Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Meet my Guest Blogger - Dena Dale Crain

Today I am pleased to introduce Dena Dale Crain as my Guest Blogger. 

American, long time resident of Kenya, Dena lives on the shore of Lake Baringo, 200 miles north of Nairobi, in an area inhabited by some of the world's most wonderful birds, venomous snakes, monitor lizards, crocodiles, lungfish and hippos. Life there is never boring! 

Dena holds advanced degrees in design and textiles. She taught seven online quilt classes for Quilt University from 2004 to 2013 and more recently opened QuiltEd.com, her own online quilt class site offering the same courses and more. From her home in rural Africa, Dena teaches design through symmetry, innovative quilting from built-up layers of improvisation, and art quilting from sketching through quilt completion. She also travels the world sharing her considerable knowledge and skills, encouraging everyone to gain new found discipline and creativity as they experience and learn from her wisdom. 

She has exhibited her work as a solo and commissioned quilt artist many times in Nairobi. Dena cofounded the Kenya Quilt Guild (KQG) and presented many lectures and demonstrations for the organization, as well as serving as its newsletter editor and public relations officer. She has written articles about quilting for the KQG Snippets, Studio Art Quilt Associates' Journal, American Quilter Magazine, The Quilt Show and QuiltPosium online magazines. 

On a more personal side, Dena is an amateur genealogist researching surnames Crain, Ingram, Brannon and Samples. She is an avid lawn bowler, and she loves going on safari, good books and close friends.

Please welcome Dena as I interview her.

1. Tell us about your life in Africa and what led you there?

When I was 19, I read Robert Ruark’s Uhuru, a fictionalized account of “The Emergency,” the dreaded Mau Mau uprising prior to Kenya’s independence from Great Britain. From that time on I knew that living in Africa was my destiny. It took me twenty years to do it, but I came to Kenya in 1990 to teach clothing construction and design at Egerton University, upcountry near Njoro. I never looked back. 

My life here has been rich and full, and with never a dull moment. I spent only one year at Egerton, during which time I met Jonathan Leakey, moved to Kampi ya Samaki by Lake Baringo and gave up teaching at the university (it was a two-hour commute). Read more about this on my blog at http://denacrain.com/blog/background.

 2. When did you start quilting?

Living in a rural area with no other suitable employment available, I soon took up patchwork quilting. It fit my background and seemed well suited to employ local women - hand work, minimal equipment, minimal expense to get them started, profits to share as wages. That worked for a couple of years, until a change in the foreign exchange rate hit my business so hard I had to close it down. While contemplating a way forward, I learned of art quilting and decided to make quilts for myself, not for sale to others. Find photos of my work at http://denacrain.com/blog/gallery/. Again, I never looked back!

3. How did you get into teaching?

The South African National Quilt Guild held its biennial festival in Johannesburg in 2000. I went to that as a participant. Having dinner with several of the teachers, I remarked that I was not getting much out of the classes. One of the teachers commented, “Then, you shouldn’t be taking these classes, you should be teaching them!” I heard that with crystal clarity, like a voice from on high! 

Next day, I sought the organizers for the next festival, to be held in 2002 in Cape Town. I offered to teach. Lucky, I was back in South Africa the next year, armed with my digitized portfolio, invited the organizers to tea and shared my photos - I got the job! Overnight, I became an international quilt teacher!

Teaching in Cape Town, I met Helen Marshall, who was at that time teaching online for Quilt University. Hearing my story, Helen threw an arm around my shoulders and whispered in my ear, “Honey, you oughtta be teaching online for Quilt University!” I heard that remark with incredible clarity, too!

I contacted Quilt University, was accepted and taught from from 2003 until it closed in 2013.

4. Tell us about the SAQA and your role in the organization.

Studio Art Quilt Associates is now a large professional organization for productive art quilters, those who make patchwork quilts as works of art for the wall. I joined SAQA when it was still quite small, and have helped and watched it grow over the last 25 years to nearly 4,000 members! 

I’ve written articles for The Journal and served as SAQA’s Africa Zone Representative recruiting members from Africa. I participated in a committee to review and recommend membership benefits. I established SAQArtique, SAQA’s online critique group set up to serve international members but now including all members who wish to join it. I regularly attend SAQA conferences whenever I’m in the US. SAQA is our voice, and I am SAQA!

5. You have recently started QuiltEd Online - can you tell us about that?

Quilt University closed in late 2013, leaving me unemployed as an online teacher. I et up my own site so QuiltEd Online was born. The online patchwork quilt design classes on QuiltEd Online make learning about quilt design easy. With continuous enrollment, the classrooms never close. Help is at hand at all times, given a 24-hour possible time delay due to different geographic locations around the world. Study in your pajamas at 3 a.m., or on a digital tablet while waiting for a medical appointment. The ease and convenience of online quilting instruction simply cannot bested.

QuiltEd Online presently offers six, almost seven, of my most popular online patchwork quilt design classes:
Structured Fabrics: Check, Plaids and Strips
Designer Pinwheels
Crystal Quilts
Math for Quilters


  6. Tell us about your pets.

When I moved to Kenya, I brought my sixteen-year-old cat, Chester with me. I picked up another kitten at Egerton. Those two accompanied me to Baringo, where they joined Jonny’s fifteen other cats! Presently, we’re down to six, one of whom cannot get along with the others, so we must shepherd them carefully. 

