DRACUT — As Helen Rosenberger descended the stairs into her basement on Wednesday afternoon, a sign on a wall revealed the main purpose of the space: “Quilts this way” it reads, with an arrow pointing right.
The long, brick studio is where Rosenberger, a longtime quilter from Dracut, works on her craft. Spools of colorful thread are organized neatly on a wall and there are materials everywhere. A machine she uses for quilting takes up most of the space.
In a corner sat Rosenberger’s husband, Joseph.
“This is my apprentice,” Rosenberger said, pointing at her husband as he worked to lift fur from a quilt. “I have two Ragdoll cats and, the minute I put a quilt out, they lay on it.
“I’m the emergency help around here,” joked Joseph, who often helps his wife with small tasks in her studio. “It beats staying home, doing nothing. You just hang around the house, you go crazy.”
Rosenberger, 64, has made hundreds of quilts over the years, but one in particular is the focus of an upcoming international quilt show.
Rosenberger and her friend Mary O’Hearn-Seemann, of Lady Lake, Florida, were recently named semifinalists for the 2017 American Quilter’s Society QuiltWeek for their quilt, “Finished-4th of July.”
“Finished-4th of July,” which in April won second place in the Emerging Entrants category at the Machine Quilter’s Exposition Quilt Festival, will be displayed along with 272 others in the American Quilter’s Society contest.
The society is the largest quilting membership organization in the world, according to its website. First, second, and third place prizes in seven categories will be awarded, along with seven overall awards including Best of Show, in August at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“I think it’s amazing. I am shocked,” Rosenberger said of being named a semifinalist with O’Hearn-Seemann. “I did not expect to do anything with this but Mo’s (Mary’s nickname) quilt was beautiful.”
The women split the work to create the quilt that measures about 91 inches wide and 108 inches long. O’Hearn-Seemann said it took about a month to piece the quilt. She then turned it over to Rosenberger, who took care of batting — the filling of quilts with cotton or other material — and stitching the quilt together.
The result is a quilt bursting with blues, purples, yellows and greens (and more) and with an intricate patchwork of squares, semi circles and other shapes. O’Hearn-Seemann, 65, said the quilt has nearly 4,000 pieces.
“I think it’s beautiful,” O’Hearn-Seemann. “I’m stunned… maybe because I worked on it for so long. I just think it’s very, very pretty.”
Creativity and color are themes that run through the contest quilts this year, according to American Quilter’s Society Founder and President Meredith Schroeder.
“Regardless of whether the attendees enjoy traditional bed quilts or innovativie art quilts, there will be quilts for everyone to enjoy,” Schroeder said in a written statement.
On Wednesday, Rosenberger wore her love for quilts. On her ears hung glass blown blue spool earrings shaped in spools and on her neck, more colorful spools pieced together in a necklace. Her metallic grey hair had blue and purple streaks in it — Rosenberger’s attempt to “punk rock” herself.
Her eyes lit up when she was asked what she loved about quilting.
“I wake up quilting, I go to bed quilting, I quilt every single day,” she said. “It is therapy, it’s very educational… you’re always learning.”