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Putting a face to fabric

Barbara Ann Dush
Fullerton, Neb.
Lora Rocke loves doing portraits of family, especially her daughter and grandmother. She has also done self-portraits.

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Crafting family portraits out of cloth and thread wasn’t what Lora Rocke had in mind when she first began quilting.

She made her first traditional quilt in 1972, then “really started quilting” in 1982.

However, “quilters are really well known for trying new things and having an artistic eye,” so Lora took her own words to heart and delved into the art of quilting portraits.

“I was with a group of quilters and we were having a Saturday workday. It was an organization that was saying do a portrait and they didn’t care how you did it. That’s where it all started,” she recounted.

That was in 1998.

Since then, her focus on doing portraits has widened to giving classes, seminars and workshops.

“I love people and doing portraits of people. I’ve done batik and paint, and fabric was the next step. That’s really where I’ve concentrated the last ten years.”

A QUILTER DOESN’T need to be an artist to create the portraits. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you can’t draw a straight line, although Lora’s background of drawing people since she was nine-years-old has an advantage.

“I have a good background of where things are and the shape that it takes; but if you’re not used to that, it’s good to look at a black and white photograph, then overlay it with tracing paper and start finding those light and dark areas and get that nice fluid line.

“Once you get the idea down and know what you’re looking for, it goes pretty quickly, and (the quilts) don’t have to be big.”

In her classes, Lora teaches not only how to transform a photo or drawing into a quilted portrait of people, she also shows techniques to create pet portraits. Her techniques prove that portraits can be “whimsical, lifelike, pretty or funny, but most of all personal.”

She also likes to dive into color – the common thread used to “explore an eclectic collection of traditional and contemporary quilts.”

In Lora’s design and technique workshops, she helps quilters develop basic skills in portraiture by learning how to draw pattern pieces and stitching techniques, how to choose and blend fabrics “to suite the image and the feeling of the portrait.”

“The fun is in the fabric choosing, figuring out where the lights and darks are and what color family to go into,” she said. “It’s challenging because it makes you look at fabric differently. You really have to look at fabric from the front side and the back side as well.”

As for the small details on the portraits – such as lips and teeth – “it’s just knowing your machine because it’s all machine quilting.”

LORA’S TALENT AT putting a face to fabric has earned regional, national and international honors. Her first pattern was printed in 1994, with two books published the following year. In the past nine years she has published eight machine quilting design books.

She earned the First Prize Award from the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, New York, for her quilt portrait entitled “Barbara Ann 1948”.

Continually perfecting the quilting process with drawings, appliques, machine quilting, painting, dyeing and experimenting, Lora cites her mission is “to inform, excite, lighten and entertain quilters.”

“It has taken me a long time to get to this point,” she reflects, “and I love sharing what I’ve learned along the way.”

Note: Lora Rocke resides in Lincoln, Neb. Log onto her website at http://www.lorarockequilts.com

Crafting family portraits out of cloth and thread wasn’t what Lora Rocke had in mind when she first began quilting.

She made her first traditional quilt in 1972, then “really started quilting” in 1982.

However, “quilters are really well known for trying new things and having an artistic eye,” so Lora took her own words to heart and delved into the art of quilting portraits.

“I was with a group of quilters and we were having a Saturday workday. It was an organization that was saying do a portrait and they didn’t care how you did it. That’s where it all started,” she recounted.

That was in 1998.

Since then, her focus on doing portraits has widened to giving classes, seminars and workshops.

“I love people and doing portraits of people. I’ve done batik and paint, and fabric was the next step. That’s really where I’ve concentrated the last ten years.”

A QUILTER DOESN’T need to be an artist to create the portraits. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you can’t draw a straight line, although Lora’s background of drawing people since she was nine-years-old has an advantage.

“I have a good background of where things are and the shape that it takes; but if you’re not used to that, it’s good to look at a black and white photograph, then overlay it with tracing paper and start finding those light and dark areas and get that nice fluid line.

“Once you get the idea down and know what you’re looking for, it goes pretty quickly, and (the quilts) don’t have to be big.”

In her classes, Lora teaches not only how to transform a photo or drawing into a quilted portrait of people, she also shows techniques to create pet portraits. Her techniques prove that portraits can be “whimsical, lifelike, pretty or funny, but most of all personal.”

She also likes to dive into color – the common thread used to “explore an eclectic collection of traditional and contemporary quilts.”

In Lora’s design and technique workshops, she helps quilters develop basic skills in portraiture by learning how to draw pattern pieces and stitching techniques, how to choose and blend fabrics “to suite the image and the feeling of the portrait.”

“The fun is in the fabric choosing, figuring out where the lights and darks are and what color family to go into,” she said. “It’s challenging because it makes you look at fabric differently. You really have to look at fabric from the front side and the back side as well.”

As for the small details on the portraits – such as lips and teeth – “it’s just knowing your machine because it’s all machine quilting.”

LORA’S TALENT AT putting a face to fabric has earned regional, national and international honors. Her first pattern was printed in 1994, with two books published the following year. In the past nine years she has published eight machine quilting design books.

She earned the First Prize Award from the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, New York, for her quilt portrait entitled “Barbara Ann 1948”.

Continually perfecting the quilting process with drawings, appliques, machine quilting, painting, dyeing and experimenting, Lora cites her mission is “to inform, excite, lighten and entertain quilters.”

“It has taken me a long time to get to this point,” she reflects, “and I love sharing what I’ve learned along the way.”

Note: Lora Rocke resides in Lincoln, Neb. Log onto her website at http://www.lorarockequilts.com


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