Monday, April 4, 2011

A new twist on everything: the quilts of Helen Remick

It was the perfect use of color that first attracted us to Helen Remick’s quilts, but it is form that keeps us fascinated: Burgoyne blocks that spin around in circles, yoyos that go from closed to open to create an Escher-esque illusion, and asymmetric stars that somehow tessellate together. As an artist, Helen is inspired by traditional patterns, which she twists into surprising new designs. Here are just a few examples of her award-winning work*.

YoYo 2: Trip around the world, 35.5 x 35.5, by Helen Remick

Helen Remick began to explore yoyos in 2008, using the names of yoyo tricks as inspiration for the quilt designs. Trip around the world (YoYo2) explores what happens when yoyos have contrasting fabrics fused to their "insides" and are not closed all of the way.  This fantastic quilt has us seeing the traditional yoyo in a whole new light !  Notice how the center blue yoyo reveals just a bit of orange fabric beneath, while the yoyos in the outer corners are mere outlines that encircle the blue fabric below. The transition from blue to orange is so subtle that you hardly realize how it happens. The yoyos are hand sewn, and the back fabric is machine sewn; cotton batiks were used. YoYo2 won Honorable Mention at the 2010 Road to California (Ontario, California) and at the 2009 Dallas Quilt Celebration (Texas).  Also don't miss YoYo1, the first in the series exploring the yoyo technique.

Burgoyne and his Spin Doctor Shade the Facts until they no longer fit the Truth, 74 x 74, by Helen Remick

Helen Remick incorporates circular forms, including spirals and mandalas, in many of her innovative quilts.  In "Burgoyne", above, each orange square or rectangle of the traditional burgoyne pattern was redrawn as a circle or oval to create the center design.  She explains: “The inner circle in burgoyne is a separate quilt from the squares forming the outer quilt.  I am exploring the use of multiples other than 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8; the central design has 10 repeats (in two circular rows of 5) of the burgoyne circle pattern.”  Hand and machine pieced, fused fabric, hand and machine applique, piped edges, tulle over the outer quilt and the inner circle of the inner quilt.  Silk, synthetics, and cotton. Oh, and did we mention the perfect combination of pure yellow-orange with cerulean blue?  “Burgoyne” won First Place, Large Quilts, at the 2009 Northwest Quilting Expo (Oregon); Second place, Art Quilts, at the 2010 Dallas Quilt Celebration (Texas); and Honorable mention, Innovative, at the 2009 Pacific International Quilt Festival (California).

Starshine, 29 x 29, by Helen Remick

In this stunning quilt, the bright golden-yellow stars are a perfect complement to the blue-violet field. But actually, there is no field at all: every element forms a star within a tessellating design. Helen Remick explains that "Starshine" is based on an Islamic pattern in which blue stars with 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 points are nestled together -- stars 5 and 7 are not perfectly symmetrical, but 4, 6 and 8 are.  Irregular 6 pointed gold stars are formed in the interstices.  The quilt is hand-pieced, synthetic sheers over cotton, machine quilted in spiral forms, and heavily beaded.

*For even more inspiration, consider the fact that Helen Remick became an award-winning quilt artist after retiring from the University of Washington in 2005.  She is an internationally known expert on comparable worth (equal pay for equal work): see Comparable Worth (Women In The Political Economy) by Helen Remick. Among her many awards and honors, her quilts have been shown in solo and invitational shows at the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum, including a recent exhibit called Double Take. For more information visit Helen Remick's website and see her gallery page.  Images are shown here with the generous permission of the artist.  The photographs are by Mark Frey.


  1. You're right I hardly noticed the blue to orange transition, I had to scroll back up to look again. The Starshine quilt reminds me of a kaleidescope, and of course I just love all the blue.

  2. Very unique use of yoyos in the Trip Around the World quilt. Helen Remick is a very creative quilter.


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