the clues," Lauder said.
As the quilters advance in the steps they get suspects and can solve the mystery, she said.
Anyone can do a mystery quilt using either of two of Lauder's books, found on easymade.com -- "A Quilt Detective's Handbook" and "Locked Up in Chains Mystery Quilt Series."
The first book has the weapons and clues in the first half, with the solutions in the back. It includes the mystery quilts "The Case of Crossing Squares"; "Downtown Quilter"; "Patchy Churn"; "Flamingo Gathering"; "Double Forgery"; and "Spinning Daggers."
"The longer it can be prolonged -- the solution -- the more fun it is for a group like this. Having it over the three-day weekend is perfect," Lauder said.
The Shoofly Quilters' project was one of the more complex patterns Lauder has designed.
One of the easiest quilts for beginners to do is the "rail fence" design, she said. It uses a light, medium and dark fabric combination in three strips sewn together to make a block, and then the blocks are put together in a horizontal and vertical pattern.
"You don't have to worry about seams matching up," she said.
Using the fundamental steps of a rail fence quilt, Lauder has designed a series of patterns that incorporate more detailed designs, such as a heart and a butterfly. She explains the technique and shares the patterns in her book, "Beyond The Rail Fence," in which she takes the reader through the steps of taking this quilt block and turning it into more than 24 different quilt tops.
One of the quilts Lauder brought with her to the retreat was her "Quilter's Dollhouse." The quilt is "four floors of paper-pieced rooms and furnishings" and it includes a sewing room and an attached garage. The rooms have delightful little embellishments to give them a character all their own.
The blueprints for the dollhouse quilt are in Lauder's book, "Build It Up" and it also includes steps for designing your own "floor plan" and decorating for the holiday.
Some of Lauder's other books are "4=1 Big Block Star Quilts"; "Bloomin's Beauties"; "Diamonds Can Be A Quilter's Best Friend"; "Going Postal Easy Fabric Postcards" -- fabric postcards for all occasions: holidays, birthdays, friendships and special occasions; "Guess Who's On My Quilt"; "It All Starts With A Square."
Lauder has made her home in California for many years, but is in the process of moving near Albuquerque, N.M.