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Copeland machine quilts marvels

Sculptured borders are her trademark

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Barbara Copeland's closet is full of quilting fabric of every hue and color.


   Twenty-five years ago Barbara Copeland was flipping through a magazine when a picture of a quilt caught her eye.
   "I always liked to do things with my hands, and I thought, `I'm going to try to make one,'" she said, explaining how she began the craft which led to her becoming a professional quilter and the featured guest at the Sixth Biennial Quilt Show, May 4, at the Rodriguez Annex of the Jefferson County Library.
   The Sunday event, sponsored by the Country Quilters of Jefferson County, runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features a countless gallery of quilts of all vintages and styles.
   "I'm one of those people who learn real easy from books," Copeland said, noting she was mostly self-taught, but also took some beginning lessons from Kathy Ray, owner of The Quilt Patch in Eugene. At the time, she and her husband, Ron, owned Copeland Electric business in Eugene.
   The quilter said she took up machine quilting because she has had numerous surgeries on her hands and was never able to hand quilt. "So, it works out perfect, my machine does the work," she observed. She uses two Bernina sewing machines, one for piecing and one for quilting.
   Those who don't think machine quilting is "real" quilting haven't seen one of Copeland's intricately stitched quilts. The stitches are so close they almost require a magnifying glass to see, and create textured designs in addition to the pieced-fabric designs.
   While most quilters focus on the pieced-together designs of quilt blocks, Copeland's favorite part is the actual "quilting" that binds the patterned top, batting and backing all together. She estimated it takes her 60 to 100 hours to just do the quilting on her creations.
   "I love to machine quilt. I'd rather quilt than make a top. And I like to have the back be as pretty as the front," she said of her textured patterns that can make a plain back look like a work of art.
   Her unique method led to a five-year job at the Quilting Patch, where she said she made trunk loads of sample quilts for classes she taught.
   The Copeland's had visited Central Oregon and loved the area, so when Ron retired seven years ago, they purchased a ranch in the Culver area near Haystack, where they raise alfalfa and a few cows. "We wanted something to get us up in the morning," Barbara joked.
   Over here she has taught quilting classes for COCC in Madras, teaches at The Stitchin Post in Sisters, and gives classes at The Quilters Affair in July in Sisters.
   This year her summer class will be on her signature "trapunto" style of quilting. Copeland is designing many of her own quilt borders now with raised trapunto patterns which resemble feathery plumes.
   In the past she has competed as a professional quilter in county and state fairs and won several blue ribbons. She recently entered her first major contest, the American Quilt Society Quilt Show and Contest in Paducah, Kent., which only accepted 420 quilts from stitchers worldwide. She was quite pleased that her blue and white "Liberty Stars" quilt won an honorable mention.
   As far as selling her creations, Copeland said she prefers to keep them for herself or give them as gifts to relatives. "I don't really want to sell them. They're like my kids. It's just what I like to do," she said.
   She is a member of three quilting guilds, the Country Quilters in Madras, Mt. Bachelor's Quilt Guild in Bend, and East of the Cascades guild in Sisters, and is eager to help others learn to quilt.
   "I love teaching and think it's important to hand on what you've learned," Copeland said.