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Local quilter has work entered into international competition

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Diane Mitchell

Avery quilter Diane Mitchell displays one of her pieces, Toxic Beauty, at a previous Pacific International Quilt Festival. Her quilt, Ocean Stars, is entered in the Quilty Pleasures Quilt Competition at this year's festival. 

Dubbed “Ocean Stars” because of its deep, cool colors, an Avery woman’s quilt will vie for a winning title at the 2019 Quilty Pleasures Quilt Competition, an international contest at the annual Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara.

The quilt, measuring 95-inches square, was created by Diane Mitchell using a technique called “foundation paper piecing,” sewing fabric to a printed paper foundation. Made from Batik cotton, the pattern is called “Thistlepods” and was designed by Bradley and Judy Niemeyer of Quiltworx.

“The most satisfying aspect of this quilt is having my vision come together, especially how the colors all work together, which is also one of the most difficult parts: not knowing how it will look when it’s done,” Mitchell said. “Because I have made at least 16 Quiltworx patterns, I am very comfortable with the paper piecing method.”

"Ocean Stars" by Diane Mitchell

Ocean Stars vies for top honors in the Quilty Pleasures international competition in Santa Clara.

Mitchell began selecting fabrics and constructing the pattern in 2017, and the project was finished in August of 2018, when she commissioned Dee Small of Groveland to quilt the finished product on her long-arm machine.

“The process of sewing the pieces together for the quilt top is called piecing,” Mitchell explained. “The process of stitching the sandwich together, through all three layers, is called quilting. Many quilters, including me, do their own quilting, by machine or by hand. Because of the size of this particular quilt, I decided to pay Dee Small to quilt it for me on her very large quilting machine. … Because I paid her to do it, I must give her credit as a professional when I enter the quilt into shows. If I had not paid her, she would be considered a collaborative maker of the quilt.”

An avid quilter since 2005 when she joined the Independence Hall Quilt Guild in Arnold, Mitchell’s quilts have won ribbons in local shows including the Calaveras County Fair. She has also entered her projects in professional shows in the past in order to gain valuable feedback from the judges.

“I fell in love with the process of working with beautiful fabrics to make useful quilts for family and friends,” Mitchell said. “Now, I am leaning more towards making art quilts, smaller pieces based on photos I have taken in my travels. As a (now retired) CPA (Certified Public Accountant), it has been fun to develop this creative side of myself.’

Mitchell’s Ocean Stars will be featured in the festival at the Santa Clara Convention Center from Oct. 17-20, alongside almost 1,000 other quilt and wearable-art pieces from across the globe.


Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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