We have three Dalmatians and have injected seventeen pedigreed “Double Trouble” Dalmatian puppies into the population of Kenya. We have a troop of about sixty Vervet monkeys who live on our roof, and a herd of gecko lizards on the walls if the cats don’t get them. 

Jonny has raised five orphaned hippos, the last two with my help. The hippo, Cleo, now at Haller Park Nature Center outside Mombasa, lived with us for the first three years of her life - until she got too big to keep around. She’s now paired with Owen of “Owen and Mzee” (hippo bonded to tortoise) fame. We have a pair of hornbills and a flock of weaver birds we feed daily. There are a couple of noisy crocs lurking just off the edge of the garden. You see - the idea of pets gets rather extended here . . .

7.Where do you see quilting taking you in future?

For the sake of all these wonderful animals, and for the sake of humanity and our planet in general, I take a serious interest in “green” quilting. I’m doing some volunteer work to help clean up solid wastes in Kampi ya Samaki, working with local businesses and political leaders to do that. I encourage all quilters to THINK before they buy - to look for really eco-friendly materials and tools, not just those who make green claims without substantiation. I urge everyone to avoid unnecessary plastics (especially plastic shopping bags and drinking water bottles). I expect quilters to maximize their materials and electrical energy when quilting. These themes are becoming increasingly important in my work as both artist and teacher. As we make quilts as objects of beauty, so must we leave our earthly surroundings clean and beautiful!
Thank you so much for being a Guest Blogger. I know our readers will really enjoy reading about you and QuiltEd.online. Here is a list of links for Dena and you can sign up for QuiltEd Online News.
Until next time...

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Meet my Guest Blogger - Renelda Peldunas-Harter

I am so pleased to introduce you to my 
Guest Blogger - Renelda Peldunas-Harter

          She is the author  of “From Ensign’s Bars to Colonel’s Stars” Honoring Those Who Serve which is being published this month. Her first  book offers a glimpse into military history and trivia, her experiences as an Army officer and quilts to honor her fellow service members. She is also a pattern designer for Cut Loose Patterns, a division of Checkers Distributors and the Quilt Challenge Exhibit Curator for the Mason Dixon Quilt Professional Network. When not quilting she is a docent at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History’s Human Origin Exhibit and is president of the Loudoun Breast Health Network, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit assisting women and families with breast cancer.

Please join me in welcoming Renelda. 

Thank you Nan for the opportunity to be your guest blogger!

          Just like quilts, quilt designers/pattern designers/fiber artists have their own story to tell. My story, like my quilts, is a simple one. I started quilting several years after being commissioned an Army officer. I started quilting because, to me, a quilt said ‘home’ and being in the military one was always far from ‘home’. I spent over 7 years on active duty and over 20 years as an army reservist. During the Cold War, the reserves was the place to be – it was a fantastic part time job, allowing me to stay home with the boys during the week, but still afforded me an ‘adult’ outlet on the weekends.

 As we moved around from assignment to assignment, I always found a quilt guild to join and expanded my quilting experience! I started out designing quilts for my family and friends and then started selling my patterns. It turns out pattern selling/self promotion and marketing was not for me, but I did find out I really enjoyed writing. I started to write stories about my military career and thought it would be fun to design quilts to accompany the stories. From Ensign’s Bars to Colonel’s Stars was born! 

The book is a hybrid creature – part bio and part classic quilt book. I designed 6 quilts (for the 6 ranks I held), incorporated the 5 sister-services into the quilts (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard), wrote a short story about where I was and what type of assignment I had at each rank, included the pattern for each quilt and have generous friends who took those patterns and made non-military themed quilts to show how versatile the patterns are.  The book is published by Schiffer Publishing, available on Amazon and will be out 27 Nov 2014! The quilts are for beginner and intermediate quilters.This quilt is Colonel's Stars. 
And this one is Colonel's Stars only done in Christmas Colors! 

 I could never have written a book with a house full of boys and their friends so I had to put it on hold until the boys were older and I was retired from the reserves! The boys have graduated college, moved out and left Bill and I alone to manage the busy social schedule of the Director of Creative and Excessive Recreation - The Smudge. She is an integral part of my creative process, a process she will not talk about (nor does she grant interviews). When I get the time, which isn’t often enough, The Smudge helps me blog at www.QuiltedCora.blogspot.com

I also spend about a fourth of my busy month as the president and treasurer of the Loudoun Breast Health Network (www.lbhn.org) which is an all volunteer, 501 (c) (3) non-profit. The LBHN assists women and families in our community with financial assistance while they are undergoing breast cancer. We are very proud of all we have accomplished, we have helped over 80 clients get over the ‘speed bump’ which is breast cancer and have recycled over $130, 000 of the community’s assistance into helping our clients. The LBHN has been recognized regionally and nationally for our efforts.


Just so you don’t get the impression I’m taking classes from The Smudge in excessive recreation, I design patterns for Cut Loose Press® which is a division of Checkers Distributors. One of the patterns, 2Cool4School, is a tribute to my son Kevin, a graduate of Virginia Tech and is in the school’s way too cool colors (not!) – orange and burgundy! It is a fun and easy pattern for beginners or anyone! Try it – it is addicting!!

Thanks again to Nan for letting me share part of my world with you!

Renelda, thank you for being a Guest Blogger. Your story is a very interesting one and I know we all look forward to your book which will be out on November 27, 2014. Thank you too for serving our country. And as you know I am a cat person, so I would be remiss if I didn't say thank you for sharing The Smudge with us. What an adorable kitty! Thank you again.

Well to my readers, I want to wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving. 

Until next time...


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